West Virginia Encyclopedia Published

Chuck Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier: October 14, 1947

Yeager beside the Bell X-1 rocket plane Glamous Glennis.

On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1 rocket airplane dropped from the belly of a B-29 bomber. Seconds later, Yeager entered the history books as the first pilot to break the sound barrier.

By this time, the 24-year-old Lincoln County native was already an aviation legend. During World War II, he had flown 64 combat missions over Europe and, in a single dogfight, had killed 13 Germans. In his eighth mission, he had been shot down over German-occupied France.

After the war, he served in California as a test pilot for high-speed planes. A year after breaking the sound barrier, he visited Charleston and gave the people a show they would never forget. During a boat race on the Kanawha River, he flew his Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star jet beneath Charleston’s South Side Bridge.

Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 as a brigadier general. Thirty years later, President George W. Bush promoted Yeager to the rank of major general. In 2012, on the 65th anniversary of his record-setting flight, he again broke the sound barrier—this time, at age 89.