Chuck Yeager Essay, Research Paper
Chuck Yeager has, besides breaking the sound barrier in the experimental Bell X-1, made many other great achievements during his lifetime, including shooting down five enemy airplanes in one mission.
By writing this paper, I hoped to learn how he got to take the record-breaking flight and about his career before and afterwards. I chose to write a paper on Chuck Yeager because I thought it would be interesting to do a research project on the record-breaking pilot. Also, it has some relevance to me because I thought it would be “cool” to fly as a pilot in the Air Force, which Yeager did before his record-breaking flight.
Charles Elwood Yeager, know as Chuck, enlisted in the Army Air Force the summer after graduating from high school, September 1941, at the age of eighteen years old. He began his military career as an aircraft mechanic, but the time spent in the field was short lived. He was selected for pilot training in July of 1942, an opportunity which he eagerly accepted.
After graduating as a flight officer from Luke Field, Arizona, in March of 1943, Chuck was assigned to the 363rd Fighter Squadron (the 357th Fighter Group), at Tonohpah, Nevada. In November, his unit was sent to England where he began his career as a combat pilot, flying one of the best and most reliable planes of the day, the P-51 Mustang. On his eighth mission, he was shot down over France. However, he managed to escape, and, with help from the French resistance, avoided the German Army, and made his way across the Pyrenees Mountains to the Spanish border. He stayed in Spain until the summer of 1944, waiting for a safe time to return to his base. Before the end of his combat days in Europe, Chuck managed to reenlist with his squadron, and achieve the incredible feat of flying 56 more missions, downing 11 enemy planes, five on a single mission. He returned to the U.S. in February of 1945 with the rank of Brigadier General and with a double ace. Five months later, he made one of the most important decisions of his career. He accepted the job of maintenance officer in the flight test division at the Wright Patterson Airfield of Ohio.
Colonial Albert Boyd, chief of the flight test division was extremely impressed with Yeager’s outstanding flying skills. Colonial Boyd was so impressed that he appointed Yeager as a pilot, for what might be one of the most important series of test flights in history. In the summer of 1947, Chuck Yeager was sent to Muroc Army Air Field (currently called Edwards Air Force Base) to fly the rocket-powered Bell X-1. On October 14, 1947, with broken ribs, from a car accident the day before, and a stick to close the hatch door, Chuck broke the sound barrier at a speed of Mach 1.06 (approximately 815 mph). This first of his historic flights shattered speed records, and expelled the myth of the “impossible sound barrier” forever. It also marked the beginning of Yeager’s seven-year career at the base.
During the years of service as a test pilot, Chuck flew in most of the “X” planes, the X-1A, X-3, X-4, X-5, and XF-92A to name a few. His insightful thinking and quick reflexes encouraged him to fly and explore the most challenging unknowns of flight. One of the most dangerous flights of his piloting career happened the day of December 12, 1953. While exploring the many possibilities of supersonic flight, he accelerated the rocket-powered in the X-1A jet to Mach 2.44 (approximately 1650 mph). This flight not only crushed the record from his first flight, but it became the first flight to encounter inertia coupling. The aircraft tumbled and twisted in every direction imaginable. Chuck, and the plane, descended more than 40,000 feet before he was able to regain control of the plane.
Remarkably, while participating in various highly experimental flight research, he was also involved in the evaluation of most of the aircraft being considered for service in the Air Force. At the end of his days at Muroc, Chuck Yeager had flown twenty-seven different types and models of aircraft, and averaged more than one hundred flying hours per month. In October of 1954, he began his assignment of commanding the 417th Fighter Squadron. Then in September of 1957, he returned to the U.S. to assume command of the 1st Fighter Squadron at George Air Force Base, California. In June of the following year, he graduated from the Air War College, and was selected as the commander of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, where he was responsible for the training of U.S. military astronaut candidates.
In July 1966, Chuck served in a command position for the 405th Fighter Wing at the Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. While he stationed in the Philippines, he flew 127 combat missions over Vietnam. Two years later, in 1968, he assumed command of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, and was put in charge of its deployment to Korea during the Pueblo crisis. In 1971, After coming home from Germany, Chuck was appointed as the U.S. defense representative to Pakistan. Finally, as all good things do, his career came to an end. His last military assignment began on June 1, 1973 as the director of the Air Force Safety and Inspection Center at Norton Air Force Base, California, and on March 1, 1975 he retired from active duty.
I met my interviewee, XXXXXXXXX, at my church, XXXXXXXXXX, after he had come there to pick up his son, XXXXX, from a trip he had been on recently. He was very nice and willing to be my interviewee and seemed to enjoy answering the questions I asked of him. He had been “into flying” since he was about five years old, and even though he had never actually flown an airplane until he was about 19 years old, he had built model airplanes, and in his high school years flown model airplanes and rockets. He went to college at the Air Force Academy (which had recently opened in Colorado) all but his first year (the first year it was filled up, but he reapplied and got in the next year), where he studied and received some flight training. He flew Air Force Two, and I asked him about his experience there. He said he got to meet George Bush, meet some other interesting people, and sit in on some of the diplomatic meetings. The aircraft he has flown are the T-37, T-38, F-5, F-16, F-101, C-130, C-137, C-12, H-34 (helicopter), and a Hewey (helicopter). When I asked him why he retired from the Air Force he told me that they were going to make him a “desk pusher” which he said he wouldn’t like to do. He was going to go into the commercial airline business, but he would have to wait 3 years before he could start working. So he went into the security business, and ended up liking it enough to stick with it, and is still working in the business now.
By writing this report I have learned more about Chuck Yeager and his career as a pilot. I also learned more about my interviewee, XXXXXX, than I had known before, what a career in the Air Force is like, and how it feels to interview someone. Overall, I think this paper has given me the opportunity to learn many interesting and useful things, which could help me later in life.
Yeager, Chuck and Janis, Leo Yeager New York: Bantam, 1985
“Yeager, Chuck” Microsoft Encarta 98
“Yeager, Chuck” UXL Biographies
Levinson, Nancy Chuck Yeager: The Man Who Broke The Sound Barrier U.S.A: WalkerPublishing Company, 1988