How Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier and how I told the story first to my 10 year old son and then to my four year old granddaughter

My father served in the Royal Air Force and I grew up with a lifelong interest in aviation. So one of my heroes was the American test pilot Chuck Yeager who became the first man to break the sound barrier in 1947.

When my son Richard was ten in 1986, I read Yeager’s biography and, on a long car journey, I entertained my son with tales of Yeager’s exploits. We even wrote to the great man and had a reply from his wife.

Almost three decades later, on a train journey, I found myself telling my four and a half year old granddaughter Catrin the story of how Yeager became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. She loved the story as she sat on my knee and I reproduced the bumping of the heroic flight. Now she likes me to retell the story with as many effects as possible.

So, when I next see Catrin later today, I have two treats for her. One is a plastic construction kit of the Bell X-1 in which Yeager achieved his feat. The other is this clip from one of my favourite films: “The Right Stuff” [my review here] starring Sam Shepherd as Chuck Yeager.

Of course, Yeager’s exceeding of Mach 1 was just the start, as I have explained in this short chronology.


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