Chuck Yeager: Who was he and why are people talking about him?

Last updated at 17:45
Chuck Yeager speaks to the public in December 2003Reuters

Chuck Yeager was a famous pilot from the US, he is best known for being the first pilot to break the sound barrier in 1947.

Yeager, who was at the time just 24, managed to break the speed of sound at an altitude of 45,000ft (13,700m).

He later broke several other speed and altitude records, helping to pave the way for the US space programme.

Chuck died aged 97 on 7 December, his wife Victoria Scott D'Angelo said: "An incredible life well lived, America's greatest pilot and a legacy of strength, adventure and patriotism will be remembered forever."

Chuck Yeager and his planeGetty Images
Chuck Yeager named his plane after his first wife 'Glamorous Glennis'
Who was Chuck Yeager?

Chuck was born in West Virginia, US, and is one of the world's most famous pilots - so famous that he even has an airport in Charleston, West Virginia named after him.

After his involvement as a pilot in World War Two, Chuck returned home and became a flight instructor and test pilot.

He soon gained attention for his excellent flying skills and was often asked to perform in air shows, where pilots fly jets and perform impressive tricks in the air for crowds below to watch.

It was this attention and recognition that resulted in him being chosen to fly the Bell X-1, the plane that would earn him the nickname as the "fastest man alive" and break the sound barrier.

The Bell X-1 planeGetty Images
Glamorous Glennis' real name is the Bell X-1
What does breaking the sound barrier mean?

Breaking the sound barrier is when a pilot in a jet travels faster than the speed of sound, which is known as Mach 1. It is accompanied by an extremely loud bang which is known as a 'sonic boom', the actual moment the sound barrier is broken.

Chuck Yeager was the first person in history to accomplish this on 14 October 1947, with the Bell X-1, nicknamed Glamorous Glennis - a plane that was named after his first wife.

Chuck had managed to gain his speed up to Mach 1, which is the equivalent to 767mph. For comparison, the national speed limit for a car on a motorway in the UK is 70mph - you can imagine he was flying very fast!

The impressive feat has been written in history books ever since, even more impressive that commentators at the time didn't believe a plane could survive the sonic boom.

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