American Chuck Yeager, who died on December 7, 2020, made his mark on global aviation history by becoming the first man to break the sound barrier.
California, October 14, 1947. A test pilot since the end of the Second World War, Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager became the first person to exceed the speed of sound, flying his Bell X-1. This earned him legendary status.
However, this moment could easily have never happened: in 1944, Chuck had to rely on his parachute and on the French Resistance, after his aircraft was shot down over the Pyrenees. He went to Spain, then the United Kingdom, where he continued to excel in combat against the Luftwaffe, shooting down a total of thirteen enemy aircraft.
When he broke the sound barrier, he had already built a reputation for himself. This was why NATO consulted him for the testing of the new Dassault Mystère IV in the early 1950s. Still a pilot for the American army, he went on to participate in the development of several aircraft (dodging death again in 1963 after ejecting from a prototype) and served in the Vietnam War.
Chuck Yeager had a special relationship with France, returning to the country several times both for his military work and to remember the dramatic episode that almost cost him his life during the 1939-1945 war. In 1983, eight years after he retired, his name featured in the credits of “The Right Stuff”, a movie recounting the exploits of the Americans who brought glory to aviation in the post-war period.