Charles Elwood Yeager (; born February 13, 1923) is a former United States Air Force officer, flying ace, and record-setting test pilot. In 1947, he became the first pilot confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight.
Yeager’s career began in World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Forces. After serving as an aircraft mechanic, in September 1942 he entered enlisted pilot training and upon graduation was promoted to the rank of flight officer (the World War II USAAF equivalent to warrant officer) and became a P-51 fighter pilot.
After the war, Yeager became a test pilot of many types of aircraft, including experimental rocket-powered aircraft. As the first human to officially break the sound barrier, on October 14, 1947, he flew the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,700 m), for which he won both the Collier and Mackay trophies in 1948. He then went on to break several other speed and altitude records.
Yeager later commanded fighter squadrons and wings in Germany, and in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and in recognition of the outstanding performance ratings of those units he was promoted to brigadier general. Yeager’s flying career spans more than 70 years and has taken him to many parts of the world, including the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.