Frequently Asked Questions

There is an overwhelming interest in General Yeager’s life adventures by visitors to our site who want to explore the life of aviation legend General Chuck Yeager.

If, after visiting The Yeager Adventure and Special Features sections, you have a question, we suggest you do the following:

• Please read Gen. Yeager’s autobiography, “Yeager”.  You can get a copy through the Right Stuff Store.
• Please read this article about General Chuck Yeager (originally published in Huntington Quarterly’s Winter 1998 issue).
• Please read the Frequently Asked Questions page (this page).

If you still have a question, you can send to us using this contact form.

Please note:  For autographs or autographed items go to the Right Stuff Store for ordering information.

Thank you!

What was it like to break the sound barrier?

Just flying a plane. You don’t hear the sonic boom in the cockpit. The shockwave forms on the wing and extends to the ground – only those on the ground hear it when it hits the ground.

What were you thinking?

Just doing my job.

Were you worried or afraid?

No. Both of those are a distraction. So while one may be worried or afraid, which I have been, one must fix the problem and concentrate on the mission.

What were you feeling?

Most importantly, I felt a sense of accomplishment. We had accomplished what the ol’ man (Colonel Al Boyd) had sent us out to do. Also there were some actual physical sensations – lots of buffeting in the transonic region, and then after I passed the sound barrier it smoothed out.

The P-51 and P-38 seem to have similar performance specifications. The P-38 had a great reputation in the Pacific, but you didn’t seem to hear much about the P-51 in the Pacific Theater. Were there many P-51′s in the Pacific? Why do you think they did not use P-51′s for Naval carrier aviation? Using pilots with similar skills, how would a P-38 do in a dogfight up against a P-51?

There were P-51s in the Pacific, but after they had destroyed the German Air Force. Most of the P-38 aircraft in Europe were shot down by the Germans. They could not climb out of a dive, or run away from FW-190 or ME-262 aircraft. They could outrun the Japanese planes, so were very successful in the Pacific Theater. When the B-29s got to the Pacific, the P-51 was the only fighter that had the speed and range to escort them. The P-51 could outperform the P-38 in any area. The Navy flew a few P-51s off carriers but didn’t buy it.

Would you happen to know how much the Bell X-1 project (or plane itself) cost at the time?

The initial contract with Bell – issued on 16 March 1945 – for the design and construction of three XS-1 airplanes authorized payment of $4,278,537.

Did Chuck have a “handle” that everyone called him by?

His handle was “CEMENT 64″. His Squadron’s was “CEMENT” and his number was 64. However, he was NEVER called by this – pilots were called by position. On a mission, each squadron of 16 planes was organized into “flights” of 4 planes each, which were called “Red Flight”, “White Flight”, “Blue Flight”, and “Green Flight”. Within each flight, pilots were called by position #1, 2, 3, or 4. On any given flight, Chuck might have the call sign “Blue Flight 1″, or “White Flight 3″, depending on the position he was flying in. This system was easier to remember with so many pilots cycling in and out, even on each mission.

What is the name of type of the color the X1 was painted with?

Technically, I believe it was a shade of orange called saffron.

I have noticed on documentaries that the word “division” stenciled on the starboard side of the XS1 is mispelled “divison”. Is that true, or am I just “seeing things”?

We checked with a few historians and you are quite right!

I wonder if chuck used the Berger Brothers air inflated anti-G suit in his mustang in 1944 and if he did what he thought of it.

Gen Yeager says: Had them by August 1944 – all the pilots in P-51s did – let us pull 6-7 Gs without blacking out and they were great.

Gen. Yeager, What does freedom mean to you?

I spent 60 years in Air Force cockpits, fighting in 4 wars for my freedom and I enjoy the hell out of it!

Gen. Yeager, what inspired your involvement with Wings of Hope?

Having served in the military, all over the world for 60 years, I saw a lot of poverty. I saw a chance to help, through the Wings of Hope.

What is the worldwide impact in your opinion of the work of Wings of Hope?
The impact of all the volunteers on poverty is a pleasure to see. They give hope to so many young people.

Chuck Yeager, you were probably the first to make a sonic boom in Norway. There is great interest in Norwegian aviation historic circles to learn the details of your two flights to Gardermoen Air Base. In May 1955, you flew an F-86F from Hahn Air Base, Germany, to Gardermoen, where you dropped the external tanks and made a supersonic dive over the air show crowd. Can you tell us about it?

The last 3 digits of the F-86F serial number was 417, which was my squadron number. The tanks were released on the ground before the flight, and the aircraft was then put on static display at the show. Two days later, I flew back down to Denmark and then to Hahn AFB in Germany without wing tanks. We were there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first flight in Norway (1905); I’m surprised that Norway didn’t celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight in Norway. I only recall the first name of my contact person in the Norwegian Air Force – John. I stayed overnight in his private home.

The second time you landed at GM was in an F-4 from Germany. Can you tell us about that visit?

It was in 1968. I was a full Colonel and Commander of the 4th TAC Fighter Wing. I led the Wing to Norway to participate in a NATO exercise. We flew non-stop from North Carolina to GM, took the wing to Germany & then back home.

Gen. Yeager, where did your Air Force career take you next?

I was promoted to Brig. Gen in 1969, was assigned to Germany as Vice Commander of 17th AF. In 1971 I was sent to Pakistan to fly with their Air Force for the war against India. I flew the front cockpit in every airplane that I flew in for 60 years. Last one was an F-15E in October 2002. I flew every airplane in the Air Force inventory including the World War II inventory and others of Germany, France, England, Japan, Sweden, and Russia, among others. You may be interested to know that I took my F-4 Wing to Korea during the Pueblo flap in 1968. We took 75 F-4D’s from North Carolina to Honolulu (14 hours), 2 hour lay-over, then to Korea (another 14 hours) with no ground or air aborts.

Dear Chuck Yeager, one day this question struck me: if you are traveling in a spaceship that is traveling at the speed of light and you turn on your headlights, would you see them? Most people say no right away, however when I bring up the fact that if you are on a platform traveling in a vaccum at 100 mph, and you drop a baseball, it will land at your feet. However if you throw the same baseball 50 mph ahead of you it will then be doing 150 mph from the added speed of the platform. Therefore if you are in a spaceship going lightspeed and you turn on your headlights would those light particles then be going two times the speed of light. I talked to one of my teachers about this, and he brought up the fact that it would be the same as hearing at the speed of sound. Since you have broken the sound barrier you were someone I thought would be an authority on the subject. I would much appreciate an answer to this question. I would also be interested to hear what you think about the two times the speed of light theory. Thank you for your help. Sincerely, Brandt Vernon

(This answer is provided by Bob Kempel, engineer, at the request of General Chuck Yeager.)

Dear Mr. Vernon, You asked:

1. Q: Can you hear noises while traveling at the speed of sound?

A: Most assuredly, yes and no – you can hear noises while traveling at the speed of sound, but it’s a function of where the sound is emanating from!

1. On hearing at the speed of sound while traveling at that same speed. Pressure waves (sound) in air travel at Mach 1 at about 340.29-m/sec = 1116.45-ft/sec at sea level. Consider the following:

We are aboard the Concorde supersonic transport traveling above the Atlantic at 18,288-meters (60,000-feet) at Mach 2 or twice the speed of sound at 590.14-m/sec at that altitude. I am (or was) a passenger aboard and I had normal conversations with the people aboard the airplane. The cabin environment didn’t know it or we were traveling at Mach 2. My speed relative to other passengers was zero, but relative to Earth it was 2,125-km/hr (1,320-mi/hr). We spoke in normal voices to each other. At this speed we left most acoustic pressure waves, outside noise, behind.

Q: Do you know what the units of Mach number are?

In my balloon: If I had been suspended, and stationary, at 18,303-meters (60,050-feet), just above the Concorde’s flight path, I could have seen the Concord coming (if I knew when and where to look), but could not have heard it coming. Not a sound yet! When Concorde passed I could both hear the deafening roar and feel its shock wave as it knocked me senseless. I could have given them a blast on my super air horn, as they went by too, but the blast of sound would only go Mach 1 and it would have never caught up.

The Concorde was retired from flight service in November 2003 – it was way too expensive to make money.

2. Q: On going faster than light speed (299,792.50-km/sec = 186,282.9-mi/sec = C). You are in a spaceship going light speed (C-km/sec) and you turn on your headlights or laser. Would those light particles (C-km/sec) then be going two times (2C) the speed of light?

A: From what we know, any emanating light or electromagnetic transmission, like a laser beam or radio radiates at light speed (C-km/sec) and that’s it. And as such this speed is a constant throughout space, i.e. never faster or slower. Is it possible to propagate a signal or beam at a speed of 2C-km/sec? I don’t think so. For a better answer, ask the head of your Physics Department.

If you have other ideas, comments, or disagree with the above, please write and let us know how and why. Explain your answer(s) and sources.

Background photo: Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star.