Study Guide

Yeager

by Leo Janos, Chuck Yeager

Yeager Essay - Critical Essays

Yeager

Though YEAGER reads like a heroic saga, it is based on documented fact. Yeager tells his own story throughout, but he occasionally stops to let others comment as well; Yeager’s wife, Glennis, his friend Bud Anderson, former commanders, and previous rivals relate their own stories about him. The result is a fresh, lively narrative filled with anecdotes in which Yeager’s legendary feats are episodically recollected.

The inspiration for the film THE RIGHT STUFF, Yeager piloted many experimental planes, among them the Bell X-1, in which he was the first to break the sound barrier. In the 1950’s, Yeager tested everything from supersonic interceptors to prototype bombers, challenging what the pilots called the “Ughknown.” He even tested a captured Russian MIG-15 during the Korean War and evaluated jets for the French.

His career spanned a golden period of postwar aviation, when jets replaced propeller planes and when the era of space travel was dawning. He was the first pilot to glimpse the blackness of space, when in another Bell rocket-powered craft, he exceeded Mach 2, twice the speed of sound.

In the late 1950’s, he headed the newly created Aerospace Research Pilots School at Edwards Air Force Base. There, he helped to train the first generation of military aerospace test pilots and developed the first space simulator. The promise of the Space Age excited Yeager, particularly when he envisioned orbiting space laboratories and transportable shuttles. Although he was instrumental in laying the foundation for the nation’s new commitment to space exploration, his lack of a college education prevented him from becoming an astronaut. Matter-of-factly, he states that he did not see where the risks involved were as great as some research flying done at Edwards over the years.

This truly is an autobiography which presents a life’s career in all its richness--a life experience in full dimension.