Punching a hole in the sky – Yeager breaks the sound barrier


Charles E. Yeager

“I am gonna get ya Glenn, I’m gonna get ya gal!” They were riding through the cool sunset of the California desert, Chuck was drunk but could still ride one of Poncho’s old horses  she kept outside the bar. Glenn was just in front of him, he was chasing her, he almost had her and then ….. WAAM.

Chuck was on the ground, he’d hit something solid and sharp. A ranch gate. It came out of nowhere although the drink probably didn’t help. He could hear Glenn laughing and then when she couldn’t hear Chuck’s horse behind her she turned around. “Chuck!” She quickly rode up to him, dismounted and kneeled beside him. “Chuck…oh no”. He lost continuousness.

Glenn drove him to Muroc Air Force Base, his ribs ached so did his arm. He had to travel four hours out of town to find a doctor who didn’t know him to get his injuries checked out. He didn’t want the brass on the base to know he’d hurt himself – they might of cut him from the flight.


When they reached the hanger they found Jack Ridley, flight engineer and friend of Chuck. He needed to tell someone, he wouldn’t be able to close the hatch on the plane with his busted ribs and arm. Ridley could be trusted and he thought like an engineer. Chuck’s immobile arm wasn’t a problem, it was a puzzle.  He gave Chuck a broom handle and told him to use it  to jerry-rig the X-1’s door closed when he was strapping himself in. Chuck smiled. The flight had gone from highly dangerous to near suicidal. His kind of mission.



Glenn looked at the orange bullet shaped plane her husband was about to try and break the sound barrier with. It had written on its fuselage ‘Glamorous Glennis’. She was surprised the Air Corps had allowed him to write it on there. Chuck laughed: “You’re my good luck charm hon. Any airplane I name after you always brings me home”.

X-1-2_on_Ramp_with_Boeing_B-29_-_GPN-2000-000127 cropped

Chuck flew up front with the pilot and Ridley in the B-29. The X-1 was stowed in the belly ready for the drop. At 20,000 feet, Chuck stooped down towards the other end of the plane and clambered into the X-1. It was freezing cold. At this height even the heat of the high desert didn’t touch the cabin. The B-29 pilot completed the final checklist. He asked if Chuck was ready. “Hell yes, let’s get it over with!”

The pilot dropped the X-1 and Chuck was immediately spiraling towards the earth like a bomb. Operational procedure recommended that he turned the rocket ignitors on one at a time. He fired them all at once. He was shot back in his seat and suddenly was traveling at Mach .83. There was instability, Chuck struggled with the control but the faster he went the easier it was to fly.


He piled on the speed and suddenly the buffering stopped, the plane was flying clear and level like a bird. He looked down. The speed meter was off the scale. He was flying supersonic. There was no boom, no crack, no whine. He radioed it in.

“Hey Ridley that machmeter is acting screwy. It just went off the scale.”

“Son, you is imaging things.”

“Must be. I’m still wearing my ears and nothing else fell off neither.”

He laughed, he was traveling faster than the speed of sound and it was like driving down a clear smooth freeway. He got the X-1 up to Mach 1.07, 700 mph. The Glamorous Glennis  had saved him once again.

Chuck ditched the X-1 in a dried up lake bed just outside the base and had the fire crew chief give him a ride back in. He got out of the fire truck and flopped into Glenn’s car.  He smiled at her and said: “I’m beat, let’s go home”.  Before Glenn could get the key in the ignition, the car was swamped by Base officials clapping him on the back telling him to get out and come over to the operations room; this was big news, no way was Chuck just going home! There was a party out in Pancho’s Bar, martinis and a near fatal motorcycle accident as the man of the hour drove himself home while heavily under the influence on top of his cracked ribs.

Still, the sound barrier had been broken…

… and Chuck Yeager was the fastest man alive.