Chuck Yeager was the pilot’s pilot – a WWII flying ace, and the first person to break the sound barrier. Mach 1 was considered an “impossible barrier”. He broke it, again and again. The X-1 he flew that day in the Mojave desert was put on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Air and Space Museum
When Scott Crossfield went Mach 2, the next week Chuck went up and flew Mach 2.5 and set an altitude record of 75,000. After reaching Mach 2.5, Yeager lost control of the X-1A at about 80,000 ft due to inertia coupling, a phenomenon unknown at the time. With the aircraft simultaneously rolling, pitching, and yawing out of control, Yeager dropped 51,000 feet in less than a minute before regaining control at around 29,000 feet. He then managed to land without further incident. He described it as “my job”.
Six months later he topped 90,000 feet.
Chuck set countless records. He ended up flying more than 360 different types of aircraft, mostly experimental.
He was portrayed by Sam Shepard in the hit film The Right Stuff, and had a cameo appearance in the film as a bartender. He also appeared in several TV series and documentaries as himself.
Yeager became the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, which produced astronauts for NASA, and later Space Shuttle pilots. He was succeed by Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon.
Yeager also served as a technical adviser for three Electronic Arts flight simulator video games, include Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat.
My dad worked with him several times. My father Hal designed and built experimental aircraft, and later the Apollo 11 Saturn 5 rocket. My father could dominate any conversation, but not with Chuck . Chuck wouldn’t just fly the plane and report, he had specific design notes for the engineers. Smart, confident, daring, and fiercely loyal. He would speak his mind and not give up until he prevailed.
One of my friends is a brilliant film director. He happens to be black. He was hired to direct a commercial featuring Yeager. At first Chuck refused to work with him. My friend looked up to Chuck and emulated him, focusing on the work and refusing to back down, while remaining respectful. He and Chuck became friends by the end of the shoot.
In addition to being a flying ace and record-setting test pilot, Brigadier General Charles Yeager was a great guest on Johnny Carson’s late night talk show. He already has public buildings, airports, and highways named after him.
Fly Higher. Chuck Yeager 1923-2020.
by fellow aviator and poet John Gillespie Magee
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.