Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Yeager, the World War II fighter pilot ace and quintessential test pilot who was one of the subjects of Philip Kaufman’s THE RIGHT STUFF and became the first person to fly faster than sound, has died at the age of 97.
Yeager’s wife, Victoria, confirmed the death on the pilot’s official Twitter page on Monday, noting that the historic WWII vet died just before 9:00 PM E.T. Victoria wrote “An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.” You can check out the Twitter post below.
Fr @VictoriaYeage11 It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.
— Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) December 8, 2020
Chuck Yeager was born on February 13, 1923, in a small town in the hills of West Virginia. He enlisted as a private for the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941 and started his military experience as an aircraft mechanic. It would only be two years that Yeager would become a certified pilot in 1942. This would start a career for him that allowed him to take flight for more than 60 years.
Yeager would make history on October 14, 1947, when he flew the experimental Bell X-1 air aircraft and became the first person to break the sound barrier, which brought him honors including the Harmon International Trophy for his daunting aviation milestone. Yeager nicknamed the rocket plane, and all his other aircraft, “Glamorous Glennis” for his wife, who died in 1990. Always one to be modest, Yeager said in 1947 he could have gone even faster had the plane carried more fuel. He said the ride “was nice, just like riding fast in a car.”
Due to the historical feat that Yeager accomplished, it made him an inspiration for a number of Hollywood projects, most notably Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff. The film followed Navy, Marine, and Air Force test pilots who were selected to be astronauts for NASA’s Project Mercury, the United States’ first human spaceflight. Sam Shepard starred as Yeager while the groundbreaking pilot appeared in a cameo role. The Right Stuff eventually became the toast of Hollywood, winning four Oscar in 1984 with Shepard receiving a best supporting actor nomination for his portrayal of Yeager. The film also stars Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, and Scott Glenn. Yeager would dabble in Hollywood projects a bit more with small roles in Goodyear Playhouse, Smokey and the Bandit II, and Flying Without Fear.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine summed him up best in a statement about his passing. Bridenstine wrote “Gen. Yeager’s pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America’s abilities in the sky and set our nation’s dreams soaring into the jet age and the space age. You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.”
R.I.P to a true risk-taker and pioneer. Yeager is survived by his four children and his wife Victoria.