Gen Chuck Yeager, Proper Stuff take a look at pilot who broke the sound barrier, died on the age of 97
© Reuters. GENE. CHUCK YEAGER SPEAKS AT THE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF FIRST FLIGHT IN NORTH CAROLINA.
From Bill Trott
(Reuters) – Chuck Yeager, the steel test pilot “Right Stuff” who broke the sound barrier more than 70 years ago, died Monday at the age of 97.
Yeager’s death was announced on his Twitter account by his wife Victoria.
“I am deeply sorry to tell you that my love, General Chuck Yeager, passed away shortly before 9 p.m. ET. An incredible life, America’s greatest pilot, and a legacy of strength, adventure, and patriotism will forever be remembered.” Victoria Yeager said in the tweet.
Yeager, an unlikely candidate to become one of history’s most famous aviators, joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 just to work on aircraft engines, not to fly them. His first flight trip made him vomit.
Yeager was passed over for the burgeoning US space program because he never went to college, but he was barely broken not being an astronaut. He viewed them as mere passengers “who flipped the correct switches on instructions from the ground”.
Writer Tom Wolfe was so impressed with the face of the rough-hewn man from Hamlin, West Virginia, that he featured in Yeager in The Right Stuff, his 1979 book about the beginnings of the space program.
Wolfe said Yeager was blessed with “the right stuff” that made him a legendary test pilot, but Yeager said it was more a matter of luck, above-average visibility, and in-depth knowledge of his aircraft.
These traits served Yeager well during World War II. When he flew a P-51 Mustang named Glamorous Glennis to commemorate his girlfriend Glennis Dickhouse, he was credited with 12 “kills” of German aircraft – five of them in a single dogfight.
After the war, he became a test pilot and was assigned to Muroc Air Force Base, California, as part of the secret XS-1 project, which aimed to achieve Mach 1, the speed of sound. Yeager was a 24-year-old captain who tested a dozen aircraft a week when he first broadcast the sound in the bright orange Bell X-1 vehicle on October 14, 1947.
NOT DETERMINED BY BROKEN RIBS
He had broken two ribs in a riding accident a few days earlier, but hadn’t told his superiors for fear they would ground him. Because of the pain, he had to use a sawed-off broomstick to close the cockpit of the X-1 before takeoff.
A B-29 bomber carried the X-1 7,925 m over the California Mojave Desert and released it. Neither Yeager nor aerospace engineers knew whether the plane – or the pilot – would be able to handle the unprecedented speed without parting. But Yeager took the 10-meter X-1, powered by liquid oxygen and alcohol, to Mach 1.06, roughly 1,126 km / h at 13,000 meters, like it was a routine flight.
Then he calmly brought the ship, which was also named after Glennis, who had been his wife until then, 14 minutes after it slid down to a dry sea bed on a flight that was a significant step in the direction of space exploration.
Yeager said he recorded a Mach value of 0.965 on his speedometer before jumping off the scales without a dent.
“I was struck by lightning”, he wrote in his 1985 autobiography “Yeager”. “After all the fear, it turned out that breaking the sound barrier was a perfectly paved speedway.”
Yeager was unfazed by a job that brought him to the brink of death on every outing – like the 1953 flight he safely landed his X-1A on after hitting Mach 2.4 and then in control of the plane for 51 seconds had lost.
“It is your duty to fly the plane,” he told an interviewer. “If you get killed in the process, you don’t know anything about it anyway. So why worry?”
Charles Elwood Yeager was born on February 13, 1923 in Myra, West Virginia, as one of five siblings. As a schoolboy, he liked math and could type 60 words per minute – an indication of the hand-eye coordination that would serve him so well in the cockpit.
Yeager wasn’t interested in airplanes as a teenager – he didn’t see one until he was 18 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps to become a mechanic.
After his heyday as a test pilot, Yeager commanded fighter squadrons and flew 127 combat missions during the Vietnam War.
In the early 1960s he was responsible for training astronaut-style air force personnel. However, that program ended when the US government decided not to militarize space. Still, 26 Yeager-trained people went into orbit as NASA astronauts.
Yeager rose to the rank of Brigadier General and in 1997 celebrated the 50th anniversary of his historic flight by driving an F-15 past the speed of sound. Then he announced that it was his last military flight.
Yeager became something of a social media sensation in 2016 at the age of 93 when he started answering public questions on Twitter and giving short and sometimes quirky answers. When asked what he thought of the moon, he replied, “It’s there.”
Yeager and Glennis, who died of cancer in 1990, had four children. He married Victoria Scott D’Angelo in 2003.
(Writing and reporting by Bill Trott; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Shubham Kalia; editing by Diane Craft and Raju Gopalakrishnan)