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Retired Air Force Brigadier General Charles “Chuck” Yeager, the quintessential World War II fighter pilot and test pilot who proved he had the “right stuff” when in 1947 he became the first person to fly faster than sound, he was dead. He was 97 years old.

General Yeager died yesterday, his wife, Victoria Yeager, said on her Twitter account.

“It is with deep grief, I must tell you that the love of my life, General Chuck Yeager passed away just before 9 pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest pilot and a legacy of strength, adventure and patriotism will be remembered forever. “

The 25-year-old test pilot Charles E. Yeager, sitting in the cockpit of a jet in this 1948 file photo, was the first to fly faster than the speed of sound. Another feat by Yeager, flying a jet under a bridge in Charleston, W.Va., in 1948, was not reported by local media. (AP)

Yeager’s death is “a tremendous loss to our nation,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Gen. Yeager’s pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America’s skills in the sky and lifted our nation’s dreams into the jet age and space age. He said, ‘You don’t focus on risks. You focus on the results. No risk is too great to prevent necessary work from being done, ”Bridenstine said.

“In an age of media heroes, he’s the real deal,” Edwards Air Force Base historian Jim Young said in August 2006 at the unveiling of a bronze statue of General Yeager.

He was “the fairest of all those with the right things,” said Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, commander of the Edwards Air Force Flight Test Center.

General Yeager, from a small town in the West Virginia hills, flew for more than 60 years, including piloting an X-15 at about 1600 kph at Edwards in October 2002 at age 79.

“Living to old age is not an end in itself. The trick is to enjoy the years that remain, “he said in” Yeager: An Autobiography. “

“I haven’t done everything yet, but when I’m done, I won’t have missed much,” he wrote.

“If I go (crash) tomorrow, it won’t be with a scowl. I had a great time. “

Retired Brigadier from the Air Force. General Charles Yeager speaks to members of the media after a recreation flight marking the 65th anniversary of his breaking of the sound barrier. (AP Photo / Isaac Brekken)

On October 14, 1947, General Yeager, then a 24-year-old captain, pushed a bullet-shaped orange Bell X-1 rocket plane beyond 1060 k / ph to break the sound barrier, at the time a Daunting milestone in aviation. .

“Sure, I was worried,” he said in 1968.

“When you’re playing with something you don’t know much about, there has to be apprehension. But don’t let that affect your work. “

The modest General Yeager said in 1947 that it could have gone even faster if the plane had carried more fuel. He said the trip “was nice, like traveling fast in a car.”

General Yeager nicknamed the rocket plane and all his other planes “Glamorous Glennis” after his wife, who died in 1990.

His feat was kept top secret for about a year when the world thought that the British had broken the sound barrier first.

“It wasn’t about not having airplanes flying at speeds like this. It was a matter of keeping them from falling apart, ”General Yeager said.

Sixty-five years after the minute, on October 14, 2012, General Yeager commemorated the feat, flying in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier more than 9100 meters above the Mojave Desert in California.

His exploits were recounted in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff” and in the 1983 film that it inspired.

General Yeager was born on February 23, 1923 in Myra, a small community on the Mud River deep in a hollow in the Appalachians about 40 miles southwest of Charleston.

Later, the family moved to Hamlin, the county seat. His father was an oil and gas driller and a farmer.

“What really amazes me looking at all those years is how lucky I was, how lucky, for example, to have been born in 1923 and not 1963, so that I came of age just as aviation entered the era. modern, ”Gen. Yeager said in a December 1985 speech at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

“I was just a lucky kid who took the right path,” he said.

Chuck Yeager explains that it was simply his duty to pilot the plane, during a press conference at Edwards Air Force Base, California. After flying in an F-15 fighter jet breaking the sound barrier once again during the 50th anniversary of supersonic flight. (AP Photo / Michael Caulfield)

General Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1941.

He later regretted that his lack of a college education kept him from becoming an astronaut.

He started out as an aircraft mechanic, and despite suffering severe seasickness during his first plane ride, he enrolled in a program that allowed enlisted men to become pilots.

General Yeager shot down 13 German aircraft in 64 missions during World War II, including five in a single mission.

It was once shot down over German-controlled France, but escaped with the help of French partisans.

After World War II, he became a test pilot starting at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Among the flights he made after breaking the sound barrier was one on December 12, 1953, when he flew an X-1A at a record high of over 2500 k / ph.

He said he had gotten up at dawn that day and went hunting, catching a goose before his flight. That night, he said, his family ate the goose for dinner.

He returned to combat during the Vietnam War, flying several missions a month in twin-engine B-57 Canberras, carrying out bombing and strafing over South Vietnam.

General Yeager also commanded Air Force squadrons and fighter wings and the Aerospace Research Pilot School for military astronauts.

“I have flown 341 types of military aircraft in every country in the world and logged about 18,000 hours,” he said in an interview in the January 2009 issue of Men’s Journal.

“It may sound funny, but I have never had a plane in my life. If you’re willing to bleed, Uncle Sam will give you all the planes you want. “

Brig retired. General Chuck Yeager reveals a statue of himself on the 40th anniversary of his historic supersonic flight, on October 14, 1987. (AP Photo / Steven Wayne Rotsch)

By the time General Yeager left Hamlin, he was already known as a daredevil. On subsequent visits, he often visited the city.

“I live across the street from his mother,” said Gene Brewer, retired editor of the weekly Lincoln Journal.

“One day I got on the roof with my 8mm camera when he flew over my head. I thought he was going to get me off the roof. You can see the treetops at the bottom of the images. “

General Yeager flew an F-80 under a Charleston bridge at 720 kph on October 10, 1948, according to newspaper reports.

When asked to repeat the feat for the photographers, General Yeager replied: “You should never bomb the same place twice because the gunners will be waiting for you.”

General Yeager never forgot his roots, and West Virginia named bridges, schools and the Charleston airport after him.

“My beginnings in West Virginia say who I am to this day,” wrote General Yeager.

“My accomplishments as a test pilot say more about a person’s luck, chance and destiny. But the guy who broke the sound barrier was the boy who swam in the Mud River with a beaten watermelon or shot a squirrel before going to school. “

General Yeager received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.

President Harry S. Truman awarded him the Collier Air Trophy in December 1948 for breaking the sound barrier.

He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985.

General Yeager retired from the Air Force in 1975 and moved to a ranch in Cedar Ridge, Northern California, where he continued to work as a consultant to the Air Force and Northrop Corp. and became known to younger generations as tv presenter for auto parts. and heat pumps.

He married Glennis Dickhouse of Oroville, California, on February 26, 1945. She died of ovarian cancer in December 1990. They had four children: Donald, Michael, Sharon, and Susan.

General Yeager married Victoria Scott D’Angelo, 45, in 2003.


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