Chuck Yeager, pilot who broke speed of sound, dies

The US aviation legend’s life was immortalised in the 1980s film, ‘The Right Stuff’

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 08 December 2020 08:56 GMT
File image: Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager in the cockpit of an F-15 fighter aircraft at US air force base in California
File image: Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager in the cockpit of an F-15 fighter aircraft at US air force base in California (USAF/AFP via Getty Images)

Aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager, who became the first man to break the sound barrier, has died at the age of 97. 

Yeager’s wife, Victoria Yeager broke the news on Twitter: “It is [with] profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9 pm ET,” she said in a tweet from his official Twitter handle.

“An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest pilot, and a legacy of strength, adventure, and patriotism will be remembered forever.”

Yeager was born in West Virginia in 1923 and inducted in the US Army Air Corps in September 1941. He flew for more than 60 years in his career.

The second world war pilot shot down 13 German fighter aircraft and flew 127 combat missions during the war in Vietnam.  

On 14 October 1947, Yeager etched his name in history by becoming the first person to break the sound barrier during his flight in the experimental Bell XS-1 (later X-1) rocket plane over California. He made the record as an airforce test pilot.

“Sure, I was apprehensive,” he said in 1968 about his milestone. “When you’re fooling around with something you don’t know much about, there has to be apprehension. But you don’t let that affect your job.”

At that time, the aviation engineers were also apprehensive if Yeager and the plane would be able to handle the unprecedented speed without damage. He later said he could have landed the craft even faster if the plane carried more fuel.

His daring escapades got him even greater legendary status in Tom Wolfe’s book, ‘The Right Stuff’, which was later made into a movie in 1983.

He also helped in training the first US astronauts.

Yeager was awarded the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1974 among his numerous awards.  He also got the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985 from President Ronald Reagan.

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