Chuck Yeager, the First Man to Break the Sound Barrier has Died. He was 97

Chuck Yeager, the First Man to Break the Sound Barrier has Died. He was 97

On December 7, 2020, the flying ace of World War II and legendary test pilot General Chuck Yeager died in the hospital in Los Angeles. He was 97 years old and is survived by his second wife Victoria Yeager (nee Victoria Scott D & # 39; Angelo) and their three children Susan, Don and Sharon. Yeager was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to his family, Yeager also leaves a legacy that can hardly be surpassed in the history of flying and can only be compared to men like Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gagarin. He is perhaps best known for being the first man to break the sound barrier and the first pilot to go over twice the speed of sound (Mach 2).

In fact, October 14th was the seventy-third anniversary of Yeager's historic flight on the Bell XS-1. However, Yeager's achievements go far beyond what he has achieved as a test pilot and pioneer pilot. Chuck Yeager was born in West Virginia in 1923 to Charles Elwood Yeager to peasant parents Susie Mae and Albert Hal Yeager. In 1941 he graduated from high school and began his military service in the US Army Air Forces (USAAF).

A Bell XS-1 (stern # 6062) piloted by USAF Captain Chuck Yeager exceeded the speed of sound in the first supersonic flight in history. Photo credit: NASA

USAF service

Yeager entered the USAAF as a private citizen on September 12, 1941 and became an aircraft mechanic at George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. A few months later, the U.S. entered World War II and Yeager was qualified for flight training. After long training as a fighter pilot, Yeager was shipped to Great Britain in November 1943 with the 357th fighter group.

While he was stationed at RAF Leiston, Yeager and his P-51 Mustangs fighter wing flew in missions against the German Air Force. Yeager shot down a fighter before he was shot down on his mission over France. With the help of the French resistance (the Maquis), he was smuggled through Spain and returned to England about two months later.

Then, on October 12, 1944, Yeager became a fighter ace after shooting down five enemy fighters in a single day. This happened during a bombing raid on Bremen in which Yeager led the 363rd squadron as part of the bomber escort. While other squadrons stayed nearby, the 363rd flew 80 to 160 km ahead to intercept German fighters.

According to Yeager's after-action report, the engagement began when he and his squad flew at an altitude of about 7,600 meters above Steinhuder See – about 50 km southeast of Bremen. Here Yeager spotted twenty-two Messerschmidt 109s that were crossing at a distance of about 1.5 miles in front of his squadron. Yeager and his party fell behind the enemy formation and followed them for a few minutes. Mustangs fly in formation over Europe. Recognition:

After Yeager dropped his external fuel tanks, he went into the firing position and was the only pilot in his squad who was within range. One of the German pilots panicked and broke right and collided with another. According to Yeager's after-action report, both pilots got out. Yeager then opened fire the first time and set it ablaze as it fell.

Yeager then pulled up a second self. 109 and fired a burst in its path causing it to explode in midair. The last me 109 hit the throttle and tried to pull back, but Yeager rolled his plane and made a hard turn to get back onto the fighter's tail. He shot up the wings and tail of that me. 109 and the pilot had to get out after losing control.

In his wrap-up report, Yeager claimed five kills and reported firing 587 rounds of his Mustang's 50-caliber ammunition. He also attributed a large part of his success to the G-suit (which kept him from going black) and the Mustang's K-14 visor. The encounter made Yeager the first in his group to become an "ace in a day".

By the end of the war, Yeager had achieved the rank of captain and received 11.5 official victories, including a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter that he shot down while attempting to land. On February 26, 1945, Yeager married his first wife, Glennis Dickhouse, and the couple would have four children.

"Fastest Man Alive"

After the war, Yeager stayed with the USAAF as a test pilot. By 1947, he was selected to fly the Bell XS-1 under the high-speed flight program run by the National Aviation Advisory Committee (NACA) – NASA's forerunner. On October 14, 1947, Yeager broke the sound barrier when he flew the X-1, which he named (after his first wife) "Glamorous Glennis".

During the Korean War (1950-1953) he returned to active military service and resumed test pilots after the hostilities were over. On November 20, 1953, the US Navy pilot Scott Crossfield was the first to fly the transonic research aircraft D-558-II Skyrocket, twice the speed of sound (Mach 2). Yeager and his pilot Jack Ridley decided to regain the record for the fastest speed ever achieved.

On December 12, 1953, Yeager set a new record by hitting Mach 2.44 on his aircraft as part of a series of test flights known as "Operation NACA Weep". He almost died when he temporarily lost control of the aircraft at 24,000 m and dropped 16,000 m. Even so, Yeager managed to regain control of the plane and bring it in for a safe landing.

This last record flight happened just in time for the 50th anniversary of the flight, when he defeated Crossfield and was named "fastest man in the world". For this achievement, Yeager was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1954. D-558-II Skyrocket. Photo credit: NASA

Later career

Between 1954 and his retirement in 1975, Yeager commanded fighter and bomber squadrons in West Germany, France, Spain, the Philippines and Pakistan, and attained the rank of colonel. After graduating from Air War College in 1962, he became the first in command of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, which trained astronauts for NASA and the USAF.

In April 1962, Yeager flew with Neil Armstrong in a T-33 Shooting Star, a jet trainer aircraft. Between 1963 and 1964, Yeager also completed five test flights with the NASA M2-F1 prototype, a non-powered lifting body designed to test a wingless concept. On December 10, 1963, Yeager was nearly killed while flying the new NF-104A supersonic trainer.

After a malfunction at 33,130 m (108,700 ft), the aircraft lost power and began to descend rapidly. Yeager was unable to regain control and had to disembark at m ~ 2,600 (8,500 ft). This incident, in which Yeager was the first pilot to disembark in a full pressure suit (which is needed for such high-altitude flights), put an end to his record attempts.

Between 1966 and 1968, Yeager was returned to combat service when he was given command of the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Here he and his pilots flew countless missions over South Vietnam and Southeast Asia. In July 1969, Yeager was promoted to brigadier general and no longer flew combat missions.

Lockheed NF-104A climbs with the help of its rocket motor. Photo credit: USAF

For the next two years he was Vice Commander of the Seventeenth Expeditionary Air Force (17 EAF) at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. From 1971 to 1973, Yeager was stationed in Pakistan as an advisor to the Pakistani Air Force and assistant to the US diplomat. There he witnessed the 1971 conflict between Pakistan and India and even saw his plane destroyed in an air raid.

In 1973, Yeager was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed on an aviator.

Retirement and final years

In 1975, Yeager retired from the USAF and he and his wife Glennis moved to Grass Valley, California. The couple lived on the income from Yeager's best-selling autobiography, lectures, and commercial ventures. In the 1980s, Yeager was General Motors spokesman, drove pace cars for the Indie 500, and technical advisor to Electronic Arts (which released a range of flight simulators).

In 1983 his contributions to the American space program (and those of the Mercury Seven) were immortalized in the film The Right Stuff. Yeager made a cameo in the film, playing the Fred bartender from "Pancho's Place," where Yeager spent much of his downtime while stationed at Edwards AFB. In 1986 President Reagan appointed him to the Rogers Commission, which investigated the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Brig. General Robert Cardenas speaks on the 70th anniversary of supersonic flight on October 13, 2017. Brig. General Chuck Yeager and Mrs. Victoria. Photo credit: Edwards AFB / USAF

In 1990, Glennis Yeager died of ovarian cancer. In 2011, Yeager's son Mickey died unexpectedly in Oregon. On October 14, 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his historic flight, Yeager flew an F-15D eagle named Glamorous Glennis III past Mach 1. The chase aircraft (an F-16) was piloted by Bob Hoover, the man Yeager's wingman for his first supersonic flight.

In 2000, Yeager met actress Victoria Scott D & # 39; Angelo (his second wife) while hiking in Nevada. The two married in 2003 (which didn't go down too well with Yeager's children) and lived together in Northern California. For the 65th anniversary (October 14, 2012), Yeager flew again, this time as a co-pilot on board an F-15.

On December 7, 2020, which coincided with National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (and the 79th anniversary of the attack), Yeager died in a Los Angeles hospital. News of his death was shared by his wife on Chuck Yeager's Twitter account:

"Fri @ VictoriaYeage11 I am deeply sorry to tell you that my love, General Chuck Yeager, passed away shortly before 9:00 pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America's greatest pilot, and a legacy of strength, adventure, and patriotism will be forever remembered. "

In an official statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the following about General Chuck Yeager's death:

"Today's death of General Chuck Yeager is a tremendous loss to our nation. General Yeager's pioneering and innovative spirit has nurtured America's skills in the skies and moved our nation's dreams into the jet and space ages. He said," They focus not on risks. You focus on results. No risk is too great to prevent the work required from being done. "

“Among many novelties in more than 60 years in aviation, Chuck was the first man to fly at the speed of sound, and his successes cannot match any of our greatest novelties in space. Not content to rest on his laurels, he broke his own record and traveled at Mach 2.44. But even before that, he heroically served his country in World War II. Long after becoming a legend in his day, he continued to serve his country through the military and later in his ongoing job of testing new aircraft.

"Chuck's bravery and accomplishments are testament to the enduring strength that made him a true American original, and NASA's aeronautical work owes much to his brilliant contributions to aerospace science. As a young naval aviator, I was one of many around the world World who looked up to Chuck Yeager and his amazing accomplishments as a test pilot. His path paved the way for those who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his successes will guide us for generations to come. "

Legacies and Honors

Yeager has received countless awards, prizes and quotes for his achievements. For his achievement in breaking the sound barrier, Yeager was awarded the Mackay Trophy and Collier Trophy of the National Aeronautics Association (NAA) in 1948 and the Harmon International Trophy in 1954. The X-1 Glamorous Glennis is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Yeager in honor of the 50th anniversary of his first supersonic flight at Edwards Air Force Base in 1997. Photo credit: Edwards AFB / USAF / AAoA

Between 1966 and 1981, Yeager was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, the National Aviation Hall of Fame (the highest honor that can be bestowed on an aviator), and the International Space Hall of Fame. In 1974, Yeager also received the American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award and was inducted into the opening class of the Aerospace Walk of Honor in 1990.

In 1976, Yeager received the Special Congress Silver Medal for "his immeasurable contribution to aerospace science by risking his life piloting the X-1 research aircraft faster than sound speed on October 14, 1947." This medal, that of the non-combatant Medal of Honor, Yeager was presented by then President Gerald Ford during a ceremony in the White House on December 8, 1976.

Marshall University in Yeager's home state of West Virginia named the highest academic scholarship in her honor – the Society of Yeager Scholars. Charleston, West Virginia honored him by staying their airport and the insterstate bridge of the Kanawha River, the Yeager Airport and the Chuck E. Yeager Bridge. Part of US Highway 119 in his hometown was renamed Yeager Highway.

Yeager has also been ranked as one of the greatest pilots of all time by Flying Magazine, the California Hall of Fame, the state of West Virginia, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the United States Army Air Force, and some US presidents. Though humble about his background and accomplishments, Yeager was a giant to pilots, astronauts, and common people alike. He will be missed!

RIP Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager!

Further reading: Chuck, USAF, Edwards AFB, NASA

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