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First Person to Break the Sound Barrier Dead at 97

Chuck Yeager had the 'right stuff'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 8, 2020 2:28 AM CST
Updated Dec 8, 2020 5:08 AM CST

(Newser) – Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Yeager, the World War II fighter pilot ace and quintessential test pilot who showed he had the “right stuff” when in 1947 he became the first person to fly faster than sound, has died. He was 97, the AP reports. Yeager died Monday, his wife, Victoria Yeager, said on his Twitter account. “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." Yeager's death is “a tremendous loss to our nation,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

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Yeager, from a small town in the hills of West Virginia, flew for more than 60 years, including piloting an X-15 to near 1,000mph at Edwards in October 2002 at age 79. “Living to a ripe old age is not an end in itself. The trick is to enjoy the years remaining,” he said in Yeager: An Autobiography. On Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager, who enlisted in the Army Air Corps after graduating high school and was by then a 24-year-old captain, pushed an orange, bullet-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane past 660mph to break the sound barrier, at the time a daunting aviation milestone. His exploits were told in Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff, and the 1983 film it inspired. (Much more on his extraordinary life and exploits here.)

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