America’s ‘greatest pilot’ Chuck Yeager dies aged 97
Legendary test pilot, Charles Yeager, who created a world record when he broke the sound barrier during a flight in 1947, has died aged 97, his family have confirmed.
Chuck, whose career as a test pilot was featured in the movie, The Right Stuff, is survived by his wife Victoria and three of his four children, Susan, don and Sharon, who he had with his first wife, Gennis.
Posting on Twitter, his wife Victoria, said: “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.”
In addition to breaking the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, while flying the Bell X-1 as a test pilot, he shot down more than 11 aircraft as a P-51 pilot in World War II.
He achieved his record-breaking feat despite secretly having broken two ribs during what he called a ‘disagreement’ with a horse.
But the injury didn’t stop him, even though he was in a significant amount of pain and unable to close the cockpit’s hatch.
“I’d had a bad night’s sleep–from the pain in my side, but also from the indecision about whether or not to fly the mission incapacitated,” the pilot wrote in a 1987 essay for Popular Mechanics.
“Tossing and turning, I decided to make up my mind in the air. If it became physically impossible to climb into the X-1, then I’d scrub the mission. If I could get into the pilot’s seat, I knew I could fly.”
“I had flown at supersonic speeds for 18 seconds. There was no buffet, no jolt, no shock. Above all, no brick wall to smash into. I was alive.”
“And although it was never entered in the pilot report, the casualness of invading a piece of space no man had ever visited was best reflected in the radio chatter.
“I had to tell somebody, anybody, that we’d busted straight through the sound barrier. But transmissions were restricted. ‘Hey Ridley!’ I called. ‘Make another note. There’s something wrong with this Machmeter. It’s gone completely screwy!’
“‘If it is, we’ll fix it,’ Ridley replied, catching my drift. ‘But personally, I think you’re seeing things.'”
His last active duty flight was on February 25, 1975, in an F-4C Phantom II.