Chuck Yeager epitomized what it meant to break through. The celebrated pilot, best known for being the first person to ever break the sound barrier, had a storied career in aviation even having his feats recounted on the big screen. When it’s all said and done, he will probably go down as the world’s most celebrated pilot. So it’s with sadness that on Monday, Chuck Yeager passed away at the age of 97.
The announcement of Chuck Yeager’s passing was released through his official Twitter account, posted by his second wife Victoria Yeage.
Chuck Yeager’s name is synonymous with the idea of pushing the edges around what was possible in a plane. After a time spent in the military flying missions in World War II, he began a career as a test pilot for the U.S. Navy flying experimental rocket-powered aircraft. It was during this time and the years that followed (really almost up to his death), that he would continue pushing limits up in the air.
Most notably, on October 14, 1947, the aviator and test pilot made history when he was the first person to break the sound barrier. If it sounds like no big deal these days, know that at the time it wasn’t quite known what would happen when an aircraft reached this speed (662 miles per hour). Some even thought the plane would tear apart because of the drag. Manning this mission, going literally supersonic for the first time in the world, represented the ultimate daredevil act. That he jockeyed for the chance, beating out a number of other pilots was simply a testament to the fearlessness Chuck Yeager brought to the endeavor.
And most definitely Chuck Yeager never really lost his need for speed. Even after technically retiring from military command, he’d go on to continue breaking speed records as technology advanced and planes got faster and faster. When others were retiring and moving to senior villages in Florida this guy was still suiting up and taking flight. What’s almost even more amazing, is that on the same day 65 years later (at the age of 89) he did it again, this time flying an F-15 Eagle in tribute to that historic feat.
Chuck Yeager and the danger he faced in testing out new plane technology was recounted in the 1983 movie The Right Stuff based on Tom Wolfe’s novel of the same name. The book and movie detail the serious risk involved with what it meant to defy basic laws of physics and how the test pilot-life was one of great extremes. That being said, the Disney+ adaptation of The Right Stuff did conspicuously leave Yeager out of the plot.
In all, we may never again have someone who so truly embodies the idea of breaking through barriers. At a time when there was no way to automate this kind of test flight, where a human needed to be at the stick, Chuck Yeager took the challenge and broke through the barrier of sound.