Aviation Remembers Chuck Yeager


General Chuck Yeager, first man to break the sound barrier, passed away on Monday night at 97. In the hours since the announcement broke on social media, fellow aviators, historians, VIPs, and others have weighed in on Yeager’s legacy. 

Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, said: “Today’s passing of Gen. Chuck Yeager is a tremendous loss to our nation. Gen. Yeager’s pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America’s abilities in the sky and set our nation’s dreams soaring into the jet age and the space age. He said, ‘You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.’ Among many firsts in more than 60 years in aviation, Chuck was the first man to fly at the speed of sound, and his achievements rival any of our greatest firsts in space. Not content to rest on his laurels, he went on to break his own record and travel at Mach 2.44. But even before that he was serving his country heroically in World War II. Long after he became a legend in his own time, he continued to serve his country through the military and later in his ongoing work to test new aircraft. Chuck’s bravery and accomplishments are a testament to the enduring strength that made him a true American original, and NASA’s Aeronautics work owes much to his brilliant contributions to aerospace science. As a young naval aviator, I was one of many around the world who looked up to Chuck Yeager and his amazing feats as a test pilot. His path blazed a trail for anyone who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his achievements will guide us for generations to come.”

Chairman and CEO of EAA, Jack Pelton, told us, “It kind of stunned me as someone who thinks are heroes are invincible and they’re going to live forever. Chuck was amazing for what he accomplished in aviation. From an EAA perspective, he was our second [Young Eagles] chairman behind Cliff Robertson. He jumped in and took the mantle promoting flying for young kids with the understanding that by 2003 we had a goal to hit one million Young Eagles, which was the centennial flight year. He personally did 250 [flights]. He did the ceremonial flight for the one millionth and did a phenomenal job. He was a lifetime member. He spent 30 years coming to Oshkosh. He really walked the talk. We will forever miss him.”

President-elect Joe Biden: “Chuck Yeager redefined the possible. Where others saw limits, he saw opportunity and never stopped pushing the boundaries of flight. Above all, he was a patriot who dedicated his life to serving our nation. Jill and I are keeping his loved ones in our prayers.”

“Seventy-nine years to the day after the U.S. entered World War II, we lost one of the greats from our Greatest Generation. Chuck Yeager’s courage, patriotism and flying skills were remarkable, and we salute this genuine American hero,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen.

“Aviation and space exploration, as embodied by the honorees in the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, directly represents the human pioneering and exploring spirit. As one of the charter members of the Hall, Chuck Yeager embodied the spirit of exploration and drive to succeed as much as anyone in the history of aviation,” said Jim Kidrick, President & CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “Chuck Yeager was an icon among all of the men and women who have strived to better the human condition through aviation and space exploration. The San Diego Air & Space Museum mourns his loss while remembering him fondly for his courage, compassion and amazing achievements.”

Tributes and recollections were still pouring into social media a day after his passing. Here are some of the earlier posts and a small selection of videos featuring Yeager. Perhaps tonight is a good opportunity to rescreen “The Right Stuff,” the 1983 adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s seminal (if controversial) dramatization of the early space race.

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. A life lived in full but his death is a loss to the aviation community.

    Does anyone know the era, aircraft of the picture in the article where he is wearing a helmet that looks like an equestrian, not flight, helmet?