General Chuck Yeager has died: ACE, fighter pilot, aviation legend
Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager died on Pearl Harbor Day. He was an aviation legend and obtained the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Air Force.
It was my privilege to know Gen. Yeager. In my office are photos of the General and myself standing next to an F-4 Phantom fighter at what was an Air Force Base in Sacramento.
In another meeting, the General rolled up in his Corvette to yet another F-4 on the flight line Edwards Air Force Base Flight Test Center. He was still an active test pilot for the Air Force in his early 70s.
He would bark orders and yet respect his fellow airman. He set high standards and demanded the same who served with him. He led from the front and wasn’t afraid of risk and putting his life on the line. He was a guy who invented the “no B.S. network.” He knew aviation and he knew aircraft performance and development.
His life is full of heroic combat achievements and achieving ACE status, breaking the sound barrier in the Bell X1, and commanding the test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base.
Yeager put the “great” in the Greatest Generation. His career in the Air Force was that of a pioneer and trail blazer. While many thought General Yeager should have been an astronaut, he was passed over. Yeager wasn’t a college graduate so he wasn’t what the NASA leadership was looking for.
No stranger to Hollywood, the General made television commercials and served as a spokesman for GM and AC/Delco. He made a brief appearance in the 983 hit movie “The Right Stuff,” a movie about the first astronauts in the space program.
Active in political circles in Washington, D.C., he had a close personal friendship with George H.W. Bush our 41st President. Bush and Yeager had both been shot down during WW II and shared a special bond. He sat with President Bush and the First Lady on the reviewing stand at 41’s inauguration and watched the pass and review of troops at the parade.
Gen. Chuck Yeager was a credit to aviation and his record-breaking flights aboard the Bell X 1 helped pave the way for supersonic flight and the development of legendary fighter aircraft. He flew more than 300 aircraft in his career.
Some thought he was cocky. Others thought he was confident in his skill and ability and comfortable in his own skin. As a fighter pilot, test pilot, and airman he set high standards and his fearless demeanor earned the respect and admiration of millions.
General Yeager received numerous awards and decorations during his service to our country. We cannot list all those medals, awards, and trophies here.
A decorated hero during World War II and a daring test pilot he has earned a place in military aviation history and leaves a legacy of achievement that will never be equaled.
Rest in peace, General and thank you for your service and sacrifices for our nation and the fight for freedom.
- Tom Freeman and Chuck Yeager: Tom Freeman
- Chuck Yeager: Shutterstock