US Air Force officer and test pilot Chuck Yeager, known as “the fastest man alive,” has died at the age of 97.
Yeager broke the sound barrier when he tested the X-1 in October 1947, although the feat was not announced to the public until 1948.
His second wife, Victoria, confirmed to CNN Monday night that Yeager had passed after she tweeted from Yeager’s verified Twitter account that the World War II flying ace had died.
“An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest pilot,” she tweeted.
His legacy captured later generations as well, being featured in the book and 1983 film, “The Right Stuff.”
“This is a sad day for America,” John Nicoletti, Yeager’s friend, and ground crew chief told CNN Monday night. “After he broke the sound barrier, we all now have permission to break barriers.”
Nicoletti said Yeager had gone through some physical challenges in recent years and had a fall that led to complications and other issues due to his age.
Yeager resided in Northern California but died in a Los Angeles hospital, Nicoletti said.
“Yeager was never a quitter,” Nicoletti recalled of his friend. “He was an incredibly courageous man.”
Time at war :
Born in 1923 and raised in West Virginia, Yeager joined the Air Force at age 18 in 1941 and was assigned to the Army Air Corps, according to his website.
In 1943, Yeager was commissioned a reserve flight officer before becoming a pilot in the fighter command of the Eighth Air Force stationed in England.
Over the course of World War II, he flew 64 missions and shot down 13 German planes, according to his biography on Britannica.
“Many didn’t make it through World War II. Most didn’t make it through the early days of test piloting,” friend Nicoletti explained. “The odds of survival for Chuck were as narrow as the odds of America gaining its own freedom.”
Yeager was shot down over France in March of 1944 on his eighth combat mission but was able to evade capture with the help of the French underground, his website said.
He returned to the US in 1945 and married his wife Glennis, for whom he had named several of his fighting aircraft.
Ascent to breaking the barrier:
Following the war, Yeager became a flight instructor and a test pilot, working as an assistant maintenance officer in the Fighter Section of the Flight Test Division at Wright Field in Ohio.
Yeager’s exceptional skills were quickly recognized, and he was asked to perform in airshows as well as service trials for new planes, according to his website.
While his official service was over, Yeager continued to be a valued adviser for the government and aerospace industry, his website said. General Chuck Yeager was honored during the MLB baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies on June 14, 2018, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.