On December 7th, 2020, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, America lost the flying legend Chuck Yeager.
Most modern-day 22 year-olds fret about sensitivity and updating their Instagram profiles. At 22, Chuck Yeager was gunning down Nazi fighters as an Ace pilot. Let that sink in for a moment.
Unfortunately in America, we seem to have lost our way when it comes to what the greatest generation showed us we are capable of.
I hope America gets some of its spine back. I’ve tried to impress on my own children the importance of self-reliance, confidence, respect, and a Chuck Yeager “can do” attitude.
I think about Chuck up in heaven ribbing the Nazi and Japanese pilots of World War II, arguing over air combat tactics, Elon Musk, and the future of manned flight.
If you know someone who’s feeling sorry for themselves here’s a list of Chuck’s accomplishments to put a boot in their ass.
Chuck Yeager’s Life Highlights
- While not a college graduate, in 1941 he enlists in the Army Air Forces as an aircraft mechanic. And in 1942 he is accepted into enlisted flight training.
- He was assigned to the western front flying the P-51 Mustang.
- He was the first “Ace in a day” in his squadron, shooting down five aircraft in one day. He was, also, one of the first Americans to shoot down a German Messerschmitt plane.
- 11.5 kills (half credit for an assist). He was flying, “Glamorous Glen”, a plane he named after his girlfriend Glennis Faye who he would later marry. “Any airplane I name after you always brings me home”, he was quoted as saying to his wife.
- In 1944, he was shot down over Nazi-occupied territory. He managed to escape to Spain with the help of the French Resistance (and taught them how to make bombs before returning to his unit).
- In 1945, he is assigned to Aeronautical Systems Flight Test Division where he would set multiple records.
- In 1947, while flying the X1, he becomes the first to break the sound barrier at over 700 mph at an altitude of 45,000 feet becoming the world’s fastest person. He achieved the record while having two broken ribs, having fallen from a horse the day before. He had not reported the incident to military doctors.
- He sets a new record of Mach 2.44 in 1953.
- He was one of the first Americans to fly a Mig -15 and became the commander of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School
- He retired as a Brigadier General in 1975. Yeager had flown and commanded in three flying wars having flown over 360 different planes. He was awarded numerous distinguished service medals including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Legion of Merit.
- Following his retirement, he became the Chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association “Young Eagle” program and was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973.
- He was an adviser and spokesman for General Motors and a technical adviser to Electronic Arts Flight Simulator games.
- In 1997, 50 years after his historic flight with the X1, he broke Mach 1 again while flying an F-15 Eagle.
It is hard to sum up a person in just a few bullet points. But I think we can agree that Chuck was an incredible American and an incredible human being.
As someone who loves aviation, and proudly flies an “experimental” aircraft, it’s sad to think about losing another living legend like Chuck. Yet, we can all learn something from Chuck Yeager. “Get out and do stuff and don’t let life pass you by.” Especially coming off 2020, we can either get busy f’ng living or get busy f’ng dying.
As I write this a smile comes to my face thinking about a young Chuck Yeager sitting in the cockpit of his P-51 Mustang, filled with hopes and dreams with the big rumbling 1,000+ horsepower P-51 two-stage-supercharged Merlin engine blowing warm prop wash into his face with the smell of avgas lingering.
See you on the other side Chuck, while the rest of us get busy living.
Authors note: I mistakenly mislabeled the P-51 as a radial engine which it is not. Please forgive me Chuck! Fixed to the two-stage-supercharged Merlin!
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