Matt Yeager, WWII hero, daring test pilot and legendary West Virginian.
His place in history was secured in 1947 when he became the first pilot in history to exceed the speed of sound in plane flight. Yeager’s bold and vaunted body of “the right things” linked to test pilots who would later become the first astronauts on the US space program.
He impressed West Virginia residents Buzzing under The Charleston South Side Bridge at Lockheed B80 Shooting Star in 1948.
General Chuck Yeager was an American hero. US Senator Joe Mansheen, DW.Va. The son of West Virginia has been larger than life and an inspiration for generations of Americans.
Yeager’s wife, Victoria, announced his death on Twitter and highlighted “a legacy of strength, adventure and patriotism.” Cause of death was not mentioned. Yeager was 97 years old.
the father @ VictoriaYeage11 It is with deep sorrow, that I must tell you that my love in my life for General Chuck Yeager has passed before 9 PM ET. An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest pilot, and a legacy of strength, adventure and patriotism we will forever remember.
Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) December 8, 2020
It was Charles Elwood Yeager He was born in Mira, An unincorporated community in Lincoln County, and moved to Hamlin, county seat, when he was five. He was a young outdoor man with strong interests in hunting and fishing.
After graduating from Hamlin High School in 1941, Yeager enrolled as a private soldier in the United States Army Air Force and became an aircraft mechanic. His unusually sharp vision and the United States’ entry into World War II marked his entry into flight training.
While in England, Yeager flew a P-51 Mustang but was shot down over France on its eighth mission. He escaped and returned to air. On October 12, 1944, Yeager shot down five enemy aircraft in a single mission and ended the war with 11.5 official victories.
It was during this period that he began naming his planes “Glamorous Glennis” after his first wife and mother of the Yeager four children.
In all, Yeager flew 64 combat missions.
After the war, Yeager remained in the army and became a test pilot at Moroc Airfield, now called Edwards Air Force Base. He was chosen to pilot a rocket-powered Bell XS-1 for high-speed air search.
Two days before the scheduled trip, Yeager fell off a horse and broke two ribs. Concerned about the flight being canceled, a civilian doctor taped Yeager’s ribs and proceeded with the mission.
He broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, and flew the X-1 Glamorous Glennis at 700 mph, Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 45,000 feet.
The result of the mission was not announced to the public until months later in June 1948. Now, the X-1 that flew that day is always on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.
Yeager set another speed record on December 12, 1953, by flying two and a half times the speed of sound at the Bell X-1A.
Yeager’s fame symbols are all over Southwest Virginia. The Gateway Airport in Charleston bears his name, and a sculpted bust greets visitors in the building. Yeager Bridge on the West Virginia Turnpike leads to the crossing into Charleston. A generous academic scholarship at Marshall University is named as Yeager.
Yeager has kept up sound-breaking flights well in his life.
On October 14, 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his historic flight, Yeager broke the sound barrier once again, flying an F-15D Eagle.
As a co-pilot at the age of 89 on October 14, 2012, on the 65th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier, Yeager did so again in the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.
“When he became the first pilot to break the sound barrier, he challenged each of us to test the limits of what was possible,” Mansheen said Monday night. “I am grateful that I got to know this legend in West Virginia and that I called him my good friend.”