A legend in the field of aviation is dead at the age of 97.
According to reports, retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier Gen. Charles Yeager, the decorated World War II veteran and famed test pilot who broke the sound barrier, died on Monday.
A storied life and career
In a tweet, his wife, Victoria Yeager, described her “profound sorrow” over losing her “life love General Chuck Yeager.”
Nevertheless, she celebrated an “incredible life well lived” and affirmed that “America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.”
Others memorialized the American icon in articles and social media posts, including an overview of his monumental achievements as compiled by the Associated Press.
After graduating from high school in 1941, Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps where his career began as an aircraft mechanic.
He later trained to become a pilot and flew 64 missions during the war, in which he was credited with shooting down 13 German aircraft — including five on a single mission.
“I’ve flown 341 types of military planes”
Yeager was himself shot down over German-occupied territory in France but managed to escape with some assistance from the French resistance. He also flew combat missions during the Vietnam War and went on to become an Air Force commander.
His most notable achievement came in October 1947, when he became the first pilot to break the sound barrier as he flew an experimental Bell X-1 rocket plane past 660 miles per hour.
On the 65th anniversary, the then-79-year-old Yeager commemorated the milestone by once again breaking the sound barrier — that time in an F-15 Eagle fighter jet.
In a 2009 interview, he reflected on his career: “I’ve flown 341 types of military planes in every country in the world and logged about 18,000 hours. It might sound funny, but I’ve never owned an airplane in my life. If you’re willing to bleed, Uncle Sam will give you all the planes you want.”
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, himself a Navy pilot, was among the many officials who issued statements in the wake of Yeager’s death, writing: “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. 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.”