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Legendary U.S. Air Force Pilot Chuck Yeager Dies At 97
Chuck Yeager during a press conference at Edwards Air Force Base during the 50th anniversary celebration of his October 14, 1947 Bell X-1 flight, in which he became the first man to break the sound barrier. Yeager again flew at the speed of sound, only this time in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.
Kim Kulish/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Legendary U.S. Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager passed away on Monday evening at the age of 97, according to a statement posted to his official Twitter account by his wife.

“It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET,” Victoria Yeager wrote on Twitter. “An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.”

Yeager, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, became the first person to ever break the sound barrier when he flew the Bell X-1 rocket 700 mph in October 1947.

“After all the anticipation to achieve this moment, it really was a letdown,” he wrote in his best-selling memoir “Yeager” (1985), The New York Times reported. “There should’ve been a bump in the road, something to let you know that you had just punched a nice, clean hole through the sonic barrier. The Ughknown was a poke through Jell-O. Later on, I realized that this mission had to end in a letdown because the real barrier wasn’t in the sky but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.”

Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941 as a mechanic and, within two years, was flying combat missions in England against Nazi Germany. In 1944, Yeager was shot down over France and, while in the country, he aided the French Resistance. Also in 1944, Yeager was credited with shooting down four planes in one day on two separate occasions. Yeager, who also flew combat missions in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, “became the first pilot to make an emergency ejection in the full pressure suit needed for high altitude flights” during an incident in 1963, according to the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) responded to the news by writing on Twitter: “@GenChuckYeager was an American hero. West Virginia’s native son was larger than life and an inspiration for generations of Americans. He bravely served our nation as a pilot for more than 30 years in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and Vietnam.”

“When @GenChuckYeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier he challenged each of us to test the limits of what’s possible. I am grateful to have gotten to know this legendary West Virginian and to call him my dear friend,” Manchin continued. “Gayle and I are praying for @GenChuckYeager ‘s family and all who loved or admired him. May his example of courage in the face of adversity inspire us all.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded to the news by writing: “General Yeager was an American icon who inspired the world when he broke the sound barrier over the Mojave Desert 73 years ago. Thank you for teaching us to dream of what’s possible, Chuck.”


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