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‘The First Time I Ever Saw A Jet, I Shot It Down.’ 30 Unforgettable Chuck Yeager Quotes
Chuck Yeager one time astronaut from America visiting Australia.Pic taken in adventure Dick Smiths home at Terry Hills. April 24, 1994.
Brendan Esposito/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

On December 7th, Chuck Yeager — the first man to break the sound barrier — died at the age of 97. A decorated World War II veteran, Yeager set multiple records and is recognized by many as one of the United States’ greatest pilots of all time. Here are 30 of his inspirational, insightful, and unforgettable quotes.

  1. The first time I ever saw a jet, I shot it down.
  2. What good does it do to be afraid? It doesn’t help anything. You better try and figure out what’s happening and correct it.
  3. At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results.
  4. Unfortunately, many people do not consider fun an important item on their daily agenda. For me, that was always a high priority in whatever I was doing.
  5. There is no such thing as a natural born pilot. Whatever my aptitudes or talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetime’s learning experience.
  6. All that I am … I owe to the Air Force.
  7. There is no kind of ultimate goal to do something twice as good as anyone else can. It’s just to do the job as best you can. If it turns out good, fine. If it doesn’t, that’s the way it goes.
  8. In 1966, NASA took over in space, and it has been a bureaucratic mess ever since.
  9. If you want to grow old as a pilot, you’ve got to know when to push it, and when to back off.
  10. The one word you use in military flying is duty. It’s your duty. You have no control over outcome, no control over pick-and-choose. It’s duty.
  11. Leveling off at 42,000 feet, I had thirty percent of my fuel, so I turned on rocket chamber three and immediately reached .96 Mach. I noticed that the faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly the Mach needle began to fluctuate. It went up to .965 Mach – then tipped right off the scale … We were flying supersonic. And it was as smooth as a baby’s bottom; Grandma could be sitting up there sipping lemonade.
  12. I don’t think about life everlasting. If something doesn’t have scientific evidence to back it up, I don’t believe it. I’m a straight shooter.
  13. I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.
  14. If you can walk away from a landing, it’s a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing.
  15. Most pilots learn, when they pin on their wings and go out and get in a fighter, especially, that one thing you don’t do, you don’t believe anything anybody tells you about an airplane.
  16. I have flown in just about everything, with all kinds of pilots in all parts of the world – British, French, Pakistani, Iranian, Japanese, Chinese – and there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between any of them except for one unchanging, certain fact: the best, most skillful pilot has the most experience.
  17. Later, I realized that the mission had to end in a let-down because the real barrier wasn’t in the sky but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.
  18. I have no regrets about my life. People ask, “If you had to do it all over again, would you do it differently?” No. That’s speculation.
  19. Never wait for trouble.
  20. After about 30 minutes I puked all over my airplane. I said to myself, “Man, you made a big mistake.”
  21. You concentrate on what you are doing, to do the best job you can, to stay out of serious situations. And that’s the way the X-1 was.
  22. Rules are made for people who aren’t willing to make up their own.
  23. For the best pilots, flying is an obsession, the one thing in life they must do continually. The best pilots fly more than the others; that’s why they’re the best. Experience is everything. The eagerness to learn how and why every piece of equipment works is everything. And luck is everything, too.
  24. That to me is a bunch of crap trying to shoot guys up into damned space. What they’re going to do is they’re going to wipe out half a dozen people one of these days, and that will be the end of it.
  25. You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.
  26. Just before you break through the sound barrier, the cockpit shakes the most.
  27. It wasn’t that the X-1 would kill you, it was the systems in the X-1 that would kill you.
  28. The secret of my success is that I always managed to live to fly another day.
  29. When I was picked to fly the X-1, it was my duty to fly it, and I did.
  30. Everybody that I’ve ever seen that enjoyed their job was very good at it.

Read more about the incredible life of Chuck Yeager. 

Ian Haworth is host of The Ian Haworth Show and The Truth in 60 Seconds. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.

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