Chuck Yeager, one of the greatest fighter pilots and known as ‘the fastest man alive,’ has passed away at the age of 97.
“It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET,” his wife Victoria wrote on Twitter.
“An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever,” she added.
“This is a sad day for America,” John Nicoletti, Yeager’s friend said to CNN. “After he broke the sound barrier, we all now have permission to break barriers.”
Nicoletti added: “Yeager was never a quitter. He was an incredibly courageous man.”
Yeager shot down more than 11 enemy aircraft in the Second World War, and in 1974, he was the first pilot to break the speed of sound in the experimental Bell X-1 research aircraft.
In an interview with AFP in 2007, Yeager said: “It opened up space, Star Wars, satellites.”
His incredible skills were quickly recognized and he was asked to perform in service trials for new planes and also airshows.
“Many didn’t make it through World War II. Most didn’t make it through the early days of test piloting,” Nicoletti told CNN.
“The odds of survival for Chuck were as narrow as the odds of America gaining its own freedom.”
He broke numerous records for altitude and speed, and when war broke out in Vietnam, he flew combat missions again.
Yeager eventually became a brigadier general.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement Monday: “Chuck’s bravery and accomplishments are a testament to the enduring strength that made him a true American original, and NASA’s Aeronautics work owes much to his brilliant contributions to aerospace science.
“His path blazed a trail for anyone who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his achievements will guide us for generations to come.”
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