Chuck Yeager, Test Pilot Who Broke the Sound Barrier, Dies At 97

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    jowifi shares a report from NPR: One of the world’s most famous aviators has died: Chuck Yeager — best known as the first to break the sound barrier — has died at the age of 97. Yeager started from humble beginnings in Myra, W.Va., and many people didn’t really learn about him until decades after he broke the sound barrier — all because of a book and popular 1983 movie called The Right Stuff. He accomplished the feat in a Bell X-1, a wild, high-flying rocket-propelled orange airplane that he nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” after his first wife who died in 1990. It was a dangerous quest — one that had killed other pilots in other planes. And the X-1 buffeted like a bucking horse as it approached the speed of sound — Mach 1 — about 700 miles per hour at altitude. But Yeager was more than a pilot: In several test flights before breaking the sound barrier, he studied his machine, analyzing the way it handled as it went faster and faster. He even lobbied to change one of the plane’s control surfaces so that it could safely exceed Mach 1. As popularized in The Right Stuff, Yeager broke the sound barrier on Oct. 14, 1947, at Edwards Air Force Base in California. But there were no news broadcasts that day, no newspaper headlines. The aviation feat was kept secret for months. In 2011, Yeager told NPR that the lack of publicity never much mattered to him. “I was at the right place at the right time. And duty enters into it. It’s not, you know, you don’t do it for the — to get your damn picture on the front page of the newspaper. You do it because it’s duty. It’s your job.” Yeager never sought the spotlight and was always a bit gruff. After his famous flight in the X-1, he continued testing newer, faster and more dangerous aircraft. The X-1A came along six years later, and it flew at twice the speed of sound. On Dec. 12, 1953, Chuck Yeager set two more altitude and speed records in the X-1A: 74,700 feet and Mach 2.44. […] Today, the plane Yeager first broke the sound barrier in, the X-1, hangs inside the air and space museum. […] Chuck Yeager spent the last years of his life doing what he truly loved: flying airplanes, speaking to aviation groups and fishing for golden trout in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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