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Tom Cleaver
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Chuck Yeager died today

December 8, 2020 · in News · · 19 · 2.5K

Just saw the news that Chuck Yeager died today at age 97. Given how deep he was in Alzheimers over the past several years, my personal take is it was a release.

He was my childhood hero, and then the first movie job I had (junior assistant to the Unit Publicist on The Right Stuff) got me the assignment of "hanging out with Chuck." I later learned he had asked for me after I did an interview with him, in which the interview lasted so long that - to my embarrassment! - I ran out of questions for the first and only time ever (I was later told by my then boss that no one else had ever gotten more than 15 minutes with the general before he gave the secret signal that he was bored by the stupid questions and it was time to end things). I later did an article from that, which was published in "Retired Officer" magazine and elicited a compliment at the 1984 AFAA convention from another childhood hero, Robert L. Scott, Jr., that "That was the best article on a fighter pilot I've ever read."

I got the chance to go flying with him up at Edwards in his Bonanza. We're flying around and he's saying "That's where we used to fly the X-1", "That's where I landed the X-1A," "There's where I landed after I got out of the "... Then he made a landing so smooth I had to look outside to be sure we were on the ground.

That was a special year. We ran across each other a few times afterwards and he was always glad to take time and catch up. I take that as one of the great privileges I've ever had, since he was known to be pretty stingy with his time for most people. Truly a one-of-a-kind. I only wish his final years hadn't been as they were, with events pushing him and Bud Anderson apart.

Reader reactions:
13  Awesome

19 responses

  1. He simply was THE GREATEST! He was the epitome of a fighter pilot and test pilot. Would love to read the article based on your interview!

  2. A Legend and Hero.

  3. Rest in peace Chuck.
    One of the greatest pilot on earth.

  4. My sympathy for him is certain. Rest in peace, a truly remarkable and fulfilled life has come to an end.

  5. Another hero gone. A release for him but a loss indeed for all with any interest in aviation history.

  6. Definition of ‘Hero’ in my books.
    RIP General.

  7. The death of a Legend. Truly tragic, and a worldwide felt lost. He did so much to get us to where we are today. One of the bravest individuals I can think of. RIP.

  8. So sad. The legend and legacy continues. He had the right stuff.
    My dad met him a few times in the early 50 ies when he was a cadet in Texas and Arizona .
    I believe he was a general then.
    My dad passed away on December 1 st.
    He never wrote his memoir. A big loss as he was involved in so many parts of aviation history. Especially in Africa.
    Write your story. Like Roman Numerals it’s the code to access the past.
    Fly high chuck.

  9. A sad day, I read his first book many years ago, it was an inspiration of what a poor country boy could achieve. I can't say it inspired me to get off my arse and do something other than cook in a small town club, but it surely was part of helping me see there was more out there. As we say in the Navy Bravo Zulu General, mission accomplished.

  10. RIP and blue skies Chuck!

  11. The neat thing about Yeager and guys like Frank Murray is that these guy's were trained by the Military. They didn't have a College degree or a degree in engineering, where stick and rudder guy's from the beginning. Analog pilots before digital natives. Pencil and paper guy's who where educated through the school of hard knocks.

    Now day's a test pilot has to have several degrees. Undergraduate, engineering or doctorate are apart of today's DNA for the right stuff.

    • Well, much of that began long before Yeager retired. He was a gifted stick and rudder pilot for sure, but machines like the NF-104A (which he crashed because he couldn't fly it by the book) and the X-15 were over his head.

  12. Clear skies, Chuck!

  13. RIP Mr. Yeager. Remember reading his book some years ago, which was really good. Too many good moments from that book to rehash here.

  14. I have a book I bought in 1987 or so called "Across the High Frontier". This book, I didn't even know existed was written/ published just after Yeager flew the X-1A, probably 1953 or so. A very informative and interesting book. The book deals with his childhood in West Virginia and concludes with the X-1A flight. It also goes into detail about his training and W.W.2 combat as well as X-1 flight. William Lundgren was the Author. General Jimmy Doolittle wrote the forward for this book. Available on Amazon. A great addition for those interested in General Yeager's life.

  15. RIP, Gen.Yeager

  16. RIP now General Yeager. You had the right stuff, and were once "the fastest man alive". Here's a great tribute from Steve Earle:

  17. Good write up Tom and I'm glad that you got to know him and get him to talk to you.

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