Chuck Yeager died today
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 F-104″… 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.