Aviation legend Chuck Yeager dead

Aviation legend and West Virginia native Chuck Yeager has died.
Aviation legend and West Virginia native Chuck Yeager has died.(ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 10:43 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON/CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Aviation legend and West Virginia native Gen. Chuck Yeager has died, according to his Twitter account. He was 97.

“It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET,” his wife tweeted Monday night. “An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.”

Part of the life of Yeager, who was from Lincoln County, was featured in the hit movie “The Right Stuff” in 1983. Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier, flying faster than the speed of sound.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., released the following statement:

“General Chuck Yeager was an American hero. West Virginia’s native son was larger than life and an inspiration for generations of Americans. He bravely served our nation as a pilot for more than 30 years in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and Vietnam. When he became the first pilot to break the sound barrier he challenged each of us to test the limits of what’s possible. I am grateful to have gotten to know this legendary West Virginian and to call him my dear friend. Gayle and I are praying for his family and all who loved and admired General Yeager. May his example of courage in the face of adversity inspire us all.”

Yeager Airport staff and the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Board Members are mourning the loss of Yeager.

The Director of Yeager Airport and CEO Nick Keller say, “Gen. Yeager is a true pioneer in the world of aviation. It is rare to be the first to ever do something, and Gen. Yeager did that by breaking the sound barrier and putting our great country ahead of its time in aviation.”

“He redefined the industry,” Keller continued. “I am proud a man from West Virginia is such an important figure in aviation.”

Yeager Airport officials say General Yeager got his start as a pilot in 1941 when he signed for the Army Air Corps, which is known as the U.S. Air Force today. Yeager’s career in the military lasted for six decades and included four wars.

During WWII, Gen. Yeager flew 64 missions and shot down 13 German planes. Yeager’s plane was shot down over France in 1944 but he escaped capture, according to airport officials.

Yeager served his country as a flight instructor and test pilot at Wright Field in Ohio after the war. This is when he was chosen to be the first to fly the rocket-powered Bell X-1. In 1947, Yeager made history when his Bell X-1 broke the speed of sound over a lake in Southern California. This gave him the distinction of the “Fastest Man Alive.”

Gen. Yeager broke his own record in flying at Mac 2.44 in 1953. He was awarded the Harmon International Trophy by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1985, Yeager was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Ronald Reagan. Later that year, he earned another honor. Kanawha Airport officially changed its name to Yeager Airport in October 1985.

“General Yeager exemplified everything it means to be a West Virginian”, said Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority Board Chairman Ed Hill. “Born and raised in Lincoln County, General Yeager’s hard work, dedication, skill, and bravery defined his historic career. Our entire Board is saddened by the loss of a fellow West Virginian, and a leader in aviation.”

This is a developing story. Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

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