Enlarge /. Yeager in 1947 alongside _Glamorous Glennis_, the rocket-propelled Bell X-1 that took him past Mach 1.
Die-hard aviation legend Chuck Yeager, the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound in level flight in 1947, died on December 7th. Yeager was 97 years old.
Yeager's death was announced by his wife Victoria via Yeager's verified Twitter account:
Fri @ VictoriaYeage11 I am deeply sorry to tell you that my love, General Chuck Yeager, passed away shortly before 9 p.m. ET. An incredible life well lived, America's greatest pilot, and a legacy of strength, adventure, and patriotism will be remembered forever.
– Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) December 8, 2020
No information was released on Yeager's cause of death.
Although breaking the sound barrier became his most famous feat in the post-war years, Yeager was an excellent pilot by the end of World War II. As a pilot in the Army Air Force in October 1944, he earned "Ace in a Day" status by shooting down five enemy planes and escorting Allied bombers (an achievement that earned him a Silver Star).
After the war, Yeager stayed with the Army Air Force (which became a separate division in 1947 and became the United States Air Force) and was trained as a test pilot. Before flying the rocket-propelled Bell X1, Yeager broke two ribs while riding. He sought treatment from a civilian doctor to avoid being grounded and did not tell anyone but his wife and colleague Jack Ridley. (This incident and its aftermath are dramatized in the 1983 aviation epic The Right Stuff.) Breaking the sound barrier won the Yeager the Collier Trophy, a coveted award only given to people who have made a tremendous contribution to the advancement of aviation Afford.
Yeager was promoted to brigadier general in 1969 and resigned from the Air Force in 1975, although he continued to consult the Department of Defense and provide test pilot experience. In 1997 he retired completely from military aviation.
Most of the major news outlets run hagiographic obituaries listing more of Yeager's notable accomplishments if you want to know more – including Time Magazine and The New York Times, but I'll close with a quote from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine's testimony:
Chuck's bravery and accomplishments are testament to the enduring strength that made him a true American original, and NASA's aeronautical work owes much to his brilliant contributions to aerospace science. As a young naval aviator, I was one of many around the world who looked up to Chuck Yeager and his amazing accomplishments as a test pilot. His path paved the way for anyone who wanted to push the limits of human potential, and his achievements will guide us for generations to come.