News & Opinion | December 8, 2020 9:29 am

Chuck Yeager, Pilot Who Broke the Sound Barrier, Dead at 97

Yeager made history with his X-1 flight in 1947

Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager during a press conference at Edwards Air Force Base during the 50th anniversary celebration of his October 14, 1947 Bell X-1 flight, in which he became the first man to break the sound barrier. Yeager again flew at the speed of sound, only this time in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. (Photo by Kim Kulish/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Corbis via Getty Images

Chuck Yeager, the US Air Force officer and test pilot best known for breaking the sound barrier, has reportedly passed away at the age of 97. His wife Victoria confirmed the news on his Twitter account.

Yeager broke the sound barrier testing the X-1 in October 1947 (though the feat wasn’t announced publicly until the following year), reaching Mach 1.06 or 700 mph. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the flight in 1997, he flew in an F-15 Eagle at age 74, and he continued flying for many years, piloting an X-15 to nearly 1,000 mph in October 2002 at the age of 79.

His story was featured in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff as well as the 1983 movie based on it, where he was portrayed by Sam Shepard. Yeager was also a war hero, flying 64 missions and shooting down 13 German planes during WWII.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called Yeager’s death “a tremendous loss for our nation.” “Gen. Yeager’s pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America’s abilities in the sky and set our nation’s dreams soaring into the jet age and the space age,” he said in a statement. “He said, ‘You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.”