This is unforgivable. With all the hoopla about yesterday’s crazy supersonic space jump, we didn’t celebrate yesterday’s 65th anniversary of the first man to go faster than the speed of sound, a true American hero: the now retired Brigadier General Chuck Yeager.
But yesterday, as Baumgartner was jumping 37 kilometres up in the sky, Yeager didn’t forget about his amazing adventure. He went to the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and jumped in the cockpit of an F-15 to fly faster than sound, just like the good old times.
The first time he did it was on October 14, 1947. He became the first human to break the speed of sound using the legendary Bell X-1 prototype, named Glamorous Glennis in honour of his wife. It shattered the world, literally, shaking the windows of Muroc Army Air Field now Edwards Air Force Base as he broke the barrier for the first time. It was then when people on the ground listened to a sonic boom for the first time.
This Sunday he talked about his original flight and the celebration:
Up until that time [when he broke the speed of sound] we weren’t able to do it. Finally we succeeded, and that opened up the doors of space to us.
It was a smooth flight today. I’m very familiar with the area and got a good view. I want to thank you all at Nellis. The F-15 is my favourite aeroplane, and that’s why I came here to fly it.
What I am, I owe to the Air Force. They took an 18-year-old kid from West Virginia and turned him into who I am today.
Yeager was always cool, back then and now. He always kept the cold blood that only test pilots have, capable of facing any danger after fighting with Nazi pilots during World War II.
When they asked was it like to break the sound barrier, his reply is simple: “Just flying a plane. You don’t hear the sonic boom in the cockpit. The shockwave forms on the wing and extends to the ground — only those on the ground hear it when it hits the ground.”
It’s funny to see the answers in his web site, so honest and sharp. In a way, reminds me of Neil Armstrong’s sense of duty and service to his country.
What were you thinking?
Just doing my job.
What were you feeling?
Duty — just doing my job. Satisfaction — accomplished what we set out to do.
Just like that. Just doing my job, folks. Nothing to see here. He risked his life in four wars, he risked his life in a crazy test pilot program but he was just doing his job.
Watch this re-enactment of his record from the movie The Right Stuff — a must see — based on the Tom Wolfe novel of the same name. It’s clearly ‘just doing my job.’ This man went well beyond his duty to a place where no human have been before, survived, crashed several times and kept going back to the cockpit every single time.
Like yesterday, 65 years later after his record, 89 years old.