Famous aviator lands in Hawaii

Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager
Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In October of 1947, Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager flew a rocket plane faster than the speed of sound. He said the barrier was waiting to be broken.

"It was a milestone. Until we did it, we wouldn't go into space or increase our speed," he said.

The feat was a quantum leap for U.S. aeronautics, and a career defining moment for Yeager. It was one of many.

"The best pilots have the most experience," he said.

As a fighter pilot Yeager dominated air wars in World War II. He once downed five enemy planes in a day. He was good and he was lucky.

"When I got shot down, I was making a head on pass with a 190 and I got hit with a 20 millimeter," he said. "You don't have to jump out of your airplane. It falls apart around you."

Yeager's fame skyrocketed in the 1980s with the movie "The Right Stuff." Actor Sam Shephard took on the iconic role.

"I got to coach him a lot," Yeager smiled. "And Barbara Hershey looked exactly like Glennis did."

Glennis was Yeager's wife. Her name was on the aircraft he used to break the sound barrier, the one he flew into history.

In all, Yeager's flown 361 types of military airplanes. He has favorites. But he's not impressed by the F-22 Raptor, the super jet flown by Hawaii's Air National Guard.

"It cost $226 million for an airplane to put on an air show. That airplane has never fought in a war and it's been out a long time," he said.

Yeager earned numerous commendations, rose to major general, and broke many flying records. As for how he'd like others to remember him.

"What they do, if I'm dead and gone, I can't do a hell of a lot about," he laughed.

Yeager was 24 when he flew through the sound barrier. At 88 he's still flying.

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