Yeager’s wife, Victoria Yeager, announced his death on Twitter Monday night. “It is with profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9 p.m. ET,” she wrote. “An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest pilot and a legacy of strength, adventure and patriotism will be remembered forever.”
Fr @VictoriaYeage11 It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever.
— Chuck Yeager (@GenChuckYeager) December 8, 2020
Yeager began his career during World War II as a private in the United States Army Air Forces. After the war, he became a test pilot, flying the experimental Bell X-1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet to become the first human to officially break the sound barrier. For this feat, Yeager received both the Collier and Mackay trophies in 1948.
Yeager later commanded fighter squadrons in Germany and Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and was promoted to brigadier general in 1969. Yeager retired on March 1, 1975.
His historic accomplishment made Yeager one of the subjects of “The Right Stuff,” a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe. The book was later adapted into a film in 1983, directed by Philip Kaufman.
“The Right Stuff” follows test pilots who were selected to be astronauts for NASA’s Project Mercury, which was the first human space flight organized by the U.S. In the film, Sam Shepard portrays Yeager, and Yeager himself even made a cameo as Fred, a bartender at Pancho’s Palace. Yeager’s toughness and bravery as a test pilot was considered the definition of “the right stuff” that the future astronauts would strive to achieve.
Yeager is survived by Victoria and his four children with first wife Glennis Yeager, who died in 1990.