The History of Chuck Yeager

American Hero

1975-2020: Living it Up!

By Air Force Flight Test Center History Office, Dr. James Young, Chief Historian

Retirement from active duty means anything but retirement from active life. While he has long been an Air Force icon, the 1979 publication of Tom Wolfe’s best-seller, The Right Stuff, vaulted Yeager into international celebrity . . . and the 1983 motion picture based on the book further solidified his hold on the public imagination. There are endless demands for public appearances, lectures and interviews. More important, for the past quarter century, his advice has been much sought after by both the government and the aerospace industry on a wide variety of issues ranging from the development of new state-of-the-art aircraft systems to the safety of spaceflight operations.

General Yeager

Yeager climbing into the cockpit of an F-4C prior to his final active duty flight at Edwards AFB on 25 February 1975.

Chuck Yeager Saluting During His Retirement Ceremony

After retirement, General Yeager was awarded a peacetime Congressional Medal of Honor by the Congress of the United States (presented by President Gerald Ford in 1976), and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan in May 1985.

Perhaps, most remarkable of all, for more than two decades, he has retained the stamina, skill and mental acuity to fly and evaluate the most modern high-performance aircraft. He did much of his flying at Edwards where he remains an active consulting test pilot, serving—in the words of one AFFTC commander—as a “wise, accurate and keenly observant advisor” to the Air Force Flight Test Center.

35th Anniversary

On 14 October 1982, Yeager celebrated the 35th anniversary of his first supersonic flight by flying the single-place Northrop F-20 out to Mach 1.45.

Chuck Yeager and Sam Shepard

Chuck Yeager and Sam Shepard next to the X-1 during the filming of “The Right Stuff.”

Return to Edwards

On 14 October 1997, General Yeager returned to Edwards to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his milestone flight in the Bell X-1. More than 55 years after he had commenced his flying career, he climbed into an F-15 Eagle with the name “Glamorous Glennis” gracing its nose and reprised the flight profile that had taken him through the “sound barrier.” His flight that morning was telecast live to a worldwide audience by CNN.

Glennis and Chuck

Glennis and Chuck Yeager following the retirement ceremony in his honor at Norton AFB. General Yeager’s retirement occurred just two days after their 30th wedding anniversary.

Glamorous Glennis Nose Art

Nose art of Chuck Yeager's F-15 at Edwards AFB, October 2002.

Among the many offering congratulations was former President George Bush who captured the essence of the man and his achievements when he wrote:

“If I was asked to choose one word that would define Chuck Yeager, it would be service. Fighter pilot, test pilot, combat commander—you have always valued service to our country above all else . . . Chuck, the courage, resourcefulness, and integrity which you have displayed so magnificently throughout over five decades of service to the United States are the very qualities that built this country into the greatest nation on earth.”

Chuck Yeager and George Bush

Starting with Harry S. Truman in 1948, Yeager’s gotten to know a lot of Presidents over the years. On 3 October 1988, he helped host President George Bush during a Space Shuttle landing at Edwards.

Chuck Yeager With a Yellow Corvette

“Hey, it’s a piece of cake!” General Yeager has remained in constant demand for public appearances. In 1986, he drove the pace car for the Indianapolis 500.

Chuck Yeager In F-15 Cockpit

In the cockpit of an F-15 just prior to taxiing out for takeoff, October 1996.

Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager

Chuck Yeager (L) and Bob Hoover (R) at Edwards AFB, 1997.

Chuck Yeager's Cameo in "The Right Stuff"

Chuck Yeager, in costume on the set of "The Right Stuff, " where he had a small part playing the bartender at Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club.

Chuck Yeager in F-15

F-15 Eagle - Chuck Yeager's favorite military aircraft.