Take that, Felix Baumgartner.Chuck Yeager is 89 years old now, but he’s still one tough SOB, and he took to the skies Sunday morning 65 years to the minute from when he first broke the sound barrier to do it again. Flying a U.S. Air Force F-15 over the Mojave Desert, the same place he first broke Mach 1 on October 14, 1947, Yeager hit Mach 1.3 Sunday and “laid down a pretty good sonic boom over Edwards” Air Force Base.
Yeager’s reenactment came on the same day Baumgartner became the first to break the sound barrier as a skydiver, reports CNN. Baumgartner didn’t have a plane though – he jumped from a balloon to make the 23-mile journey down.
Yeager said Sunday he “really appreciated the Air Force giving me a brand new F-15 to fly.”
The West Virginia pilot was already well-known among military circles back in 1947 when he broke the sound barrier, which was unheard of back in those days. However, he became more famous when Tom Wolfe detailed the flight in “The Right Stuff.”
Fighter jets easily break the speed of sound these days, and Yeager did it Sunday at about 33,000 feet, the Air Force said. But in 1947, Yeager remembered being dropped dropped in an experimental rocket-propelled jet from a B-29 bomber at 45,000 feet.
That’s the only way we could do it. It took the British, French and the Soviet Union another five years to find out that trick. It gave us a quantum jump [in aviation advancement].
Sunday, Yeager actually took off from Nellis Air Force base near Las Vegas in the second seat, behind the pilot, but said he was doing the flying when it broke the speed of sound over Edwards.
“We had to keep it below Mach 1.4. If you want to go Mach 2, you start breaking glasses and cracking roofs.”
And for his final aerial move Sunday? They did a fly-by, buzzing the Nellis tower.
Seems the old boy hasn’t lost his sense of fly-boy humor, either.