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Chuck Yeager goes supersonic 65 years after 1947 record

October 14, 2012|By Matt Pearce

More than six decades after shattering the sound barrier, pilot Chuck Yeager hasn’t slowed down. In fact, he's gotten faster.

At exactly 10:24 a.m. Sunday, officials said — 65 years to the minute since Yeager first pushed his rocket-powered Bell X-1 past Mach speed in 1947 at 670 mph — the 89-year-old legend broke the sound barrier once more in an Air Force F-15 over the Mojave Desert, hitting Mach 1.4.

He rode in the seat behind Capt. David Vincent of the 65thAggressor Squadron to commemorate the anniversary of his feat, which was memorialized in the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” These days, Mach speeds are no big deal for jets like the F-15, nor apparently for Yeager.

"Flying is flying,” Yeager, a retired Air Force brigadier general, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “You can't add a lot to it.”

That may be why, on the same day as Yeager’s anniversary achievement, 41-year-old Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner floated up into the atmosphere in a balloon and made a 23-mile jump — becoming the first person to break the sound barrier as a skydiver. Plain-old supersonic is passe these days.

According to the Associated Press, Yeager took off from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas and broke the sound barrier at 30,000 feet over the Mojave, his old stomping grounds. A Nellis spokesman told the Associated Press that Yeager piloted the jet during takeoff and landing. The Review-Journal reported that Vincent piloted the F-15 to Mach 1.4.

Yeager said he didn’t think anything special about breaking the sound barrier. After the flight, a young girl asked him whether he was scared. The Associated Press said he replied with a joke, “Yeah, I was scared to death.”

His wife, though, was a little more amped up.

"This is so cool. I'm excited,” Victoria Yeager told the Review-Journal, adding of her husband, “He's in the back seat where the instructor pilot sits because he's the elder statesman."

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