Boeing Frontiers
December 2002/January 2003
Volume 01, Issue 08
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Yeager takes final military flight in Boeing F-15

Chuck YeagerAviation legend and retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager gave the F-15 Eagle one last ride Oct. 26, bringing to a close his 60-year career flying military aircraft.

He made the historic flight in front of thousands of onlookers at an open house and air show at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Yeager, with Edwards test pilot Lt. Col. Troy Fontaine in the back seat, took his Boeing-built F-15 to just over 30,000 feet, where for the final time he burst the sound barrier, creating a sonic boom for the crowd. Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier, at Edwards Air Force Base in October 1947, when he accelerated his rocketpowered Bell X-1 to the speed of Mach 1.06, shattering the myth about the impenetrability of the sound barrier by aircraft.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Joe Engle, a longtime friend and colleague of Yeager, flew another F-15 at the famous test pilot's wing.

After landing, Yeager taxied under an archway of water gushing from two Edwards fire trucks, an age-old Air Force tradition.

"This is a fun day for us because we get to fly good airplanes and do something we've loved to do for some time," Yeager said.

Yeager announced earlier this year that 60 years of military flying is long enough.

"Now is a good time," Yeager said. "I've had a heck of good time and very few people get exposed to the things I've been exposed to. I'll keep on flying P-51s and light stuff, but I just feel it's time to quit."

After retiring from the Air Force in 1975 with more than 34 years of service, including combat in World War II and Vietnam, Yeager served as a consultant at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School.

Besides the 40 years he spent flying with his colleagues at Edwards, the general recalled some of his most memorable times as those when he was flying combat missions.

"That is why the Air Force paid me," Yeager, 79, said of his combat time. "That's how I've always looked at it. Flying was my job."

Yeager said being scared was a waste of time.

"If you can't do anything about the outcome of something, forget it," Yeager said. "Instead you better concentrate on staying alive where you are. It's just plain stupid to get so scared that it affects your performance."

Before his final military flight, the 79-year-old had some advice for pilots starting out. While he admitted having plenty of close calls, the general said good pilots know their equipment and their limitations.

"It's not being a good pilot that keeps you alive," he said. "What keeps you alive is knowing your airplane. I always wanted to know more about the airplane and its ejection seat than the guys who made them."


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