This is the first in what will be a series of Driftwood Group heroes. People who don’t stop to think about work-life-balance, but rather mix the two together, and have some fun along the way.
Tomorrow, February 13th, Brigadier General (retired) Chuck Elwood Yeager turns 93.
His name may be familiar to you, maybe not, but suffice to say, Chuck Yeager has fitted more into one lifetime than it’s possible to believe.
Born in West Virginia to a farming family, his first experience of the military – where he would go on to make his mark – was in high-school summer camp in 1939 & 1940.
Through a mixture of timing, luck and skill (outstanding vision being one of those skills), Chuck was accepted into flight training in late 1941, just as the USA was entering World War II.
He clearly had a natural talent for flying, becoming a fighter pilot quickly, and was assigned to the 363d Fighter Squdron at RAF Leiston, UK. Here he met with his first Glamorous Glen – the name he would give to all his aircraft over the years, after his then girlfriend, later wife – Glennis Faye Dickhouse.
Glennis was his lifetime partner, and they were married for 45 years until her passing in 1990. They have four children.
Shot down over France.
Escaped to Spain, earning a Bronze Star during the process.
Return to the UK and back to flying via a special grant from President Eisenhower to allow him to fly again post-capture.
Promoted to Captain during his UK tour, flying 61 missions in all.
Returned to the USA and was offered a choice of assignment – he chose Wright Field near West Virginia, close to home.
And here things get really interesting…
At Wright Field, Colonel Albert Boyd, the ‘godfather’ of Test Pilots for the USAF, taught him a thing or two. And Chuck took the flying up a notch.
A move to what is now Edwards Air Force Base saw Chuck given the opportunity to enter a high-speed flight research program. Testing the nature of flying at huge speeds, ultimately saw him become the first man to break the sound barrier over the Mojave Desert on October 14, 1947.
The plane? A Bell X-1, pictured below.
His record breaking for speed and altitude continued. He achieved Mach 2.44 (3013 Km/H) in 1953, at a time when the top speed of your average car was about 130Km/H
Just think about that for a second.
In the same year, he helped Jackie Cochran become the first woman to break the sound barrier.
He was, in his career stationed in Germany, France, Spain, USA, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan. You name it – he was there.
Chuck helped train astronauts for NASA, pilots for the USAF, advised allied Air Forces, and only officially retired – as a fighter pilot, mind you – in 1975, aged 52.
He continued flying however, and at age 89, sat in an F-15 for a quick sound barrier run for the 65th anniversary of his historic flight.
A decorated veteran, a likely lad (by all accounts), a teacher, instructor, and great mentor to countless military personnel and civilians over the years, a humble man and an inspiration to everyone to fly faster, higher and with more skill than anyone ever thought possible.
So take a leaf out of Chuck’s book – find what you love doing, and just do that.
Chuck Yeager, we salute you. Happy Birthday!