NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Sixty-five years after becoming the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager is still making noise.
The 89-year-old Penn Valley resident, who was featured in the movie “The Right Stuff,” flew in the back seat Sunday of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet above California’s Mojave Desert — the same area where he first achieved the feat in 1947 while flying an experimental rocket plane.
The F-15 carrying Yeager took off from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas and broke the sound barrier at 10:24 a.m. Sunday, exactly 65 years to the minute the then-Air Force test pilot made history.
It also happened on the same day that daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner shattered the sound barrier after making the highest jump ever from a balloon 128,100 feet above the Earth.
Baumgartner hit Mach 1.24, or 833.9 mph, according to preliminary data, and became the first man to reach supersonic speed without traveling in a jet or a spacecraft. He landed safely in the New Mexico desert after a descent of just more than nine minutes.
Yeager told reporters after his flight that he was unaware of the skydiver’s feat.
Asked by a young girl if he was scared during Sunday’s flight, Yeager joked, “Yeah, I was scared to death.” But the legendary pilot said he continues to fly all the time and it was just another flight to him.
Yeager flew the F-15 as it took off and landed, said Airman Timothy Young, a Nellis spokesman. The plane was piloted by Capt. David Vincent of the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis.
“It was a great honor to have him fly out of Nellis,” Young said. “We pride ourselves on training fighter pilots and to have someone of his caliber here is such an honor.”