Yeager to mark lofty career
Cracking the sound barrier was a scientific breakthrough of mythic proportions that propelled Chuck Yeager into history.
But the retired Air Force general and Penn Valley resident will tell you in his West Virginia drawl that his feat in the Bell X-1 rocket plane 57 years ago was also something much less profound.
“You do things because it’s your duty,” Yeager said Wednesday. “If you’re at the right place at the right time, you get a job. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it.”
Yeager, 81, will be looking back at his extraordinary career during three appearances in Grass Valley Oct. 30. He will appear at 3 p.m. at the Nevada Union High School Theater for a one-hour talk.
At 5 p.m., he will dedicate the F-104 Starfighter jet at the Nevada County Airport that was donated by the Air Force to honor Yeager’s career and influence on aviation.
“I was the first military guy to fly it, Aug. 3, 1954,” Yeager said of the F-104. “They’ve done an excellent job mounting it.”
At 6 p.m., Yeager will be at a catered reception called “An Evening with General Yeager” for ticketholders in a hangar decorated at the airport. Proceeds from the day’s events will go to The General Chuck Yeager Foundation, which supports various charities including the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Program; Make-A-Wish Foundation; Down Syndrome and Autistic Folks in Abilene, Texas; the Disabled American Veterans; and Paralyzed American Veterans, among others.
Yeager has made few local appearances since retiring in western Nevada County in 1975 with his wife, Glennis, who grew up in Grass Valley. Glennis died of ovarian cancer in 1990.
“I haven’t really done much here because I was down at Edwards (Air Force Base) flyin’ two to three weeks a month,” Yeager said. “This will give me a chance to talk to a lot of kids.”
He will tell them about Oct. 14, 1947, when he crawled into the X-1 with cracked ribs and the knowledge that by tweaking the plane’s horizontal stabilizer, he might be able to go 700 mph without the aircraft breaking into bits.
“I had a depth of knowledge in maintenance” from fixing things back in West Virginia. “I had a feel for machinery.”
These days, Yeager still flies light airplanes. It was only two years ago that he stopped flying fighter jets. Although he says he does not travel much anymore, his wife, Victoria, begs to differ.
In March they were in Australia. In June it was Germany, “and five times in Alaska fishing this summer,” Victoria said, not to mention the annual air show in Oshkosh, Wis.
The man who once shot down five German fighters in one day and four on another says he never considered politics despite a survey in West Virginia that showed 72 percent of the voters would have backed him.
“No, hell no,” Yeager said of the political offers. “I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.”
But he does have this advice for today’s politicians about the war in Iraq.
“Let the military run it … There’s no morality in war. You do anything to win; just don’t lose. You can’t fight a clean war.”
Gen. Chuck Yeager’s Oct. 30 appearances
– 3 p.m., Nevada Union High School. An hour’s talk with a brief film. Tickets $50.
– 5 p.m., Dedication of the F-104 Starfighter at the Nevada County Airport. Free.
– 6 p.m. “An Evening with Gen. Yeager,” a catered event inside a decorated hangar at the airport. Tickets $75. Combined tickets to the catered event and talk at Nevada Union will be $100.
Tickets are available at the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce, 248 Mill St., 273-4667, or e-mail to email@example.com
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