|Vol. 19 No. 74||
Wednesday December 9, 2020
Chuck Yeager and a Stick of Beemans
The news of the death of Charles E. ‘Chuck’ Yeager at 97 years of age on December 7, 2020 marks the passing of the world’s first “Rocket Man”.
It was Chuck Yeager who piloted the Bell X1 supersonic aircraft on October 14, 1947, the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Chuck Yeager reached a speed of 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) per hour, Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 13,000 meters (43,000 feet).
Yeager named the airplane "Glamorous Glennis" (pictured where it hangs today in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.) in tribute to his wife. Yeager’s history-making flight was portrayed in the film “The Right Stuff” by actor Sam Shepard, whose Yeager character kept asking ground crew “got a stick of Beemans gum?”
The tiny X-1, with Yeager inside chewing on a stick of Beemans, was clamped below the wing of a B29 for a drop take-off; the first supersonic flight that launched the program that eventually landed men on the moon.
It was now 1985. One late September afternoon at LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal between a flight and a cab, Chuck Yeager stood waiting for me on one foot and the other, while I ran upstairs to our Air Cargo News office and retrieved his 1985 autobiography “Yeager” after I had asked him for an autograph.
In person Chuck Yeager was a compact powerfully built man.
Unlike Lindbergh, who was a tall string bean, Chuck Yeager and most other pilots of the pioneering years were sought out to be compact; to better fit into the tiny cockpits of early aircraft, including that first supersonic.
Without hesitation, while getting the book, I also grabbed a whole pack of Beeman’s from our office supply.
Back downstairs, Yeager took the gum, hastily signed the book and walked away as I stood there.
He had no airs about him, because after he moved purposefully over to the Pan Am Shuttle cab line in front of the building, he dutifully took his place in the queue like all the others.
Nobody recognized him.
He saw me still standing there watching him depart. He gave a slight nod as he popped the gum in his mouth . . . that just knocked me out.
Happy landings always, Captain of the Clouds, Chuck Yeager.
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Vol. 19 No. 71
What Became Small In 2020?
Chuckles for November 10, 2020
Are You Having Any Fun?
Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend •
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend • Advertising Sales-Judy Miller
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