Chuck Yeager (1923 – 2020)


Don’t speak of ‘the right stuff.’

That phrase belonged to Tom Wolfe, not Chuck Yeager.


Use other words:


“I worked my tail off to learn to fly.”

A word worth repeating:

“Experience is everything.”

And with it,


“the eagerness to learn

how every piece of equipment works.”

“If there is such a thing as the right stuff,

it is experience.

“And luckis everything, too”– the luck

to live to fly another day.


And don’t discount fear,

a vital part of courage.

Fear served

to motivate Yeager

to learn

everything he could about an airplane.

Fear kept him respectful

of the aircraft.

Fear kept him always alert

in the cockpit.

“I was always afraid of dying.”


Was Yeager an instinctive pilot?

Yes, he’d admit, he was blessed,

with exceptional eyesight,

with sharp coordination,

with mechanical aptitude.

He’d rather be called 

an instinctive engineer.

And luck, 

enough luck to allow him

to live to the age of 97,

and to fly

no longer in fear death.

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