General Charles (Chuck) Elwood Yeager (1923-2020), may you rest in peace.
Some thought that it couldn't be done. That, like powered human flight, the sound barrier could not be broken. Thankfully, they were wrong.
Yeager, a WWII veteran, was known for having what author Tom Wolfe so aptly called The Right Stuff. But what struck us about Yeager was his humility and focus on mastery. Flying is a learned skill. Something that can be mastered with hard work, applied thinking, and practice. As Yeager noted, “All I know is I worked my tail off learning to learn how to fly, and worked hard at it all the way. If there is such a thing as the right stuff in piloting, then it is experience." (Quotes excerpted from his NYT obituary, citing Yeager's autobiography.)
As we begin the next chapter of aviation, the vertical-electric flight era, we seek to emulate the humility and respect Yeager gave the sky. He balanced the boldness of aviation's pioneering spirit with pragmatism, famously breaking the sound barrier after breaking two ribs falling off of a horse two days prior. (This is also depicted in the film, The Right Stuff).
Pushing the envelope is something we embrace at LIFT. Coupling that with a focus on safety and an understanding of the possible consequences is essential. As Yeager, often portrayed as a wild, fearless cowboy, said in real life, "I was always afraid of dying. Always.”
And still, he became the first human being in history to break the sound barrier. Now, this happens routinely in military aviation or spacecraft. But not long ago, it was something we reached for and knew not. Yeager helped us get there. As did countless pilots, engineers, and scientists before him. He stood tall on the shoulders of giants.
We stand once more on the ground, gazing up at what could be. A future in which flight is vertical and electric.
A hearty thank you to Mr. Yeager, who helped pave the way.
May you rest in peace, good and faithful pilot.
- The LIFT team.