My knowledge of Chuck Yeager went something like this – the guy that sold AC Delco batteries, then I learned he first broke the sound barrier. I watched the movie “The Right Stuff” to learn how influential he was in the testing of rocket engines.
Stuff I’ve learned since then? He was a World War II fighter pilot who was shot down, escaped, then got right back in the air. He led squadrons in Europe during the cold war ready to nuke Russia if it ever got to that. He led a squadron in Vietnam. He was the best test pilot the Air Force ever had, flying over 100 experimental aircraft. The minute the U.S. got their hands on a MiG jet, they flew Yeager out to a hidden location in the Pacific to test out the capabilities of the plane. He established and ran the school that provided over half the astronaunts to NASA.
All in all – the man was a stud. His story is absolutely incredible as he followed one creed – Love what you do, do what you love. When what you’re doing isn’t fun anymore or gets you amped, go do something else.
The book is good for is giving an intimate look at the Air Force during the Golden Age of Flight – moving from props to jets to rockets. Yeager was in the middle of the transition. He talks about the hardship of being in the military and the risks they took. Lots of great stories and escapades.
The big takeaway for me – nothing worth having is safe. Yeager took the risks he took because he loved flying. He loved it. He didn’t take stupid, unnecessary risks but he didn’t just look for the safest route in the world either. If you are going to be the best in what you do, you will have to take some risks. Unavoidable.