Memories of Chuck Yeager

By Cathy Hansen, special to Aerotech News
When I look at this picture of my husband Al with General Chuck Yeager, it brings back fond memories of the Edwards Air Show in October 2002.

Al flew his Canadair F-86E out for static display and I flew backseat in a Canadair CT-133 (T-33 Thunderbird) that belongs to Charlie Wallasch. It only takes a couple of minutes to fly from Mojave Airport to Edwards AFB, but the preparation time of getting clearances, etc. takes many hours! The weather really cooperated and it was a wonderful air show.

Al met up with Gen. Chuck Yeager and it was fun to stand back and just watch and listen. They have known each for many years. Yeager once said, “Fame makes you kind of cautious, a bit anxious to guard your privacy.” It was good to see him relax a little while talking over old times with Al.

Chuck and his good flying friend Clarence E. Bud “Andy” Anderson loved to hunt on the Hansen Wilderness Ranch that Al’s father, Dr. Homer Hansen, owned.

As most of you know, both Yeager and Anderson flew P-51 Mustangs in World War II and both are Aces; Anderson being a Triple Ace! Yeager had 11.5 kills to his credit and received five of those in one mission! He even shot down a German ME-262 jet with his P-51 Mustang.

Yeager’s Mustang carried the name “Glamorous Glennis” on the nose, named for his late wife Glennis and Anderson called his P-51, “Old Crow,” after the whiskey.

Al’s sister, Maude Ann, went to college with Bud’s wife, Eleanor. She introduced them to the Hansen family’s wild land, north of Mojave. Yeager and Anderson were avid outdoorsmen and relished in the untamed beauty of this rugged land.

Chuck Yeager was of Dutch and German descent and Yeager means “hunter.” He lives up to his name. I overheard Chuck say to Al, “That ranch has the best hunting of anywhere I have ever been.”

Al Hansen’s Hawker Hunter Mark VI, painted to look the D-558 for the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” (Courtesy photograph)

During the filming of “The Right Stuff” in 1983, Al was asked to bring his Hawker Hunter Mark VI to Edwards. A pointed nose was attached to his airplane and it was painted with a special paint to look like the D-558 flown by test pilot Scott Crossfield. The airplane that zooms over the barbecue scene in the movie is Al in his Hunter.

Yeager and Anderson invited Al out to Edwards for several of the X-15 flights. “It was thrilling to see,” Al said.

I recommend the books written by Chuck Yeager. The autobiography called “Yeager” and “Press On” give you insight into a down-to-earth guy who loves living and flying, thinks having fun is where it’s at and truly respects self-sufficient people.

Yeager was born in 1923 in West Virginia deep in the hollers of the Appalachians. His father was a driller in the gas fields and his mother had a full-time job caring for the five children and taking care of their home.

Chuck and the other four siblings learned to hunt, fish and survive in the harsh weather conditions and how to take care of machines, especially his father’s old Chevy pickup. His mechanical skills learned from his father paid off when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aircraft mechanic, which later led to an opportunity to be a part of the “flying sergeants” program where he attended flight training.

Just a note to anyone out there who has a tendency to become air sick when flying; Chuck Yeager would become severely air sick on his first few flights. He made a conscious effort to overcome the urge to be sick and went on to become the best pilot in the group!

Early on, at the tender age of seven, Yeager had a knack for pin-point shooting when he shot the head off of a tree squirrel before going to school. (Just for the record, that squirrel didn’t go to waste, it was meat on the table.) His sharp eyes (20-10 vision) helped him later on while serving as a fighter pilot in World War II.

At Muroc Army Air Field, later named Edwards AFB, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on Oct. 14, 1947. That information wasn’t released to the public until a year later, but when the media was given the historical information, Chuck Yeager became a household name.

He cheated death and set many records at Edwards and still holds a special place in his heart for this unique Air Force Test Center and the airspace around it, including the skies over Mojave.

Chuck was told he was too old to fly airplanes at Edwards AFB anymore, so in October 2005, he had to give students from the Air Force Test Pilot School rides in a P-51 off the runways at Mojave!

Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager and Cathy Hansen at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Courtesy photograph)

I was lucky enough to have a short visit with Yeager and have my picture taken with him.

God bless you general, we value our memories of you.

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