Two years ago, the Hamlin native finally went on record with what really happened that day. He had wrapped up a great weekend visit with his family and was flying out of Charleston Airport (now Yeager Airport) to Dayton, Ohio. As he approached the Kanawha River he marveled at the gleaming Gold Dome of the West Virginia Capitol building. "Incidentally, I still say that is the most beautiful Capitol building in the world," said Yeager. The idea to fly under the bridge was a spur of the moment thing. ""I looked up and saw the bridge and within a second I knew I had clearance, You fly so damn many dangerous maneuvers (as a pilot), it just didn't seem like anything."
But it's had people talking for years... from proud, native West Virginians trying to find someone who will believe them, to crusty Air Force officials who couldn't believe their ears when the reports came flying in. "The Air Force probably didn't even know what was I was doing," laughed the humble American hero.
"It was a little hard finding a working F-80 to reenact that maneuver, but I found her," said the ever enthusiastic Chuck Yeager. "I fly my own little orange-tail plane around Charleston from time to time, but I wanted to take the same jet down river again. A hobbiest in Ravenswood had her in his private hanger and he's had her in flying condition for a decade now. He took really good care of her, and had her painted up to look like the "Orange Beast" I flew when I broke the sound barrier." Yeager shoot his head and laughed. It was a great laugh. "I'm hoping the bright orange color will help SOMEBODY snap a photo of my trip, this time. I don't think I'll make this trip, again!"
Some sixty-four (64) years later, not one photo has surfaced of that epic flight. This time around, onlookers will have plenty of chances to capture the moment. Yeager will be flying under not one, not two, but three Charleston bridges. The flight plan filed with Yeager Airport and the FAA take the orange F-80 down the Kanawha River starting at the tip of Blaine Island and immediately under the Patrick Street Bridge. The next bridge he will fly under is the Fort Hill / I64 Bridge. Finally, the original bridge from the historic fly-by, the Southside Bridge near the Amtrak Station.
The Coast Guard will be directing and monitoring all boat traffic around the bridges to be sure all barges and pleasure boats are a safe distance away. Police are cautioning car traffic to keep moving and to not toss objects from the bridge.
After all these years, he still has the twinkle in his eye that wouldn't look out of place in another famous flyer, Peter Pan.
Stay young and bold forever, Chuck!
- Chuck Yeager sets legendary bridge tale straight - Charleston Daily Mail
- Did Yeager really fly under W.Va. bridge? - Air Force Times
- Chuck Yeager: Setting the record straight on buzzing Charleston - WV Gazette
- Chuck Yeager still flying high - UT San Diego