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Chuck Yeager


"When your engine fails at 45,000 feet, it's not the fall that kills you, son; it's the sudden stop." With those words the man who first broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 in 1947 looked steely-eyed into my lens.

Chuck Yeager Chuck Yeager was a hero of mine since I was a kid. One day I was visiting the Los Angeles office of the Air Force Public Affairs Officer. I told him how exciting it would be to meet Yeager. He casually said, "Oh yea? I've got his home number right here on my Rolodex. Why don't you give him a call!"

Well, I did the next day. The phone rang only once before a crisp and abrupt voice announced, "Yeager here!" Yikes! I was almost speechless, despite the fact that I had practiced what to say, and had grown quite used to speaking with important people. But I managed to squeak out who I was and why I was so keen to photograph him.

He was kind. He said that, if he liked my work, he would agree to sit for a portrait. He asked if I could meet him at the Lockheed Aircraft plant (now the Burbank, California Airport) where he would be attending a business meeting a few days later.

 But I had to leave town on other business myself, so my agent met him instead to show some of my work. He and Yeager made arrangements for me to do a shoot in Barstow, in California's Mojave Desert where, in a few weeks, Yeager was to film a TV commercial.

On site was a P-51 Mustang fighter plane like the one Yeager flew as an Ace in WWII. I posed him with it. The plane was named after his wife, the Glamorous Glynnes (sp.) The General signed a print later for me and wrote on it, "Tom, you sure know how to show the feeling a guy has for his airplane."

4x5 Wista camera, Plus-X with Norman 200B battery-powered strobe fill light aimed through a diffuser.

© 2003 Tom Zimberoff