Farewell to Brigadier General Chuck Yeager

By Joe Da Silva of Cape Town Hunting Safaris and Tours

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America Greatest Legend of all times

We had the absolute privilege and honour to have the Late Brigadier General Chuck Yeager and his wife Victoria visit us twice in South Africa. During their visit in 2010 they spent two weeks with us hunting and touring. This was General Yeager’s first-time hunting and touring in Africa/South Africa. However, The General did mention to Nicole that he had “bombed” Libya (gunnery practice as US air base there) many years ago while still on active duty, but guessed this did not count as a visit. Needless to say, this was not arranged by any tour company….

The time we had with the General was incredible, like standing in the shadow of an elephant. He had an excellent memory and incredible dry sense of humour, often laced with technical information and sound advice. On hearing of his passing, 07 December 2020, that night we sat around a fire, something he enjoyed very much, and toasted the General, reminiscing some memorable moments of our time with him.

 

Victoria and Gen. Chuck Yeager with Bontebuck

To share but only a few. Upon their arrival at Cape Town International, we drove them to their Waterfront hotel. When we got to the hotel the General said “you should check your left front tyre, it needs more pressure.” I look at him with surprise and said that I just had the vehicle serviced including wheel balancing and tyre pressure. “Mmhh,” he said, “check it out tomorrow when you come and collect us from the hotel,” This bothered me the whole night, so the following day I woke early and proceeded to check the tyre pressures. Yip, he was right, the font left needed one more bar pressure. Then I knew he definitely had the right stuff.

On another occasion, while we were busy hunting, he noticed a water reservoir about 150 yards away from where we were standing and ask me to drive to it as he said, “the water pipe is leaking and we need to check it out.” It looked fine to me, but he insisted. Well, upon arriving, to my surprise he was right again, the pipe was leaking. He asked me if I have pliers and can I please bring it to him, after which he proceeded to repair the leak himself. A genuine humble man of the soil and sky. What was more amazing, that every time the General came to sit with us at our stand at the Dallas Safari shows he would ask me if the pipe had leak again. What a memory he had.

He would tell me about the times when he grew up on a farm in West Virginia and would help his dad, repairing things around the farm. As he said, in those days, you didn’t have all the modern equipment like today and you had to make use what was at hand. This no doubt had an influence for his love for all things mechanical and wide-open spaces.

Another incredible moment I had when we were hunting a Blue Wildebeest. The Blue Wildebeest was standing about 120 yards from us on its own. I got the General on my shooting sticks and said he should wait for the Wildebeest to turn broad side. The Wildebeest must have got wind of us and decided to take off, running to left at full speed.  The General, not to miss an opportunity suddenly took the rifle off the shooting sticks, mounted the rifle to his shoulder and he took a running shot at the Wildebeest, to my absolute awe, the animal dropped like a stone, a perfect heart and lung shot.  This at the age of 87. I asked him how he did it.  Cool calm and collected he said “that’s how we shot those enemies in my P-51 Mustang..” Well, all I could do was shake my head and laugh. Now I know why you are the greatest pilot of all times with the real Right Stuff. The General had 20/10 vision and awesome hand eye coordination that helped him become the outstanding pilot he was.

Joe and Gen. Yeager with his Blue wilderbeest running shot

On another occasion, something I will never forget, and then again, I could go on writing more stories of the General, but this one shows how in-tune he was with flying machines. I arranged a flight with one of my friends from the Stellenbosch Air Club. We flew in a Bonanza Beechcraft to a farm just outside the small town of Citrusdal. Renowned as the Rooibos Tea growing area. Of course, the Generals wife, Victoria, is a big tea lover so I arrange to visit one of the large Rooibos tea farms whose owner is not only is a big tea grower but is also an avid pilot with his own hanger of planes and landing strip. Taking off from Stellenbosch myself and the General sat at the back and Victoria who also flies sat as co-pilot.  She flew most of the way there and back. While we were flying and chatting over the microphones General Yeager called out, “you might want to adjust your trim.” Victoria and all had a good laugh.  He was right again, that was just unbelievable.

During the second week we flew to Johannesburg and stayed in Pretoria where we arranged a very special dinner for the General and Victoria with our then current chief of Air Force, Lt General Carlo Gagiano, previous Chief of Air Force, the late Lt General Dennis Earp and wives, Fiona Capstick, the Late Adelino Serra Pires and myself.  This was quite a historical moment for me to be with such accomplished people who have impacted the lives of many. Thanks to Fiona arranging this special day indeed.

From left to right: Jesse Roos, our pilot who flew us in the Bonanza Beechcraft, and Johan Ferreira, owner of the rooibos plantation, with Victoria and Gen.Chuck Yeager

We concluded our time up north by visiting the air force base called Makhado that was all arrange by Lt General Gagiano. Spent some time in Kruger National Park and then return to our home in Cape Town. It was trip I will remember forever. There is completed story of their whole trip publish in DSC Game Trails, 2012 convention. Can be also be viewed on my web-page “About us” under NEWS Articles www.capetownhuntingsafaris.co.za.

So, goodbye my dear friend, until we meet again high in those blue skies you know so very well.

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