What does it take to be an ace fighter jock? No one knows better than General Chuck Yeager. During World War II, at age 21, Yeager shot down five German planes in one day. In 1947, he became the first pilot to shatter the sound barrier. That event, among others in his trail-blazing career, was immortalized in Tom Wolfe's best-selling book "The Right Stuff." In an interview, Yeager gave Fast Company the low-down on flying high.
We've tried to understand what it's like to be a pilot by going through the Fighter Pilots USA program.
You've been taken in. When you've been involved in the real thing, the play stuff doesn't cut it.
As a test pilot, you had a couple of close calls. How did you keep from panicking?
I concentrated on what I had to do. If you panic, you die.
Doing what you have to do - that's easier said than done.
Well, in the business we're in, you only get to make one mistake. And unfortunately, you don't get to learn from it.
A version of this article appeared in the October 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.