Chuck Yeager, one of the United States Air Force’s greatest ever pilots and the first man to break the sound barrier, has died at the age of 97.
Yeager was a decorated Second World War fighter pilot — famous for shooting down five Germans in a single day in 1944 — and his exploits later became the subject of the 1983 Academy Award-winning film The Right Stuff.
His passing was announced earlier this evening on his Twitter account by his wife, Victoria.
I’m sharing this here because grew up obsessed with fighter planes and hooked on flight sims, and while I had many favourites — Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe and Red Baron to name just two — the one I played the most was 1991’s Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat.
Published by EA for the PC, CYAC — the second Chuck Yeager game after the disappointing Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Training — was an air combat playground, letting players fight battles across three completely separate wars in three different eras of fighter aircraft technology. You could choose between World War Two, Korea or Vietnam, then take part in a number of scenarios designed to test you across different types of engagement.
Those pre-baked missions were pretty limited after you’d played them a few times, though, so the real longevity with CYAC came from its creation suite, which let you build your own missions using a very cool choose-your-own-adventure style story.
It wasn’t the greatest flight sim ever made — indeed, it looked and handled pretty poorly compared to some of its contemporaries — but the novelty of giving you three different wars to fight through, and then the ability to pit a Vietnam-era jet against a World War Two fighter in a mission of your own creation, gave it a ton of replayability at a time when you couldn’t simply wait for more and more aircraft to be patched in (or sold for $US2 ($3) each).
And while it wasn’t exactly an authentic experience, being more of a deathmatch shooter than a serious flight sim, the combat it did offer was really fun, especially if you were using a joystick. Indeed for all its shortcomings in some areas, the game earned itself a ton of fans, to the point where during the 90s it was routinely landing on “best game ever” lists in PC gaming magazines.
Basically, if you grew up in the early 90s and were playing flight sims, there was a really good chance you were playing a lot of CYAC, and loving every minute of it.
Yeager’s involvement with the development of the game itself was limited, but EA’s licensing deal meant he still played a huge role from the player’s perspective. His face was everywhere in the game, from the intro screen to the menus, and he’d even pop up in the middle of missions with warnings.
There was even — this is EA, remember — a deluxe version of the game available, which included a VHS tape that featured an interview with Yeager on his exploits and thoughts on air combat.
Yeager is survived by his wife and four children.