One of history's greatest pilots -- via the New York Times . He is the history of aviation in one person. He met Orville Wright and Lindbergh, was buddies with Chuck Yeager, Jimmy Doolittle, Neil Armstrong, and Yuri Gagarin. A founder of the art of aerobatics. (His great age and his death on the ground points to his skill, professionalism, and caution, rather than to some kind of wild, blind luck.) He fought the Nazis. He got shot down, then escaped Germany -- in a plane, of course. He tested jets, did many many airshows. He was rambunctious. He liked to fly.