EDINBURG, Texas (CN) — Chuck Yeager, the nation’s most famous test pilot, sued Clear Channel Outdoor for using his name and persona on billboards in at least seven Texas airports.
Yeager, 93, a retired Air Force general, sued the San Antonio-based company and its corporate parent, iHeartMedia, on Monday in Hidalgo County Court.
Yeager was the first human being to break the sound barrier, in the rocket-powered Bell X-1 experimental aircraft on Oct. 14, 1947. He says he learned of the offending billboards in May 2015.
“The billboards stated, ‘Famous Aviation First,’ and described General Yeager’s flight that broke the speed of sound,” the complaint states. “General Yeager later discovered that defendants had been using the billboard in at least seven (7) different airports beginning in August 2014.”
Page 4 of the 9-page lawsuit includes a photo of a billboard, showing a brown flight jacket, the prominent words “Famous Aviation First,” and smaller text describing the “first piloted supersonic flight in an airplane.” Yeager’s face or likeness does not appear, though he says the defendants “received an advantage and/or a benefit” by misappropriating his likeness.
“Defendants impaired the ability of plaintiffs to negotiate representation agreements with airports, thereby depriving them of their established earning potential,” the complaint states. “The appropriation was for the defendants’ advantage in that General Yeager is an extremely well known and recognized individual, has a record of success in the endorsement of other products, and was made for the defendants’ pecuniary gain and profit. It is of no surprise that defendants selected Texas airports as the locale for their scheme.”
Clear Channel Outdoor did not immediately respond to an email message requesting comment Tuesday evening.
Yeager seeks an injunction and damages for privacy invasion, unjust enrichment, trademark dilution and unfair competition. He is represented by Michael R. Ramsey with Ramsey Smith in Houston.
Yeager has filed similar lawsuits in recent years. He accused Fort Knox Security Products in January 2011 in Salt Lake City Federal Court of using his name to push safe products at a trade show, claiming that their endorsement deal had been canceled.
And he sued Virgin America in December 2009 in San Francisco County Superior Court, claiming it used his name in a mass mailer advertising the airline’s in-flight WiFi service.
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