Monday, June 23, 2014

Al McDicken

Al McDicken was born in Glasgow and joined the RAF in December 1965.In the mid 1960's, early officer training was carried out at South Cerney and it was here that he first flew the venerable Chipmunk.In 1966 he was posted to No. 6 Flying Training School at RAF Acklington.The aircraft flown were Jet Provosts Mks 3 and 4 and by this time he had married, much to the irritation of the training staff!
More interested in developing a social life, he and Ann, his new wife, decided that Cambridge would be more convivial than RAF Valley, so it was to RAF Oakington.

At that stage Al realised it was time that he woke up and did some studying.Until then all exams passes had relied more on the power of prayer than hard graft!On completion he was posted to IX(B) Squadron at Cottesmore, a happy coincidence as the Squadron was headed to Cyprus in early 1969!
In 1970, a Captaincy was offered with 50 Squadron at RAF Waddington and promotion to Flight Lieutenant came with the job.Two children were born and life was very happy; until a ground tour was threatened.
Alarmed at the prospect, swift research revealed that application to the Empire Test Pilot School might just confound things sufficiently that some other poor chap might get the ground tour!It was then that Al became crewed with Andy (Sponge) Marston as the Wing Operations Crew, a happy, carefree few months ensued as the duo waxed lyrical in various bars around the world!

The ploy worked and Al was posted to Maintenance Command in 1974.It was hard work but a challenge and privilege to be there.From having flown only about four types of aircraft, ETPS offered a great opportunity to fly all sorts of machines, including helicopters.At the end of the course a posting to B Squadron, Boscombe Down ensued and Al remained here until 1980, as a test pilot and then as Senior Pilot, gaining promotion to Squadron Leader in 1976.A ground tour finally caught up with him but then British Aerospace offered employment as a test pilot engaged on military and civil projects. 

After brief forays into management, but missing flying he went back to flight testing in 1989; becoming Chief Test Pilot in 1993.Al has around 10000 flying hours on some ninety types of aircraft, being a display pilot for over thirty years.The zenith of this last activity being with the Shuttleworth Collection.
Al was involved in the return to flight of Vulcan B2 XH558, which after being in store or under under restoration since 1992,  returned to the air on 18 October 2007 flown by Al and Dave Thomas.

He is now self employed as a freelance test and delivery pilot.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lt Col B C Thomas

B. C. Thomas - High Time SR-71 Pilot with 1,217 hrs and 18 min

BC Thomas attended U.S. Air Force pilot training. He began his Air Force career flying the KC-135 tanker over Europe, Vietnam, and Thailand, and then flew the C-130 in Vietnam. Returning stateside, Thomas transitioned to the B-57 and RB-57F, and subsequently attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif., where he flew the F-104, A-7, T-33, and T-38. From there he joined the U-2 test program, and in 1976 was assigned to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif., to fly the SR-71. In 1984, Thomas was again assigned to Edwards to serve as an operational test pilot on the SR-71. He retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1988, and has the most time in the SR-71 (1,217.3 hours), and is the only pilot to have flown all three of the Air Force's high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft (the U-2, RB-57F, and the SR-71). 
Upon retirement he joined Northrop's B-2 test program as a civilian flight test engineer/pilot, where he served until joining United Air Lines at the end of 1989. He served as a test pilot for the airline flying its Boeing 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, and 777, as well as the Douglas DC-8 and DC-10.

Lt Col Raymond 'Ed' Edward Yeilding

Raymond Edward Yeilding, known as Ed to all of his many friends, was born in Auburn, Alabama in 1949 where his father, William, was an engineering student after being discharged from the Navy after World War II. His mother, Carolyn, had studied to become a nurse during the war, and was working in Auburn at the time. Ed’s ancestors lived in the Blountsville area during the 1800s. Ed showed an early interest in aviation, but also, by age 7 months, he was showing evidence that he would like to be in control. After graduation from Auburn, his father Bill joined TVA as an Engineer, where he remained for 35 years. Ed was an active youth, and became an Eagle Scout in 1963. He graduated from Coffee High School in 1967, and then entered Auburn as an Electrical Engineering student.He became interested in aviation in a serious way while a student at Auburn, and learned to fly and received his pilot’s license in a Cessna 152 in 1971, and did his first parachute jump the same year. He did not neglect his studies, however, and graduated in 1972, shown here with his mother, Carolyn, and another great Auburn engineer, his father, Bill. The United States Air Force had been on Ed’s mind for some time, and he had even dreamed of the possibility of someday being able to fly the SR-71 Blackbird. After graduation from Auburn, he joined the Air Force, and reported initially to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, but had his flight training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. Already being a pilot, he perhaps had a head start. His first training plane at Williams was the T-37, but he soon moved up to the T-38. He received his commission as a second lieutenant on July 8, 1972. He received his Pilot’s Wings December 18, 1973.Stationed next at Bergstrom AFB flying the RF-4 Phantom, he became an Instructor. He was transferred to Okinawa, where he maintained combat readiness in high speed, low altitude reconnaissance. Returning to the United States, he was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, from 1980 until 1983, where he was an F-4E Phantom Instructor in air-to-ground, and air-to-air weapons delivery. From July of 1983 to November 1987, he served as an Instructor and Evaluator for the SR-71 Blackbird at Beale Air Force Base, California, flying for the United States Air Force. During that time, he flew 93 reconnaissance missions in the Blackbird at Mach 3, over 2000 miles per hour, at altitudes of 80,000 feet, on the edge of space. From 1987 until 1990, he was based at Palmdale, California as SR-71 Operations Officer, Instructor and Evaluator. On March 6, 1990, Lt.Colonel Ed Yeilding set the coast to coast speed record for aircraft, flying from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C in 67 minutes and 54 seconds. On the same flight, he established three city to city speed records. His top speed was 2,190 MPH. And guess who was at Dulles to meet him when he landed - Bill and Carolyn Yeilding, Ed’s mother and father, as well as the national news media and government and military dignitaries.  This flight effectively closed down the SR-71 Blackbird program, and the record-breaking aircraft was turned over to the Smithsonian Udvar Hazy Museum at Dulles, where it can be seen today.Ed spent the next six years with the 89 Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, flying dignitaries such as the Vice President, the First Lady, senators, generals cabinet members and other VIPs to many world destinations.He retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Col. In 1996.

Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua 1932-

Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua, son of a Sicilian immigrant, was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 7 Oct 1932. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the USAF on 29 February 1952. He began Aviation Cadet Pilot Training Program in January 1953, graduating 14 April 1954, rated and commissioned the same day. First assignment following fighter gunnery training was 508th Strategic Fighter Wing, Turner AFB, GA, flying the F-84 G and F. The 508th was deactivated in 1956 and became the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, with RB-57D and U-2 aircraft.Tony checked out in the U-2 at Groom Lake (Area 51), March 1957. The 4080th was moved to Laughlin AFB, TX in 1957, and moved again in 1963 to Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Tony reported to Air Command and Staff College, AL, leaving the U-2 program in the summer of 1965 after accumulating 2002 flight hours.  Following ACSC, assigned to Beale AFB, CA to fly the SR-71. Retired at Beale AFB, 31 March 1973 with 738 hours in the SR-71.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fred J. Cuthill 1929-2013

Fred Cuthill was born on 2 July 1929 and passed away on 3 October 2013.

He was a 1960 graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School and held a B.S. Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Washington State University and a Master of Business Administration from George Washington University. Prior to attending test pilot school, Fred flew F-86 and F-100 aircraft in fighter squadrons in the U.S. and Europe. After Test Pilot School, he flew various test programs on the F-101, F102 and F-106 aircraft.
After Command and Staff College he reported to Edwards AFB and served as test pilot in Special Projects (U-2’s) and later spent 2 years as Chief of Fighter Test at Edwards. During this period he flew test programs on the F-4, A-7 and various foreign classified programs. After one year’s combat in F-4’s in SEA, which included being Commander of the 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron, he returned to Edwards AFB as F-15 Project Director and was later appointed the F-15 Joint Test Force Director. Fred distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight as chief performance test pilot for a highly classified project at the time, flying the MiG-21 jet fighter. The data contributed immeasurably to the understanding of a foreign weapon system; intelligence from a Soviet fighter that Israel and the United States would face in battle in the coming years. Fred then moved on to duties as Staff Assistant to the Director, Test and Evaluation Office of the Secretary of Defense. He later served as Deputy Commander of an Air Force Fighter Wing.

Col. Joseph “Joe” Aloysius Guthrie, Jr., USAF 1926-2013

Joe Guthrie was born March 24, 1926 in Pittsburgh, PA to Joseph Aloysius Guthrie and Margaret Hommel Guthrie. In 1940 his family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he attended Elder High School.  He was an honor student all four years and earned letters in football, basketball and track.  After graduation in 1944, he received an appointment to West Point.  The appointment was for the 1945 class.  In the meantime he accepted a football scholarship to Indiana University. (While at West Point he played football on the Plebe and “B” squad teams with daily scrimmages against the great Blanchard-Davis teams of that era.)
Joe graduated from West Point in 1949 and was commissioned in the Infantry which was not his Service of choice. He wanted to be in the newly (1947) formed Air Force.  A week after graduation Joe wrote a request for transfer and walked it through the Pentagon. The request was turned down. Joe’s classmate Doug Bush also suffered the same fate.  Bush, who was a veteran of WWII and knew how to get things done, talked his way in to General Omar Bradley’s quarters one evening and convinced the General to transfer him, Joe and four others to the Air Force. 

Thus began Joe’s 28 year career in the Air Force. He flew as a Forward Air Controller during the Korean War and piloted classified reconnaissance missions during the Cold War. During the Vietnam War he was assigned to Udorn Air Base in Thailand as squadron commander of the 602nd Fighter Squadron flying A-1Es for close air support, forward air control and escort for Jolly Green rescue helicopters.  Following his tour in Vietnam he was assigned as Chief of Test for the C5A Transport Aircraft.  From 1972-1975 Joe was Commandant of the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base.  Then he was assigned as the Air Force Flight Test Center’s Deputy Commander for Operations (Test Wing Commander) until his retirement in 1977.
He continued his career as a test pilot and director of flight operations for the next fourteen years, first for American Jet Industries (now Gulfstream American) and Tracor Flight Systems.
In 1991 he moved to Montana. He continued to work part time for Flight Systems in the 90’s and flew light planes locally. He enjoyed taking his neighbors flying and especially giving young folks their first ride in a light plane.
Joe was a Fellow and past president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, a member of the Montana Pilots Association, the Helena Hangar of Quiet Birdmen and other military and aviation organizations.

Charles Alfred “Al” McDaniel, Jr 1920-2013

Charles Alfred “Al” McDaniel, Jr., SETP Fellow and Charter Member, made his last flight on 16 January 2013. 
Charles McDaniel (right) with Ralph Donnell, Phoenix missile testing on F111B

Planes were his passion from a very young age. Also a gifted artist and draftsman, he studied architecture at Santa Monica Junior College and USC for 2 years before entering the Army Air Corps in 1942, followed by a rare opportunity to enter Test Pilot Training at Wright Field, Ohio. 

Al began his testing career in 1943 as Assistant Chief of Flight Test at San Bernardino Air Base and eventually test flew every type of plane flown in WWII. A skilled aviator, he never left L.A. during the war, as his combined skills of aviator, aviation mechanic and draftsman were invaluable in the reparation of damaged aircraft, so he couldn’t be spared to go off and fight a war. In fact, during that time he could walk home for lunch.
After the war he joined the California Air National Guard, under revered commanding officer, General Clarence Schoop; “Shoopy,” as Al called him. One day in 1949, Shoopy received a call from his good friend, Howard Hughes. “Hey, Shoopy,” Howard boomed through the phone in his twangy, demanding voice, “I need two good pilots over here, ya got any?”  Brief moment of silence, then Shoopy said, “I sure do, Howard.”  “Well send ‘em over; your recommendation is good enough for me!”  Al and Bart Warren (later killed in the Grumman F111B) were hired sight unseen. 

Thus began a 38-year career, testing aircraft, managing these operations, flying as Howard Hughes’ personal pilot for 8 years, and, along with 64 others, including Neil Armstrong and Scott Crossfield, founding The Society of Experimental Test Pilots.   He was also responsible for the design of the SETP logo, which he was very proud of.  Al retired from Hughes in 1986