Col. Joseph F. "Joe" Cotton, USAF 1922-2016
Col Joe Cotton USAF Test Pilot and Al White North American Aviation Test Pilot
Col Joe Cotton with B-52
Colonel Cotton entered the Army Air Corps as a flying cadet in 1942, retired from the USAF in 1968 as a veteran test pilot, and went on to become a test pilot with United Airlines, bringing his total flying time to 16,000 hours in over 80 types of aircraft.
When his B-17 was shot down over Greece on his first wartime mission, he spent four months evading German capture before being rescued and returned to the U.S. in 1944.
He began his flight test career flying the Bell RP-63A, the "flying pinball machine," being developed as a flying target for bomber crew gunnery practice. He performed cold weather systems test on a variety of aircraft at Eglin and Ladd Fields prior to attending the Empire Test Pilot School in England.
Cotton was chief of Bomber Test at Wright Patterson while testing in all-weather including the arctic. He was pilot and later test director of the B-58 "Hustler" Flight Research and Development Program at Carswell AFB.
In 1962, as USAF Chief Test Pilot, he flew the first flight of the XB-70 at Edwards AFB. He flew the XB-70A No.2 at Mach 3.08 at 72,800 feet on April 12, 1996 in the highlight of his 62 flights in the XB-70. He remained with the project through the last flight of the Development Test and Evaluation program.
Named 1966 Pilot of the Year by the International Order of Characters, Cotton has been awarded a Legion of Merit, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Aerospace Walk of Honor (1997).