Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Peter Girard was born in 1918 in Monterey, California, Girard was raised on a cattle ranch, first in Cachagu and then in Tularcitos, in the Carmel Valley near the Central Coast of California. Girard was a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in mechanical engineering, class of 1940. While working at Curtiss-Wright he joined a cadre of like-minded engineers who learned to fly in gliders purchased by the group. During World War II Girard enlisted in what was then the United States Army Air Corps, and advanced through flight training becoming a multi-engine heavy bomber pilot flying B-24s. He mustered out of the Air Corps as a Second Lieutenant at San Bernardino, California. After his military service Girard found employment at Ryan Aeronautical in San Diego, initially in the metallurgical department, then as Chief of the Physical Test Section of the Engineering Laboratories, and later as their Chief Engineering Test Pilot. During this time Girard attended the 10th class of the United States Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, graduating second in his class of 36 as a civilian among military pilots. This prepared him to test a variety of new-concept designs including the Ryan X-13 Vertijet and the Ryan VZ-3 Vertiplane, and he performed test flights at various airfields including Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. By this time specializing in vertical and short-take off aircraft (V/STOL), his most notable moment occurred on July 29, 1957: While demonstrating the capabilities of the X-13, he landed vertically before an audience of some 3,000 officers and journalists at the steps of The Pentagon. After twelve years as Chief Engineering Test Pilot, he then served as Chief of Aerodynamics and Chief of Preliminary Design, finally retiring as Chief of Advanced Products for Aircraft Engineering, where he was responsible for the design of remotely-piloted air vehicles and other technical innovations.