Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Milo Burcham 1903-1944

Milo Burcham on the wing of P-38 'Yippee'
Milo Burcham flying P-38 'Yippee'

Flown National Air Race cover signed by Milo Burcham
Born at Cadiz IN, May 24, 1903, but grew up in Whittier CA, at that time a Quaker settlement in the eastern Los Angeles basin. Milo Garrett Burcham learned to fly in 1929 at the O'Donnell School of Aviation at Long Beach and became its chief instructor soon afterward. Much more than just a P-38 test pilot, Burcham unfortunately has never received appropriate recognition because of wartime secrecy.

He was an early-bird, with U S License 5274, and established a world's record in December 1933 at Long Beach CA by flying upside-down for 4h:5m:22s in his new Boeing 100, in which he performed acrobatic shows until 1937. He flew a brand-new Lockheed 12A Electra Junior to fifth place in the 1937 Bendix Race from Los Angeles to Cleveland, which was doubly impressive since F C Hall, the plane's owner, and his wife were aboard, and yet they still came in only a few minutes behind Frank Sinclair in his Seversky racer.

Burcham joined Lockheed in 1937 as a ferry pilot and two years later was sent to England in charge of flight testing at the company's Liverpool division. Recalled to Burbank, his thoroughness and skill as a pilot brought about his assignment to engineering flight testing where he began testing of P-38 Lightnings, because of his extensive experience did most of the test flying on the P-38.

He became Chief Engineering Test Pilot for Lockheed, and performed the 55-degree dive from 35,000' in the P-38. He made the first test flights of the P-80 at Muroc Dry Lake in January 1944 as Lockheed's Chief Pilot.
He was killed in the crash of the second YP-80 on the 20th October 1944 due to a flame-out.