Tuesday, February 20, 2007

William Paul Thayer 1919-2010

Paul Thayer was born in 1919 in Henryetta, Oklahoma. He attended high school in Wichita, Kansas and spent a year at Wichita State University. After a year off working in the oil fields as a roughneck, he returned to college at the University of Kansas and enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training Program to become a pilot. He entered Naval Aviation Cadet Program in mid-1941, receiving his wings and commission in March 1942. He was assigned to Squadron VF-26 flying the Grumman F4F 'Wildcat' and became an ace with 6 confirmed and 4 probable aerial victories and 9 more Japanese aircraft destroyed on the ground. He also shared in the sinking of a Japanese destroyer with 4 other Navy pilots, having fought the good war he resigned from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander.

After 2 years as a TWA transport pilot, he joined Chance Vought Aircraft Company as test pilot in 1948. He was the first pilot to break the sound barrier in a Navy production fighter - the XF7U-1 (1949) and to use the ejection seat when his XF7U-1 (1949) caught fire in flight. Other first's include: first pilot to demonstrate all structural and high Mach Number (MN) limitations of the XF6U-1 (1950), first pilot to demonstrate all structural and high MN limitations of the XF-89 (1951), first pilot to have barrel-rolled a Boeing 737Thayer walked away from six wrecked airplanes and bailed out of one. He rapidly progressed to Chief Test Pilot in 1949, Flight Test Director, Vice President of Sales in 1951 and finally Company President in 1961.
In 1970, the parent LTV Corporation fell into deep financial distress and Paul was called upon to tackle the biggest challenge of his career, saving the corporation. And save it he did! Facing down the major creditor and energizing every element of the organization, he not only brought the firm into the black but set new records for sales and re-established LTV as a major player in the industry.
With the corporation in sound shape, he accepted the invitation of President Reagan to serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense. He was sworn in on 12 January 1983 and served with distinction.