Thursday, May 17, 2007

William 'Bill' C. Park 1926-1996

William Park’s fame as a test pilot was delayed by the highly classified nature of most of his accomplishments. He was the first pilot to fly the "Blackbirds" (A-12, YB-12 and SR-71) at the designed speed of over Mach 3 above 80,000 feet. Park served in the Air Force for 10 years including during the Korean War when he flew 112 combat missions. After Korea, he joined Convair Aircraft Corporation as a test pilot flying the F-102. In 1957, Park joined Lockheed Aircraft Corporation as an engineering test pilot and did the early development testing of the F-104 Starfighter. In 1960, he transferred to Advanced Development projects where he performed extensive developmental flight on the Blackbirds. In 1968, Park was the first to fly Lockheed’s high altitude reconnaissance airplane, the U-2R. He flew the first flight of Lockheed’s HAVE BLUE Stealth fighter prototype in 1977. He served as Director of Flight Operations on the F117A program and retired as Project Director of Flying operations of the Lockheed Skunk Works Advanced Development Project in 1989. Park was honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with cluster, and Aviation Week’s Laurels Award. He was a co-recipient of the Kincheloe Award for his testing of the Blackbirds, received the Octave Chanute Award, a second Kincheloe Award and the Aerospace Walk of Honor (1995).