Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fred.C. Bretcher 1920-2004

From left to right: Max Stanley, Fred Bretcher, and O. H. Douglas

Fred Bretcher enlisted in the Army Air Corps in May 1941 as a Flying Cadet. He was in the first class to graduate from flight training (42A) after Pearl Harbour. Of the class of approximately 200, Bretcher was one of only three graduates assigned to the Wright Field Flight Test Section and became part of the first class of the "Test Pilot School". Most of the education was by flying as co-pilot with experienced pilots. Bretcher flew everything the Army Air Force had in their inventory; including the P-36, B-17, B-24, C-54 and XB-19. While on temporary duty from Wright Field, Bretcher flew P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the European Theatre of Operations and visited the Royal Air Force to fly the Spitfire, Tempest and Lancaster.

Upon his return to Wright Field in 1944, Bretcher was assigned to the B-29 and then the B-32 program. He was promoted at that time to the rank of Major and became the Chief of the Bomber Flight Test Section. He also did quite a bit of test work at Muroc Army Airfield (now known as Edwards AFB). While there, he had his first experience flying the jet powered YP-59, YP-80A and the N9-M Flying Wing.

Bretcher joined Northrop as a test pilot in 1946 and built up his experience in the cockpit of the N9-M. He flew as co-pilot on the first flight of the XB-35, as pilot or co-pilot on the next two B-35's, as co-pilot on the first flight of the YB-49 and pilot of the first flight of the YRB-49 (with J.J. Quinn as co-pilot). He flew the first flight and Phase I tests of the XF-89 Scorpion and was co-pilot on the first flights of the N-23 and YC-125.

In 1950, he was transferred to Holloman AFB, New Mexico to head the flight portion of the Snark Missile Program. Bretcher retired from Northrop in 1952.