Thursday, August 23, 2007

Richard "Dick" M. Wenzell 1922-1987

The first prototype of the "YA3J-1 Vigilante", as it was formally designated, was rolled out on 16 May 1958. Initial flight was on 31 August 1958, with North American chief test pilot Dick Wenzel at the controls.

A combat pilot in World War II and Korea, during which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous Air Medals. In 1948 he attended the initial Naval Test Pilot School class at Patuxent River where he graduated number one. Following his naval service he became a test pilot for North American Aviation and later, chief test pilot. He was the first to fly the T-2 Buckeye and the A-5 Vigilante. He concluded a 25 year career with North American Aviation/North American Rockwell as the Director of Flight Operations & Logistics. During his aviation career he flew 63 types of military and commercial aircraft. He was a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a member of Quiet Birdmen. He was inducted into the Carrier Test Pilot Hall of Fame in 1988.