Saturday, September 01, 2007
Colonel Mervin Leroy Evenson was the first military test pilot to fly the F-4C Phantom. He tested the SR-71 and, after retiring from the US Air Force, tested the B-1A. As Rockwell International’s Chief Test Pilot, he flew the first flight of the B-1B aircraft in October 1984 and was the first pilot to fly more than 1,000 hours in that aircraft. Evenson served in Korea and Vietnam, flying over 150 combat missions and testing a new laser guided bomb. He graduated from the USAF Test Pilot School in 1959. His first flight as a test pilot was in a U-2 aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base. At Edwards, Evenson continued testing the U-2 and later served as Project Pilot for the F-4C. He also flew supersonic flight test missions in the YF-12/SR-71 which included firing a missile at design speed and altitude and was the project pilot on the CL-901 demonstration fighter aircraft and chief of the Flight Test Division of SR-71 testing. After retiring from the Air Force in 1976, he became an experimental test pilot for Rockwell on the B-1. Evenson wanted to become a test pilot even before he joined the Air Force. He says watching movies of World War II and the early flight testing escapades excited him. He began to pursue the dream of becoming a test pilot patiently, and his efforts paid off. Today, Evenson is said to have more flight time at Mach 3 than any other test pilot in the world. A Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Evenson’s decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Royal Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Vietnam and Korean Service Medals and 11 Air Medals. He logged 600 hours piloting the U-2. He also flew the F-102 Supersonic Jet Interceptor, the F-4E, RF-4 and F-104 bringing his total flight time to 8,000 hours.