Col Robert C. Ettinger 1937-
Ettinger’s test pilot career began as a child. “As a boy I was interested in all aspects of aviation,” Ettinger remembers. “I made a set of wings from lath and tarpaper and experimented by jumping off the garage roof with them. I also attached the wings to my bicycle.” His interest continued into high school, where he read books about test pilots, and later in college, where he joined the Air Force ROTC.
Ettinger entered the USAF in 1959. Following tours in the F-102 and F-4, including 100 missions over North Vietnam, he graduated from the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB in 1969. In 1973, he joined the Lightweight Fighter Joint Test Force at Edwards, flying the YF-16 and YF-17.
By 1980, he had more side stick flight control research and development time than any other pilot. Ettinger returned to Edwards in 1985 as the Air Force Flight Test Center Vice Commander during one of the busiest time in its history. During his 27 year military career, he survived two ejections: a mid-air collision of two F-102s over the Sea of Japan in 1963 and an F-104 engine fire over Edwards in 1969.
He retired from the military in 1987 and joined the civilian aerospace industry. From 1997-2006 he was the Manager of Flight Test for Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk Program, for which he was awarded the SETP's James H. Doolittle Award for outstanding technical management in 2005.
Ettinger’s role in the aerospace industry goes beyond professional involvement. He has participated in sailplane aerobatics at air shows throughout the country, including the Edwards AFB Open House. He also gained notoriety as a builder of paper airplanes, winning honors for his plane modeled after the Wright Brothers Flyer that could rotate in a 6 ½ -loop flight pattern and land in an inverted position.
Ettinger’s many honors include the Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters, an Air Medal with 12 Oak Leaf Clusters and the prestigious Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of the USAF Test Pilot School and an SETP Fellow and Past President. Ettinger has logged over 6,600 hours in over 100 aircraft and sailplane types