Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jack Zimmerman 1921-2002

Jack Zimmerman was the chief test pilot on the Cessna helicopter during it's life span from 1952 to 1963.

Jack Zimmerman grew up in Chicago during the depression and attended the University of Illinois, Champagne, studying engineering and physical education just before WW2. He dropped out of college to enlist in the Army Air Corps; his older brother Carl had joined the Air Corps and Jack's twin brother, Jerry, had joined the Navy. He graduated from flight school in 1943 as a brand new Second Lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army.

Jack became one of the Army's first helicopter pilots. The Army convened its first class at Freeman Field, Indiana to teach experienced pilots how to fly the new helicopter. Jack was sent off to basic helicopter training.

Following training, Jack was assigned to the Aircraft Repair Unit Floating (ARU-F) out of Mobile, Alabama. The concept of the ARU-F was to create a floating repair facility for Army Air Corps aircraft and use the helicopter as a logistic arm flying parts from ship to shore. The US Army and not the US Navy developed the initial use of helicopters at sea. Some of the Liberty freighters had the small postage stamp landing field near the bow of the ship. Censors deleted all mention of this tiny landing platform during the war due to security reasons. It was believed that the kamikaze pilots might single out the ARU-F's if they knew of the ships mission. The unit went aboard a Liberty Ship, the S.S. Major General Olds, which was manned by merchant marine sailors, commanded by an Army Colonel and had a full machine shop which enabled it to maintain and manufacture aircraft parts at sea or in port.

A typical flight operation could be to deliver a part for B-29s at Tinian Island and Jack flew a photographic mission on Tinian to record the Enola Gay although he didn't know the purpose at the time.

After WW2, Jack worked as a helicopter pilot doing commercial work in various locations including Alaska, prior to becoming a test pilot for Seibel Helicopter and then Cessna. In 1963, Jack went to work as a test pilot for Hughes Helicopters where he retired in 1982 after test work on the new AH-64 Apache. 39 years of test flying, 1943 to 1982

Jack set many FAI records in the YOH-6A helicopter in 1966 including time-to-climb, distance over a closed course and altitude, several of which are still valid