Frank Duke 1932-
In 1952, during the Korean War, Frank joined the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aviation Cadet (NAVCAD). Upon receiving his Navy Wings, he was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps Reserve and joined Marine Corps Fighter Squadron 114 for jet fighter pilot training at the age of 21. There, he flew the McDonnell Douglas F2H-4 "Banshee". Subsequently, he was crossed trained in the Grumman F9F-6 swept wing "Cougar" and in several helicopter models as a helicopter transport pilot.
Following release from active duty, Frank completed college, receiving a degree in engineering. After a year as an Engineering Test Pilot for the Kaman Aircraft Corporation where he tested the U.S. Navy's H-2 "Seasprite" helicopter, he accepted a position as an Engineering Test Pilot with Boeing's Helicopter Division in Pennsylvania.
In 1962, he was selected to attend the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, MD.
Following the Navy school, he was made the Project Test Pilot on the Marine Corps CH-46 "Sea Knight" transport helicopter project. During this period, he conducted test flights to demonstrate specification compliance and structural airworthiness and was required to perform autorotational landings to water without supplemental flotation gear.
Frank flew four “first flights” in his career with Boeing. In the early 70's he
flew the first flight in a Boeing research helicopter designated the Model 347. On that flight, he flew the aircraft to its maximum level flight speed of approximately
170 mph. Later, a large tilt wing was added to better understand the potential of using a wing to off-load the rotor during higher “g” maneuvering. “G” sensitive flaps deflected proportional to load factor. The large wing was positioned vertically for hover to minimize rotor downwash impingement on the wing and rotated to the conventional wing position at approximately 60 knots. Frank’s second 1st flight was in this aircraft.
In the mid 70's he made the first flight of the YUH-61A helicopter as part of the UTTAS competition to replace the UH-1 “Huey”.
In the 1980's he was named Director, Model 360 Program and he made his 4th first flight in that aircraft. The Boeing Model 360 was a research aircraft built almost entirely of composite materials. The fuselage, aft rotor shaft, rotor blades, and rotor hubs were all of composite material with the purpose of advancing the company's knowledge and technical under- standing of the advantages of composite construction. In the course of this testing, Frank and his copilot flew the helicopter without thrust augmentation to a speed in excess of 245 mph, which is believed to be the fastest of any helicopter built in the U.S.
He retired from Boeing after 31 years as a test pilot and having achieved the position of Director of Flight Test.