Sunday, April 03, 2011
Bill Ross joined the Army Air Force in 1944, graduating three years later in the first class of students to fly the Air Force's first jet fighter. He spent four years as a test pilot, flying a variety of fighters, including F-51s, F-100s, and even a MIG-15, which a North Korean pilot had surrendered for $100,000. He joined McDonnell Aircraft in 1955 as a test pilot. The next year, he faced a harrowing experience flying a Voodoo F-101 with maneuvering problems that he was trying to help fix. He purposely pushed the fighter into a horizontal flat spin at 40,000 feet, with the nose and tail swapping positions about every four seconds so he could document problems. He fought dead controls down to 15,000 feet, then bailed out. He injured his back, hitting the earth with his parachute billowing in a high wind. He spent four months in recovery. Bill Ross was vice president and general manager of the F-15 Eagle program. In 1986, he became president of the aircraft division during a period when the Cold War was easing, production slowed and layoffs occurred. He retired in 1990.