Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Charles Alfred “Al” McDaniel, Jr 1920-2013

Charles Alfred “Al” McDaniel, Jr., SETP Fellow and Charter Member, made his last flight on 16 January 2013. 
Charles McDaniel (right) with Ralph Donnell, Phoenix missile testing on F111B

Planes were his passion from a very young age. Also a gifted artist and draftsman, he studied architecture at Santa Monica Junior College and USC for 2 years before entering the Army Air Corps in 1942, followed by a rare opportunity to enter Test Pilot Training at Wright Field, Ohio. 

Al began his testing career in 1943 as Assistant Chief of Flight Test at San Bernardino Air Base and eventually test flew every type of plane flown in WWII. A skilled aviator, he never left L.A. during the war, as his combined skills of aviator, aviation mechanic and draftsman were invaluable in the reparation of damaged aircraft, so he couldn’t be spared to go off and fight a war. In fact, during that time he could walk home for lunch.
After the war he joined the California Air National Guard, under revered commanding officer, General Clarence Schoop; “Shoopy,” as Al called him. One day in 1949, Shoopy received a call from his good friend, Howard Hughes. “Hey, Shoopy,” Howard boomed through the phone in his twangy, demanding voice, “I need two good pilots over here, ya got any?”  Brief moment of silence, then Shoopy said, “I sure do, Howard.”  “Well send ‘em over; your recommendation is good enough for me!”  Al and Bart Warren (later killed in the Grumman F111B) were hired sight unseen. 

Thus began a 38-year career, testing aircraft, managing these operations, flying as Howard Hughes’ personal pilot for 8 years, and, along with 64 others, including Neil Armstrong and Scott Crossfield, founding The Society of Experimental Test Pilots.   He was also responsible for the design of the SETP logo, which he was very proud of.  Al retired from Hughes in 1986