Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Col Kenneth O. 'KO' Chilstrom 1921-2022

Ken Chilstrom (Col, USAF, Ret.) is a decorated combat veteran, and a legend in the flight test community. Following World War II, he graduated from the very first test pilot class, along with famous ace Dick Bong, Bob Cardenas, and Glen Edwards (Edward AFB is named for him). In 1946, Col Chilstrom became chief pilot, Fighter Test Division at Wright Field supervising some of the most famous US test pilots in history: Pete Everest, Dick Johnson, Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover. He also flew captured German aircraft such as the ME-109, FW-190 & ME-262. In a bit of early Cold War capability demonstration, he flew the very first "jet mail" - a fast postal service demonstration (image above), in the P-80 Shooting Star: the U.S.'s very first operational jet fighter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Corwin H. 'Corky' Meyer 1920-2011

Corky Meyer was born on April 14, 1920 in Springfield, Illinois. After High School he attended the University of Illinois and went on to M.I.T. Corky received his flight training and obtained his commercial, instructor, instrument and multi-engine ratings from the Civilian Pilot Training Program in1940 – 42.
After working as a trainee for Pan American Airways, Corky joined Grumman in 1942 and soon became the project pilot for the F6F Hellcat, F7F Tigercat, F8F Bearcat, F9F Panther, XF10F-1 Jaguar, and the F11F Tiger series.
He has flown many of the high-performance aircraft made in the 1940s including a Japanese A6M Zero.
In 1947 Corky performed first flight of the XF9F-2 Panther, Grumman’s first jet fighter. He was head of Grumman Flight Operations at Edwards Air Force Base from 1952-56. In 1954 he became the first civilian pilot to qualify aboard an aircraft carrier, when he landed aboard USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39) flying an F9F-6 Cougar.

In 1967 Corky was elected Vice President of the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation guiding the company through its many reorganizations. In 1969 he was elected to the board of directors of the Grumman Aerospace Corporation, and in 1972 became senior Vice President of GAC. In 1974 Corky became President and CEO of Grumman American, a commercial aircraft subsidiary. Before he retired from his 36-year career with Grumman in 1978 Corky had tested and evaluated more than 125 different types of both military and commercial jet and piston-engine aircraft. He continued his career in aviation as president and CEO of the Enstrom Helicopter Corporation and later Falcon Jet Corporation.
Corky was inducted into the Carrier Aviation Test Pilots Hall of Honor at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston, South Carolina in 1995. On May 9, 1997, at a banquet held at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Florida, he was named Honorary Naval Aviator No. 23.
His other achievements include being a founding member, as well as a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (and accepting the James H. Doolittle Award in 1971), an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Wright Stuff Association – Wright Field World War Two Test Pilots Association, the Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association of Golden Eagles, and the Aerospace Walk of Honor.

Robert 'Bob' K. Smyth 1927 -2012

Bon Smyth in the cockpit of the A2F with Bruce Tuttle Program Manager and Larry Mead VP Grumman,taken at the Navy Acceptance Ceremony 29th April 1960

Bob Smyth was born in New York City on July 17, 1927. After one semester of college, he entered the U.S. Navy in June of 1945. While serving in the U.S. Navy, Bob furthered his college education and entered Naval Flight Training. He graduated in 1948.
Bob was assigned to both fighter and night fighter squadrons flying Grumman F8F Bearcats, Chance Vought F4U Corsairs, and McDonnell F2H Banshees. He graduated U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1952, and served as exchange officer with the British Royal Navy flying De Havilland DH-112 Sea Venoms in 1953-54.
In 1955 Bob resigned his commission from the U.S. Navy and accepted a position as an Engineering Test Pilot with the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. He flight-tested the F9F Cougar and F11F Tiger series, and participated in Gulfstream I Test and Certification program from 1955 to 1960.

Bob performed the first flight of the A2F-1 (A-6A) Intruder in April 1960 and continued with the test phase of the program until November 1962. He was then appointed as a consulting pilot and astronaut liaison on the Apollo Lunar Module program. In the spring 1966 he left the LM program and became the project pilot for the Gulfstream II, Grumman’s entry into the corporate jet market. Bob performed first flight on the Gulfstream II in October 1966 and participated with its test and certification program.
In 1967 Bob was appointed Chief Test Pilot for Grumman. Several years later on December 21, 1970, along with fellow Grumman Test Pilot Bill Miller, he performed the first flight of the best fighter aircraft ever produced, the F-14A Tomcat. He also holds the distinction, as well as Bill Miller, as the first crew to eject from an F-14 on December 30 just a little over a week from first flight. In 1972 Bob attended a program for Senior Executives at MIT, and was named Director of Flight Test in 1974. He was also the project pilot for the Gulfstream III, performed first flight in December 1979, and continued with its test and certification program.
Bob left Grumman in 1981 and joined the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Savannah, Georgia as Director of Flight Operations. In 1985 he was promoted to Vice President of Flight Ops and Quality Control. Bob also participated in most of the Gulfstream III and IV record setting flights around world, over the poles, etc.
Some of Bob’s accomplishments in aviation include certified Airline Transport Pilot (G-I, II, III, and IV), and single engine land, multi-engine land and sea aircraft. He is a Fellow of Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and was elected to the Carrier Test Pilots Hall of Honor, on board USS Yorktown, Charleston, SC in 1991.

Bruce Peterson 1933-2006

Bruce Peterson was NASA Dryden research pilot from the early 1960s until 1967. A former US Marine Corps pilot, he joined NASA in 1960 as an aeronautical engineer. He was one of the project pilots on the Rogallo paraglider research vehicle (Parasev) program. The Parasev 1-A and 1-B evaluated the use of an inflatable, flexible wing for the recovery of manned space vehicles, with over 100 research flights made between 1962 and 1964.
On December 3, 1963 he flew the M2-F1 Lifting Body, his first of 15 flights in these wingless research vehicles. He flew the M2-F1 ten times, and made the first flight of the HL-10 on December 22, 1966. Peterson retired from research flying after his fourth flight in the M2-F2. He lost his sight in one eye as a result of a landing accident in the aircraft on May 10, 1967.
Peterson continued at NASA Dryden as the Research Project Engineer on the Digital Fly-By-Wire program of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and later assumed responsibility for Safety and Quality Assurance for Dryden.
A native of Washburn, North Dakota, Peterson was born on May 23, 1933. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles, and California State Polytechnic College at San Luis Obispo. Peterson received his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the latter in 1960.
He is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Robert A. Champine 1921-2003

Bob Champine was a naval aviator during World War II and joined NACA at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1947 (now Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.). He transferred the next year to NACA's High Speed Flight Research Station at Muroc.

Champine researched more than 155 different aircraft, rocket-powered air vehicles, helicopters, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) systems and gliders.
The NACA legend was the sixth man (third civilian) to break the sound barrier in the Bell XS-1. He piloted NACA flight research in the Douglas D-558-I No. 3 Skystreak and the Douglas D-558-II No. 2 Skyrocket at Muroc. During the next two years he was flying all three of the hottest aircraft in the nation, making 13 flights in the X-1, eight flights in the D-558-I and 12 flights in the D-558-II.

He returned to Langley in the 1950s where he continued flight research projects, including simulated landing missions of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) and worked on VTOL systems. He retired as NASA's senior test pilot in 1979.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Thomas C. McMurtry 1935-2015

Thomas McMurtry joined NASA as a research test pilot in 1967. The first project he was assigned to as the project pilot was the F-8 Supercritical Wing project. He piloted its first flight on March 9, 1971 and that of the AD-1 on December 21, 1979. He was project pilot on the F-8 Supercritical Wing Airplane and the AD-1. He was co-project pilot on the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire Airplane, the 747 Shuttle Carrier Airplane and performed digital electronic F-15 engine efficiency control tests. On November 26, 1975, the X-24B dropped from the sky for the last time, piloted on its 36th flight by McMurtry.
He co-piloted the 747 Carrier Aircraft as it transported the Shuttle Enterprise to its first launch on August 12, 1977. McMurtry logged over 11,000 hours of flying time since earning his pilot's wings in 1958. A graduate of the United States Naval Test Pilot School, he has flown many aircraft including the U-2, X-24B, F-8A, AD-1, YF-12C, F-104, F-15 and NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. McMurtry became chief research test pilot and then Chief of the Research Aircraft Division for the NASA Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility. He eventually rose to be the Director for Flight Operations at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.
McMurtry has been honored with the Society of Experimental Test Pilots' Iven C. Kincheloe Award for his work with the AD-1 Oblique Wing Airplane Program in 1982 and received Presidential recognition with the rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service. He was also awarded three NASA Exceptional Service Medals and the Aerospace Walk of Honor.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Charles 'Chuck' Tucker 1919 -2010

Charles Tucker made the first flight of the X-4 at Edwards on December 15, 1948. He later flew all subsequent Northrop flights of the X-4 research plane. An experimental test pilot for Lockheed and Northrop, Tucker also piloted the extremely high-risk stall and spin tests on the YB-49 Flying Wing jet bomber.
Charles ( Chuck ) Tucker was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on Dec. 23 1919. Tucker first developed an interest in aerospace while attending Pasadena City College, when a classmate who had completed a Civilian Pilot Training Program invited him on a flight. After that flight, Tucker became determined to learn how to fly. He received an Associate’s Degree in English in 1941, and joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in January 1942.
During WWII, Tucker was assigned to the 23rd fighter group in China, where he scored four air combat victories. He returned to the United States in 1943. It was then that Tucker maintains he became a test pilot. “I’ve felt that I was a test pilot since I came back from China, being assigned to the 412th fighter group in the Air Force,” he recalls, “we had P-59s, America’s first jet, and every flight was an adventure.” He separated from the service in 1946 and flew production tests on P-80s for Lockheed. In 1948, Tucker became an experimental test pilot and Assistant Chief of Northrop’s Missiles Division, where he flew on F-89 and YB-49 Flying Wing bomber programs. He also participated in the National Air Races from 1946 - 1949.
Tucker gained notoriety for his stall and spin tests in the YB-49 and for his test flights in the highly experimental X-4, a small twin-jet airplane that had no horizontal tail surfaces. He flew a total of 30 flights in the X-4. His experiences with this aircraft inspired him to design the first full-face shield helmet, for which he was awarded a U.S. patent.
In 1955, Tucker became an experimental test pilot for Lockheed, working with XF-104 and T2V projects. He retired from Lockheed as Chief Pilot in 1975. Tucker spent a great deal of his career at Edwards, and considers watching Muroc Army Airfield grow into the Edwards AFB we know today to be one of his fondest memories. Tucker logged over 10,000 hours on a wide range of aircraft, including over 2,000 hours in jet aircraft. He was a founder and Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lionel Peter Twiss OBE DSC* 1921-2011

Peter Twiss joined Fleet Air Arm as Naval Airman 2nd Class in 1939 and trained at HMS St Vincent. In 1940 he trained at 14 Elementary Flying school Elmdon and at FTS Netheravon on Fairey Battles North American Harvards and Hawker Harts. In September 1940 he was commissioned and posted to Yeovilton flying Gloster Gladiators, Skuas and Rocs. He then converted to Bristol Blenheims at Andover. In November he joined 771 Squadron. 1941 he went to 759 Sqn Yeovilton flying Gladiators and Hurricanes, 804 Squadron Sydenham Northern Ireland and Gibraltar for escort duties including time on merchant ships fitted with catapults.
1942 he flew Fulmars with 807 Squadron HMS Eagle and HMS Argus on the fleet convoys to Malta where he was awarded his DSC. He was part of the 1st Seafire Squadron fighter support for HMS Furious during the North African landings at Oran and Operation Torch and was awarded the Bar to his DSC. In 1943 he joined Naval Fighter Interception Unit for Night Fighter training flying Beaufighters and Mosquitos on intruder patrols over the continent where he shot down 2 enemy aircraft. March 1945 he joined the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down. In 1946 he joined the Fairey Aviation Company as a test pilot and flew Firefly, Spearfish, helicopters, Rotodyne, Gannet, and Fairey Delta 1 & 2. In 1955 he was awarded the Queens Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air and the Derry Richards Memorial Medal In 1956 he was appointed Chief test pilot and on 10th March that year he piloted the Delta 2 on a successful attempt at the World Absolute Speed record achieving an average speed of 1132 mph. He was also awarded the OBE for his services to test flying and breaking the world speed record. In 1960 he went to Fairey Marine in charge of power boats following the takeover by Westland Aircraft.

MGen Fred J. Ascani, USAF 1917-2010

Major General Fred J. Ascani was one of the "Men of Mach 1." As Executive of the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio, he was involved in selecting Chuck Yeager as the pilot to surpass Mach 1 in the X-1.
Setting his life's goal at nine years of age, Fred Ascani earned his wings in 1942 and entered combat. He commanded the 816th Bombardment Squadron, completing 53 missions in the B-17, including delivery of supplies in German-occupied Slovakia to partisans and the evacuation of escaping Allied airmen.
He arrived at Wright Field and flight test activities in 1944. In 1947, he assisted Colonel Albert Boyd, Chief of the Flight Test Division, in the selection of the aircrew that would make the successful assault on the "sound barrier".
He arrived at Edwards Air Force Base in 1950, and, as the Director of Experimental Flight Test and Engineering as well as the first vice commander of the new Air Force Flight Test Center, he was an active test pilot, flying more than 50 experimental prototype and research aircraft including the XB-42, X-1, X-4 and XF-92A. In a highlight of his career, he flew an F-86E at the 1951 National Air Races establishing a new world speed record of 635.686 miles per hour over a 100-kilometer closed course. In 1961, as the system program director for the XB-70, he directed the development of the Mach 3 bomber prototype.
A 1946 graduate of the Flight Performance School, General Ascani had flown over 5,400 hours. His military decorations included two Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals and two Army Commendation Medals, He had been presented with the Thompson and the MacKay Trophies in 1951, the De La Vaulx Medal, the Croix de Guerre, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. He was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997, selected as an Eagle by the Flight Test Historical Foundation in 1997 and by the Gathering of Eagles International organization in 1998 and named to the Aerospace Walk of Honor.