Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Milton O. Thompson 1926-1993

Milton O. Thompson logged 4,000 hours in more than 60 different aircraft types. He was the first person to fly a wingless lifting body, the lightweight M2-F1, in August 1963. He also piloted the heavyweight M2-F2 lifting body on its first flight in July 1966. Data from the program helped in the development of Space Shuttle orbiters.
Thompson was one of the 12 pilots to fly the X-15 rocket-powered research aircraft between 1959 and 1968. He flew the aircraft 14 times, reaching a maximum speed of 3,723, mph and a peak altitude of 214,100 feet on separate flights.
He was the first to fly the Rogallo Wing Hang Glider and the only civilian pilot selected by the Air Force for the X-20 Dyna Soar program.
Born in Minnesota in 1926, he began flying with the U.S. Navy at the age of 19. He graduated from the University of Washington and was employed by Boeing Aircraft as a flight test engineer. He joined NASA in 1956 and served as an engineer, research pilot, director of Research Projects, and Chief Engineer of the Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards AFB.
Thomas authored the book "At the Edge of Space," a story of the X-15 flight program, published by the Smithsonian Institution Press. He is a charter member of the Federal Senior Executive Services.
Thomas has been honored by NASA’s Distinguished Service, Outstanding Leadership and Exceptional Service Medals and the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive. He is a member of the Society of Experimental Test pilots and has received the Kincheloe Award, the AIAA’s Octave Chanute Award, NAA’s Elder Statesman of Aviation Award and the Aerospace Walk of Honor (1993).