Friday, November 17, 2006

Albert (Al) W. Blackburn 1923-2011

Al Blackburn is an engineer and test pilot who graduated from the US Naval Academy as a Marine, fought at Okinawa, returned to the States, and became a carrier-based fighter pilot. After leaving the service in 1949, he got a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then was recalled during the Korean war and spent a couple of years test flying for the Navy at the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland. In 1954, he became an engineering test pilot for North American Aviation in Los Angeles. At the company's Palmdale flight test facility, he earned the title of Glider King when, within one two-week period, he experienced unrelightable flame-outs in three successive F-86 Sabrejet flights and managed to land all three craft. In 1957, he was asked to participate in the resurrected zero-length-launch project, and flew the maiden flight of the F100ZEL.

He later saw government service in the Department of Defense and with the Federal Aviation Administration where he was Assistant Administrator for Policy, Planning, and International Aviation. He is a charter member, founding director, and third president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots..