Saturday, November 11, 2006

Robert M ‘Bob’ Robbins 1916-2005

Air Force test pilot Guy Townsend (left) with Bob Robbins
XB-47 Take off on maiden flight
Roll out of the Prototype XB-47

After famed Boeing Experimental Test Pilot Eddie Allen and his crew were killed in the 18 February 1943 fire and crash of the #2 XB-29, Robert M. Robbins became the next Boeing Experimental Test Pilot for the #1 XB-29 flight test program. During the last 22 months of World War II he was the Project Test Pilot and Aircraft Commander on every #1 XB-29 test flight - 312 flights totaling 458 hours. The #1 XB-29 was appropriately named "THE FLYING GUINEA PIG" because of its extensive use for experimental and developmental testing of new ideas and changes.
Bob Robbins will be remembered as being the Test Pilot of the XB-47 prototype that first flew on 17 December 1947, with fellow test pilot Scott Osler. The aircraft flew from Boeing Field in Seattle to the Moses Lake Airfield in central Washington State, in a flight that lasted 52 minutes. There were no major problems, except the newer radical design and shape made the plane hard to stop on the shorter runways back then until the drag chute concept was utilized. Bob had originally been skeptical about the XB-47, saying that before the initial flight he had "prayed to God to please help me" through the flight. The aircraft was so unusual that he simply didn't know if it would fly. Robbins presently realized that he had an extraordinary aircraft.
He finished phase one of the XB-47 program, then turned the program over to the Air Force in July of 1948. Guy Townsend was the Air Force test pilot who flew phase two.
He the got a job as assistant project engineer on the B-47B production program. From there it was typical project engineer and program management assignments for the next 30 years.