Thursday, August 23, 2007

Beryl A. Erickson 1916-2006

Beryl Arthur Erickson was instrumental in the development of many of America's most significant aircraft, including those that defined the Cold War. Erickson served as the production test pilot for some of America's finest bombers, fighters, and cargo aircraft - including the B-24 Liberator, C-54 Skymaster, P-38 Lightning, P-51 Mustang, and the B-25 Mitchell.

Upon receiving his pilot's license, Erickson began giving flying lessons and earned the reputation of a pilot who could safely fly any airplane. In 1937, he accepted a position with American Airlines flying DC-3 airliners from Burbank, California to Dallas, Texas. In 1940, he resigned from American Airlines to fly as a test pilot for Consolidated Aircraft.

The War Years
During the war, Erickson continued his career with the wartime Air Transport Service, flying LB-30 transports (the cargo version of the B-24 Liberator) from California to the South Pacific. After World War II, he was the test pilot for the giant Convair B-36 Peacemaker, America's first intercontinental strategic bomber. In 1942, he moved to Fort Worth to become the chief test pilot for the Consolidated XV-32 Dominator heavy bomber program.

Erickson commanded the first flight of the world's finest supersonic bomber, the Convair B-58 Hustler. The aircraft was designed for one reason - to quickly deploy a nuclear bomb to an enemy target and return safely. From its conception in the late 1940s, the B-58 took bomber performance from 400 mph to 1,400 mph in only 10 years! While testing the aircraft on June 29, 1957, Erickson became one of a small group of pilots to exceed Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. The B-58 continues to hold the distinction of being the world's only military supersonic bomber capable of speeds of Mach 2. By the time he retired in 1962, Beryl Erickson had logged over 25,000 hours testing military and civilian aircraft, many of which have provided the foundation for today's military bombers and fighters as well as commercial airlines.