Saturday, October 27, 2007

Joe Dobronski 1927-2015

Joe Dobronski was born in the in the mid-1920's in the western hills of Pennsylvania. The grandson of Lithuanian immigrants who fled that country to escape early Bolshevik oppression, Joe became fascinated with flight as a young teenager in the late 30's and early 40's when war seemed imminent and patriotism ran high. During high school, Joe was determined to have an aviation career and initially joined the Army Air Corp as an Army aviation cadet, but the war ended in 1945, ending his short-lived aviation career as well. A young man well acquainted with adversity as he and his family struggled through the great depression, Joe was determined to fly and joined the Navy's V-5 program, a naval aviation college program that took Joe to Worchester Polytechnic Institute and Cornell University. He finally received his coveted Naval Aviator designation in 1947 and flew in the Attack Squadron VA-1L, which later became the Aircraft Development Squadron VX-3 where Joe's spirit was infused with the desire to help develop and test fighter aircraft. After his discharge in 1949 Joe continued his flying career in the Navy reserve until 1954 while simultaneously attending Northrop Aeronautical Institute.
After graduation from the Institute in 1951, he joined McDonnell Aircraft in St Louis as a Flight Test Engineer; became a production test pilot in 1953 flying the F2H Banshee, and was promoted to experimental pilot after graduation from the USAF Test Pilot's School in 1954.
As an experimental test pilot, and later in 1966 as Chief Test Pilot, he helped develop the Demon, Voodoo, Phantom II, Eagle, Harrier, Hornet and other experimental aircraft along with a three jet helicopter. Joe became Director of Test Operations in 1972 and Director of Flight Test and Operations in 1976.
After retiring in 1984, Joe served as Chief Pilot for Wings of Hope, a humanitarian organization where he spent the next fifteen years flying medical missions in Central America and delivering aircraft for missions in Belize, Botswana South Africa, and the Galapagos Islands.With over 1700 flight instructor hours, he is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.