Sunday, April 05, 2020

Thomas Walter Gillespie 1924-2017

Tom Gillespie enrolled in college on a football scholarship at Virginia Polytechnic Institute VPI (VA Tech) and to the flight training school offered by the Navy V- 5 at VPI. Due to World War II, he dropped out of college and finished his flight training and flew anti-submarine patrol missions( the plane TBM avenger) in World War II. He returned as a flight instructor when the war ended. He returned to VPI after discharge and then transferred to Saint Louis University with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Two weeks after graduating, he was recalled into the Marine Corps for the Korean War as a fighter pilot flying the F4U corsair fighter jet.

Tom later completed the air force experimental flight test pilot school as a civilian and was ranked in top five out of This flight school was a prerequisite for the space astronaut program, including the original Mercury Seven to include Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper, who he performed better than. He qualified to be one of the first astronauts in space with the Mercury 7 astronauts but a last-minute decision excluded all civilian candidates; thereby excluding Tom from being an original astronaut.

Tom continued his storied aviation career with stints at general motors with the f84 thunderstruck, Beech Craft Lear Jet and Vice President of Piper Aircraft. He finished his career running flight safety academy flight school in Vero Beach, Florida.