|Translate :||A Biographie des pilotes|
Milton 0. Thompson was a research pilot, Chief Engineer and Director of Research Projects during a long career at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. Thompson was hired as an engineer at the flight research facility on March 19, 1956, when it was still under the auspices of the NACA. He became a research pilot in January 1958.
On August 16, 1963 Thompson became the first person to fly a lifting body, the lightweight M2-F1. The plywood and steel-tubing prototype was flown as a glider after releasing from an R4D tow plane. He flew it a total of 47 times, and also made the first five flights of the all-metal M2-F2 lifting body, beginning July 12, 1966.
Lifting bodies were wingless vehicles designed to generate lift and aerodynamic stability from the shape of their bodies. They were flown at Dryden to study and validate the concept of safely maneuvering and landing a low lift-over-drag vehicle designed for reentry from space. Data from the program helped in the development of the Space Shuttles.
Thompson was also one of the 12 NASA, Air Force, and Navy pilots to fly the X-15 rocket-powered research aircraft between 1959 and 1968. He began flying X-15s on October 29, 1963, only a couple months after his first Lifting Body flight. He flew the aircraft 14 times during the following two years, reaching a maximum speed of 3712 mph (Mach 5.48) and a peak altitude of 214,100 feet on separate flights.
The X-15 program provided a wealth of data on aerodynamics, thermodynamics, propulsion, flight controls, and the physiological aspects of high-speed, high-altitude flight.
In 1962, Thompson was selected by the Air Force to be the only civilian test pilot to fly in the X-20 Dyna-Soar program that was intended to launch a human into Earth orbit and recover with a horizontal ground landing. The program was canceled before construction of the vehicle began.
Thompson concluded his active flying career in 1967, becoming Chief of Research Projects two years later. In 1975 he was appointed Chief Engineer and retained the position until his death on August 6, 1993.
Thompson was also a member of NASA's Space Transportation System Technology Steering Committee during the 1970s. In this role he was successful in leading the effort to design the Orbiters for power-off landings rather than increase weight with air-breathing engines for airliner-type landings. His committee work earned him NASA's highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal.
Born in Crookston, Minn., on May 4, 1926, Thompson began flying with the U.S. Navy as a pilot trainee at the age of 19. He subsequently served during World War II with duty in China and Japan.
Following six years of active naval service, Thompson entered the University of Washington, in Seattle, Wash. He graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. He remained in the Naval Reserves during college, and continued flying—not only naval aircraft but crop dusters and forest-spraying aircraft.
After college graduation, Thompson became a flight test engineer for the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle. During his two years at Boeing, he flew on the sister aircraft of Dryden's B-52B air-launch vehicle.
Thompson was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and received the organization's Iven C. Kincheloe trophy as the Outstanding Experimental Test Pilot of 1966 for his research flights in the M2 lifting bodies. He also received the 1967 Octave Chanute award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for his lifting-body research.
In 1990, the National Aeronautics Association selected Thompson as one of the year's recipients of its Elder Statesman of Aviation awards. The awards have been presented each year since 1955 to individuals for contributions "of significant value over a period of years" in the field of aeronautics.
Thompson wrote several technical papers, was a member of NASA's Senior Executive Service, and received several NASA awards.
Joseph A. Walker was a Chief Research Pilot at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center during the mid-1960s. He joined the NACA in March 1945, and served as project pilot at the Edwards flight research facility on such pioneering research projects as the D-558-1, D-558-2, X-1, X-3, X-4, X-5, and the X-15. He also flew programs involving the F-100, F-101, F-102, F-104, and the B-47.
Walker made the first NASA X-15 flight on March 25, 1960. He flew the research aircraft 24 times and achieved its fastest speed and highest altitude. He attained a speed of 4,104 mph (Mach 5.92) during a flight on June 27, 1962, and reached an altitude of 354,300 feet on August 22, 1963 (his last X-15 flight).
He was the first man to pilot the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) that was used to develop piloting and operational techniques for lunar landings. Walker was born February 20, 1921, in Washington, Pa. He lived there until graduating from Washington and Jefferson College in 1942, with a B.A. degree in Physics. During World War II he flew P-38 fighters for the Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Seven Oak Clusters.
Walker was the recipient of many awards during his 21 years as a research pilot. These include the 1961 Robert J. Collier Trophy, 1961 Harmon International Trophy for Aviators, the 1961 Kincheloe Award and 1961 Octave Chanute Award. He received an honorary Doctor of Aeronautical Sciences degree from his alma mater in June of 1962. Walker was named Pilot of the Year in 1963 by the National Pilots Association.
He was a charter member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and one of the first to be designated a Fellow. He was fatally injured on June 8, 1966, in a mid-air collision between an F-104 he was piloting and the XB-70.
Major General "Bob" White, USAF, began his military career like many another feisty American teenager in World War II. Eager to serve his country as a fighter pilot, he entered the Army as an eighteen-year-old aviation cadet in November, 1942. In spite of the wartime tempo gripping the entire nation, military flight training throughout the war was thorough and painstaking, giving new American pilots far more flying experience than their Axis enemies. It was not until February, 1944, that he won his coveted pilot's wings and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Forces. Fighter training followed, and Lt White finally joined the 354th Fighter Squadron of the 355th Fighter Group (Eighth Air Force) in England in July, 1944.
The group, which had been newly-equipped with high-powered P-51 Mustang fighter planes, was flying bomber escort missions over Germany. After the Normandy landings and the Allied breakout at St. Lo, Lt White and his comrades also flew ground attack missions to cut enemy supply lines, as well as carrying out fighter sweeps against the Luftwaffe. He continued this hazardous flying until February, 1945, when he was shot down by heavy antiaircraft fire over Germany during his 52nd combat mission. He was captured, and remained a prisoner of war until his prison camp was liberated two months later.
Peace And War Again
Following the victory, he returned to the United States and enrolled as a student at New York University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1951. During his student years, White remained a member of the Air Force Reserve at Mitchel Air Force Base in New York, where his old squadron had transferred after the war. The crisis in Korea soon intruded however, and his first college degree was no sooner in hand than he found himself recalled to active duty in May, 1951. Back in uniform, he first served as a pilot and engineering officer with the 514th Troop Carrier Wing at Mitchel AFB. In February 1952, however, he was sent to Japan and assigned to the 40th Fighter Squadron as an F-80 pilot and flight commander until the summer of 1953.
The Scientific Pilot
Facing a crossroads in his career at the end of the Korean War, the youthful fighter pilot elected to remain on active duty and turned his steps to the advancement of scientific flight. From a system engineer's job at the Rome Air Development Center in New York, he soon traveled to California to attend the Air Force's Experimental Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB. Captain White graduated with Class 54C in January, 1955, and stayed on at Edwards as a working test pilot, flying and evaluating advanced models of the F-86K Sabre, F-89H Scorpion, and the new F-102
Delta Dart and the F-105B Thunderchief.
He became the Deputy Chief of the Flight Test Operations Division, and somewhat later was named Assistant Chief of the Manned Spacecraft Operations Branch.
Higher and Faster
His destiny was to change dramatically when the joint Air Force-Navy-NASA X-15 project moved into high gear in 1958. This project, designed to explore the problems connected with manned flight beyond the earth's atmosphere, required the world's most advanced research airplane to study the physical effects of flight at unprecedented speeds and altitudes. The solution was the X-15; North American Aviation's futuristic rocket-powered research aircraft, launched from a B-52 mother ship, was designed to probe to the very boundaries of atmospheric flight and beyond, and to yield invaluable data for the nation's developing space program.
Now a Major with well-honed flying and technical skills, White was designated the Air Force's primary pilot for the X-15 program in 1958. While the new plane was undergoing its initial tests, he attended the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, graduating in 1959. He then made his first X-15 flight on April 15, 1960, when the new aircraft was still fitted with only two small (16,000 lbs. total thrust) interim rocket engines. Four months later, still using the temporary engines, he took the experimental craft to an altitude of 136,000 feet above Rogers Dry Lake bed.
Thus began the series of flights reaching blazing speeds and altitudes which would soon earn the engineer-pilot high public exposure as well as professional acclaim. After the craft's 57,000 lb thrust YLR-99 engine was installed, he flew it to a speed of 2,275 mph in February, 1961, setting an unofficial world speed record. Over the next eight months, he became the first human to fly at Mach 4 and then at Mach 5. This amazing rise climaxed on November 9, when White reached a speed of 4,093 mph. This was 93 mph more than the plane was designed to achieve and made White the first human to fly a winged craft six times faster than the speed of sound. Following this he took the X-15 to a record-setting altitude of 314,750 feet on July 17, 1962, more than 59 miles above the earth's surface.
Flying at this altitude also qualified him for astronaut wings, and he became the first of the tiny handful of "Winged Astronauts" to achieve that coveted status without using a conventional spacecraft. President John F. Kennedy used the occasion to confer the most prestigious award in American aviation, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, jointly to White and three of his fellow X-15 pilots; NASA's Joseph Walker, CDR Forrest S. Peterson of the U.S. Navy, and North American Aviation test pilot Scott Crossfield. A day later, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay awarded Major White his new rating as a Command Pilot Astronaut.
The research pilot also received the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Service Medal and the Harmon International Trophy from the Ligue Internationale des Aviateurs for the most outstanding contribution to aviation for the year. Perhaps the most meaningful award to a test pilot, however, came from his peers: the Society of Experimental Test Pilot's Iven C. Kincheloe Award. None of these honors come a pilot's way for the mere breaking of flight records which was, after all, part of the very nature of the research program. Rather, they were professional recognition of his sustained and outstanding accomplishments in increasing human knowledge about the world of flight.
For all of the drama of high-performance research flight, however, White was still a line pilot in the Air Force. In October 1963, he returnedto the site of some of his wartime exploits in Germany, this time as operations officer for the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bitburg. Next, he achieved what most Air Force pilots consider to be the peak of a military career: command of an operational fighter squadron. He remained in command of the 53d Tactical Fighter Squadron until he returned to the United States in August, 1965. Then it was time to return to the classroom, this time to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, where he graduated in 1966. That same year, he received a Master of Science degree in business administration from The George Washington University. An assignment to the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) followed, as Chief of the Tactical Systems Office, F-111 Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
To War Again
Then, for the third time in his career, war intervened. In May, 1967, he went to Southeast Asia as Deputy Commander for Operations of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, stationed at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. The wing was flying F-105 Thunderchief tactical bombers, and during his assignment he flew 70 combat missions over North Vietnam. In October he was then transferred to Seventh Air Force Headquarters at Tan Son Nhut Airfield, Republic of Vietnam, where he served as Chief of the Attack Division in the Directorate of Combat Operations.
Research and Development
Then it was time to return to the world of research and development, and in June, 1968, he went back to Wright-Patterson AFB and AFSC, this time as Director of the Aeronautical Systems Division's F-15 Systems Program Office. Now a full Colonel, he was responsible for managing the development and production planning of the new F-15 Eagle weapons system, the air-superiority fighter which would enter the Air Force inventory in the mid-1970s and see the nation into the 21st Century.
Return to Edwards AFB
Colonel White's next assignment brought him back to Edwards AFB. Designated a selectee for the rank of Brigadier General, the 46-year-old officer assumed command of the Air Force Flight Test Center on July 31, 1970. A wide range of responsibilities came with this position: overseeing the research and developmental flight testing of both manned and unmanned aircraft and aerospace vehicles, and ensuring the continued operation of the Air Force Test Pilot School, to say nothing of the supervision of the Air Force's second-largest base and several thousand military and civilian personnel. A number of important testing programs were already underway:
Category II testing of the A-7D close air support plane, numerous system evaluations of the F-111 and FB-111A tactical bomber, and combined Category I-II testing of the immense C-5A Galaxy transport. During General White's command, evaluation began of a number of other aircraft vital to the Air Force in years to come: The F-15 Air Superiority Fighter, the A-X ground attack aircraft (eventually to become the A-10 of Gulf War fame), and the revolutionary E-3A Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft. In addition to his other duties during his tenure, General White completed the Naval Test Parachutist course and was awarded his parachutist's wings in October, 1971.
General White served at the Flight Test Center until October 17, 1972. The following month, he assumed the duties of Commandant, Air Force Reserve Officer's Training Corps. In February, 1975, he won his second star and in March became Chief of Staff of the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force.
Robert M. White retired from active duty with the Air Force as a Major General, in February, 1981.