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Test Pilots

Maj. Gen. Robert M. "Bob" White(USAF ret.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General White is a combat veteran from WWII where he fought in the European Theatre of Operations. Flying a P-51 for the 354th Fighter Squadron, part 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, 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. Following WWII White attended New York University where he earned a BSC degree in Electrical Engineering. In February 1952, however, White was sent to Japan and assigned to the 40th Fighter Squadron as an F-80 pilot and flight commander until the summer of 1953. General White was selected as prime USAF pilot for the X-15 program and made his first flight on April 15, 1960 when the aircraft was still fitted with its two small (16,000 lbs. total thrust) interim XLR-11 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. After the craft's 57,000 lb thrust XLR-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 an aircraft at Mach 4 and then at Mach 5. This amazing rise climaxed on Nov. 9, when White reached a speed of 4,093 mph/Mach 6.04. 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 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 White his new rating as a Command Pilot Astronaut.

 

It is astonishing to think that as of April 2005 General White has not yet been honored by the National Aviation Hall of Fame as an enshrinee. For up to date information regarding General White's NAHF enshrinement nomination please visit his official web site at www.bobwhitex15.net. For the full USAF biography of General White please click here.

 

 

X-20 pilots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 24 October 1957, the USAF Air Research and Development Command issued a proposal for a "Hypersonic Glide Rocket Weapon System" (Weapons System 464L): Dyna Soar. The proposal drew together the existing boost-glide proposals — as the USAF believed that a single vehicle could be designed to carry out all the bombing and reconnaissance tasks intended for the separate studies, and act as successor to the X-15 research program. The Dyna-Soar program was to be conducted in three stages: a research vehicle (Dyna-Soar I), a reconnaissance vehicle (Dyna-Soar II, previously Brass Bell), and a vehicle that would add strategic bombing capability (Dyna-Soar III, previously Robo). The first glide tests for Dyna-Soar I were expected to be carried out in 1963, followed by powered flights, reaching Mach 18, the following year. A robotic glide missile was to be deployed in 1968, with the fully-operational weapons system (Dyna-Soar III) expected to be deployed by 1974.

 

In March 1958, nine U.S. aerospace companies tendered for the Dyna-Soar contract. Of these, the field was narrowed to proposals from Bell and Boeing. Even though Bell had the advantage of six years' worth of design studies, the contract for the spaceplane was awarded to Boeing in June 1959 (by which time their original design had changed markedly and now closely resembled what Bell had submitted). In late 1961, the Titan III was eventually finalized as the launch vehicle. The Dyna-Soar was to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

 

In April, 1960, seven astronauts were secretly chosen for the Dyna-Soar program. Neil Armstrong and Bill Dana left the program in the summer of 1962. On September 19, 1962, Albert Crews had been added to the Dyna-Soar program and the names of the six Dyna-Soar astronauts were announced to the public:

 

Albert H. Crews, Jr. (Air Force) 1962-63; 1960-62; Henry C. Gordon (Air Force) 1960-63; Pete Knight (Air Force) 1960-63; Russell L. Rogers (Air Force) 1960-63; Milt Thompson (NASA) 1960-63 & James W. Wood (Air Force) 1960-63.

 

Biographies already exist on this website for Crews, Knight and Thompson so below you will find brief biographies of Henry Gordon, Russell Rogers and James Wood.

 

Henry C. Gordon

 

Henry Charles Gordon was born on December 23rd, 1925 in Valparaiso, Indiana. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering. He earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern California in 1966. Colonel Gordon was selected as an astronaut in the X-20 Dyna-Soar program in April 1960 and began training at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, California. He retired as an astronaut when the Dyna-Soar program was cancelled on December 10, 1963, having never flown in space. Henry Gordon passed away on September 24, 1996

 

Russell L. Rogers

 

Russell Lee Rogers was born on April 12, 1928 in Lawrence, Kansas. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado in 1958. Rogers was an experimental test pilot at Edwards AFB when selected for the X-20 program in April, 1960. He left the program on December 10, 1963 when it was cancelled. Lt. Colonel Rogers was killed in the explosion of his F-105 fighter plane near Kadena AFB, Okinawa, Japan on September 13, 1967.

 

James W. Wood

 

James Wayne Wood as born in Paragould, Arkansas on August 9, 1924. Colonel Wood earned a Bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institue of Technology in 1956. He was serving as an experimental test pilot at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, California when selected for the X-20 Dyna-Soar program. Colonel Wood was slated to be the first astronaut to pilot the Dyna-Soar on its first sub-orbital mission. He was the senior test pilot on the Dyna-Soar project. If the program had not been cancelled, the first flight would have taken place in July, 1966. After the Dyna-Soar program was cancelled in December 1963, he remained with the U.S. Air Force and served as Commander of Test Operations at Edwards Air Force Base. He retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Colonel. James Wood passed away on January 1, 1990 of natural causes.

 

 

Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager (USAF ret.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Yeager is a combat veteran of WWII where he fought in the European Theatre of Operations. Flying a P-51 for the 363rd Fighter Squadron, part of the legendary 357th Fighter Group "The Yoxford Boys", Yeager ended the war as a double ace. After the war, Yeager was assigned to Wright Field as a test pilot where he impressed his commanding officer Colonel Al Boyd. Boyd and his second in command Colonel Fred J. Ascani selected Yeager to fly the hazardous Bell X-1 rocket powered research plane which Yeager flew into the history books on October 14th, 1947 by becomming the first man to fly faster than sound. For a more in-depth insight into General Yeager's career, visit Mach-Buster.co.uk