US Test Pilots

Steve Pace

Aviation History Writer
6 January 2013
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Please feel free to correct/add info to this partial list of test pilots I've been working on...


Steve Pace


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Re: Test Pilots

Only the americans are test pilots ?????????????? ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
Re: Test Pilots

Here's two images of the Robert M. (Bob) Robbins who has passed. He was a great guy, friend. The fellow standing beside him near the XB-47 is Scott Osler (co-pilot). -SP


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Here's a test pilot Steve.

One from the XB-47 program.

Not sure you have him yet.


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shockonlip said:
Here's a test pilot Steve.

One from the XB-47 program.

Not sure you have him yet.
That's the Tibbetts that flew Enola Gay in WW-II, the plane dropped the first A-bomb, who got a guest piloting ride on a B-47. -SP
Re: Test Pilots

XB-70 Guy said:
shockonlip said:
Here's a test pilot Steve.

One from the XB-47 program.

Not sure you have him yet.
That's the Tibbetts that flew Enola Gay in WW-II, the plane dropped the first A-bomb, who got a guest piloting ride on a B-47. -SP

Indeed Steve! The one and only!

If you read Tibbet's book: "The Tibbets Story", pub, 1978, there is a chapter on "Testing the B-47".

When he had just graduated from Air Command and Staff School, in 1948, he was posted to D.C. as director
of operations to the office of the chief of the Air Force Requirements Division. General George Kenny was
a leader in the battle for the B-36, and Tibbets took on promoting the B-47. Tibbets mentions the ownership he
personally took on of the B-47 and all the testifying before 3 and 4-star boards of aircraft and armament
committees where he defended and promoted the airplane.

In the summer of 1950, Boeing was ready to turn out the first production B-47. Tibbets wanted to get it into
the hands of the pilots and crews who would use it ASAP. The procedure was to let the mfg test the airplane,
then turn it over to AMC in Dayton, where it would undergo testing for at least a year. Tibbets wanted to shortcut
this procedure for 2 reasons: 1. Mfg tests only show the best side of the airplane. 2. AMC had already approved
the Boeing design and could not be expected to find problems with their own specs. So Tibbets got the job to test
the B-47 for the USAF.

He hadn't been checked out in jets yet either so he had to transition through T-33 and then
to B-47. After schooling on B-47, he was checked out by Tex Johnson himself. There's a great story in the book on
that check ride! Tex called the B-47 "a fighter with 5 extra engines".

The book talks about all the testing Tibbets did. They found problems and resolved them. He insisted on taking one
airplane and flying it for 1,000 hours using multiple crews, and keeping it flying when it wasn't being maintained.
This accelerated service showed problems early that would only show up after 2-3 years of operational service.

Tibbets lived with the B-47 for 3 years. He also checked out the first USAF pilots on the B-47. I did the scan of
my posted picture for this book. I think it shows a pilot with an airplane he loves. I suggest the book to everyone
that's interested.

So Paul wasn't a Boeing test pilot, but his role on the B-47 program I think puts him definitely in the test pilot

Today that role probably requires a graduate of USAF TPS.
Re: Test Pilots

Joel Robert (Bob) Baker: First flight of the XF7U-1, among other things.

William H. B. (Bill) Millar (not Miller): Chief experimental test pilot at Vought in the late 1940s, killed flying an XF7U-1
Re: Test Pilots

Here's an incomplete list I've compiled, with Tibbets added. -SP


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For those in the know, please provide some well-known test pilots from the Middle East, Europe and Asia. -SP
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André Turcat and Brian Trubshaw - Concorde.
Gerben Sonderman - various Fokker aicraft.
Janusz Żurakowski - Avro Canada CF-105.
Fritz Wendel - where to start?

<edit> With pictures.
Turcat and Trubshaw: "Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde" by Norman Barfield, Profile #250
Gerben Sonderman is shown in the Fokker S-14 in which he fatally crashed later that day: "Gerben Sonderman 1908-1955" by Th. J. de Jongh, De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1998
Jan Zurakowski: "Avro Arrow" by Richard Organ, Ron Page, Len Wilkinson, and Don Watson, Boston Mills Press, 1996
Willy Messeschmitt and Fritz Wendel: "Willy Messerschmitt - Pionier der Luftfahrt und des Leichtbaues" by Hans J. Ebert/Johann B. Kaiser/Klaus Peters, Bernard&Graefe, 1992


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My favorite for André Turcat, also one of my favorite


I've seen other versions of this photo shot slightly earlier.
They're all great!


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Now for the matter of the original test pilot. Claims have been made for some Chinese bureaucrat to have strapped himself to a rocket chair and flying to the moon; however, these claims have been empirically disproved by Hyneman, Savage et al. in their 2004 experiments.

It was, of course, Alexander the Great.
Source: "Pioneer Aircraft - Early Aviation before 1914" Philip Jarrett (editor), Putnam, 2002


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"It was, of course, Alexander the Great.!

Sorry, but I have severe doubts about this !
In fact , there wasn't just one, but a team of two testpilots, Unfortunately, one of
them experienced problems with the heat barrier and crashed on his testflight. ;)


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Ooh! The first inflight overtemp - but not the last.

The attached sign-in sheet from an early meeting of the SETP should yield a few familiar names...


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For British Test Pilots, try this...

I'd post a scan of the cover, but my scanner's broken...... :'(

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From AbeBooks.


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Thanks for posting the picture... A word of warning, when you've got a scanner, printer, etc, that's working OK,
don't ever, ever, EVAR, decide to 'upgrade' the software............

Is it a good read? IMO. yes.
Have to say, the sub-title, 'The Story of British Test Flying 1903 - 1984' is the more apt description of the book,
weaving together, as it does, the stories of the test pilots and the aircraft they flew.
This is _not_ 'Chapter 1, this is the story of test pilot A; Chapter 2, this is the story of test pilot B: etc.'.
With so wide a subject range, coverage is necessarily broader than deep, and it is written in the typically British
stiff upper lip style, relating as it does, some of the more dangerous, humorous, and sadly tragic events of
these remarkable men's careers.

Re: Test Pilots

Any similar list available for German wartime test pilots, like Hanna Reitsch? They tested some cutting-edge designs for the time -- including some that should have never been tested at all.
Re: Test Pilots

Thanks to Stargazer and others I've been able to "nutshell" Bob Chilton's biography as follows:

Robert Creed "Bob" Chilton
"Mister P-51"

Robert Creed Chilton was born on 6 February 1912 in Klamath Falls, Oregon and grew up in Boise, Idaho. After graduating from Boise High School in 1931 he went on to further his education at the University of Oregon in Eugene beginning in September 1933. While attending college, Bob - as he preferred people to call him, took four years of Infantry Training in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He also proved to be quite the athlete in college earning the honor and title of All-American in springboard diving, winning the conference championship in 1935, 1936 and 1937. He graduated from the University of Oregon in June 1937 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration.
In spite of his extensive ROTC infantry training Chilton joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1937 as a flying cadet. He received his primary and advanced flight training at Randolph and Kelly Fields in Texas, earned his wings and graduated in 1938. He was assigned to the 79th Pursuit Squadron, 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field in Louisiana flying the Curtiss P-36 Hawk during which time he got a ruptured ear drum and was suspended from active duty. He returned to civilian life as a U.S. Army Air Corps Reservist to become an aviation instructor for the USAAC primary flying school in Santa Monica, California. Opportunity knocked and he left the school to take a job as test pilot with North American Aviation (NAA). He joined NAA in January 1941 at the age of 29 and was assigned to the AT-6 Texan, B-25 Mitchell and P-51Mustang flight test programs in Inglewood, California. One of his first duties there was to take a familiarization flight in the company owned NA-73X demonstration pursuit airplane - forerunner of the famed Mustang series of aircraft. With his earlier flying experience on fighters and proven flying skills he was soon promoted to chief engineering test pilot on the Mustang program.
Chilton made the first flights on nearly all versions of the Mustang as well as uncounted additional flights to gather critical engineering data on many of its numerous variants as well as the first flights on several other NAA airplanes and advanced to senior engineering test pilot before leaving NAA. For his extensive first flights logged on the various P-51 models he earned the nickname Mister P-51.
Chilton never once had a crack-up or had to bail-out during his P-51 flying career. "This can be explained by the fact that most of my test flying has been with the Mustang, which, in my opinion, is the most perfect ship ever built," he affirmed. But on 4 August 1943 he and his crew successfully bailed-out and survived the crash of the one-of-a-kind North American XB-28A he was piloting. It had developed engine trouble and subsequently crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Balboa, California.
In 1945 Chilton became a 'rocket man' of sorts when he performed the first and subsequent test flights on a modified P-51D equipped with a rocket motor for assisted short takeoff tests.
During the Korean War, in 1952, Chilton returned to active duty with the USAF as a Lieutenant Colonel (U.S. Air Force reserve). His primary duty for this five-year tour was that of Chief of the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak and F-105 Thunderchief Weapon System Project Office, Headquarters, Air Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. He left this job in 1957. He was subsequently employed by Horkey-Moore Associates as Vice President - Developments, and in September 1961 he was appointed Secretary and Contracts Administrator for Space Equipment Corporation in Torrance, California headed by firm founder and President Edward J. "Ed" Horkey, former chief aerodynamicist at NAA and a major player throughout the Mustang and other NAA programs.
Mr. Chilton joined the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) in 1959 and was subsequently upgraded to Associate Fellow, later to Fellow. He was also a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the Ye Anciente and Secret Order of Quiet Birdmen.
Mr. Chilton returned to North American Aviation in 1965 and beginning in 1968 he served as Program Manager - Advanced Avionics Flight Test. In this seven-year position, Chilton overseen extensive modifications to a Boeing B-47 Stratojet - designated RB-47H, whereby it was extensively used as a flying avionics laboratory. This particular B-47 became the last one in the world on flying status. Throughout this test program, Chilton performed as part of the flight crew, including the last flight of this aircraft to the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB, Florida in 1975. He remained with NAA until his retirement in 1977. At this time he had more than 36 years experience with the aircraft and missile industries.
Bob Chilton eventually flew no less than 79 different types of aircraft. These included the North American AT-6A Texan and AT-6C Texan, North American NA-98X, North American XB-28A, Supermarine Spitfire Mark III and Spitfire Mark V, Hawker Hurricane Mark II, North American XFJ-1 and FJ-1 Fury, North American XP-86 Sabre Jet, Bell YP-59A Airacomet, Lockheed YP-80A Shooting Star, North American Navion, Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2, Lockheed P-38G, P-38H and P-38K Lightning, Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, Chance Vought F4U-1 and F4U-1D Corsair, Bell P-39N and P-39Q Airacobra, Republic P-47C, P-47D and P-47G Thunderbolt, Curtiss P-40F, P-40L and P-40N Warhawk, and the North American P-82 Twin Mustang series of aircraft including the XP-82.
Mr. Chilton also performed a series of high altitude flights on the XP-51F Mustang to test and develop experimental a pressure/oxygen control regulator and mask, anti-G suit, and control systems. He also served as a consultant to the School of Aviation Medicine at the University of California.
Chilton resided in Eugene for the most part after he retired. He passed away due to natural causes on 31 January 1994 at the age of 82.
Mr. Chilton made numerous first flights on new aircraft at NAA - more than any other North American test pilot before or after him. These included:
4/3/41, NA-73X (a one hour familiarization flight plus 12 subsequent flights including its last flight)
5/20/41, XP-51 Mustang
5/20/42, P-51 Mustang
9/27/42, A-36A Mustang
11/30/42, XP-51B Mustang
2/3/43, P-51A Mustang
5/5/43, P-51B Mustang (first production P-51B)
11/17/43, 'XP-51D' Mustang prototype (a modified P-51B-10-NA with clear frameless bubble-type canopy)
11/17/43, P-51D-1-NA (first of two NA-106 service test airplanes built)
(Note: The previous two entries above have yet to be documented. It remains unclear as to whether the so-called ‘XP-51D’ flew on 11/17/43 or whether it was the first P-51D-1-NA.)
2/2/44, XP-51F Mustang (number one of three built)
44, XP-51G (number two of two built)
2/3/45, P-51H Mustang (first of 555 built)
7/3/48, XAJ-1 Savage (first of three built)
Stepháne “Stargazer” Beaumort, Secret website monitor
Jane E. Fortner, University of Oregon; Old Oregon, Volume 24, Number 4
Jeannine Geiger, Archives Technician, Air Force Test Center History Office, Edwards AFB, California
Susan Gron, Membership Administrator, Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SEPT)
Re: Test Pilots

All lectures are video recorded and DVD copies are now
available from our Gift Shop and can be ordered online.

That gives some hopes. Metz not the first time guest there judging from the DVD lectures list.
Re: Test Pilots

H/T to Alert 5.

Northrop test pilot Hank Chouteau passed away.

As per the Tartan Terror TEST & RESEARCH PILOTS, FLIGHT TEST ENGINEERS webpage, Chouteau:

"[P]iloted first flights in nine aircraft including the YF-5A, F-5A, F-5E, the CF-5A and CF-5B in Canada, the NF-5 in the Netherlands, and the YF-17 prototype for the F-18 Navy Strike Fighter. He helped develop the F-18L Cobra, F-89J atomic weapon equipment interceptor, the T-38 supersonic trainer, the A-9 ground attack fighter, the F-5A Freedom Fighter and the F-5E international Fighter."

From the Contra Costa Times:

Hank Chouteau, former Northrop test pilot, dies at 89
by Brian Sumers
POSTED: 04/18/2014 08:07:26 PM PDT

As a child living in rural Wyoming in the 1930s, Henry E. “Hank” Chouteau would wait each week for the airplane carrying the mail. The pilots were like celebrities, bringing news from the world into Pinedale, a small town 280 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

Sensing her son’s interest, Chouteau’s mom started buying him flying magazines. Later, they would prove useful.

When it came time for him to apply for the Army Air Corps during World War II, Chouteau was prepared. He was the only one of his friends who made it as a pilot.

“The magazines were his leg up,” said his grandson, Graham Chouteau-Lathrop.

He went on to a successful career as a chief test pilot for what is now Northrop Grumman Corp., helping to shape many of the most important combat aircraft of the late 20th century, including the F/A-18 Hornet.

Chouteau, who lived in Lancaster before retiring to New Mexico, died Tuesday from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 89.

He began his flying career in Europe as a member of the Army Air Corps’ 587th Bombardment Squadron. He then joined the Air Force, flying the F-51 Mustang in the Korean War. He began working at Northrop in 1952.

Chouteau was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the air medal with four clusters, four Battle Stars, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the South Vietnamese Cross of Honor, among many other accolades, according to his plaque in the Lancaster Aerospace Walk of Honor.

At Northrop, Chouteau was probably best known for his contribution to the YF-17 prototype fighter aircraft, said his friend and former co-worker, Mike Kennedy. In the mid-1970s, Chouteau would fly the plane at air shows and engage in daring maneuvers to demonstrate its capabilities, Kennedy said.

The Navy was sold. It used the YF-17 as the template for the F/A 18, a plane the Navy still employs as its primary aircraft carrier-based fighter jet.

“Hank had a very straightforward attitude,” Kennedy said. “He was a no nonsense guy. He rubbed some people the wrong way because he was very determined. But those who worked with Hank and knew him well knew that Hank was determined that the customer was going to get the best that Northrop could provide.”

(Rest of Obituary Linked at Title)
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Here's my latest update. -SP


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Ed Gilespie is missing from the list. He was chief test pilot at Rockwell, and prior, North American. One if his aircraft was the Vigilante.
djfawcett said:
Ed Gilespie is missing from the list. He was chief test pilot at Rockwell, and prior, North American. One if his aircraft was the Vigilante.
Thank you! -SP
djfawcett said:
Ed Gilespie is missing from the list. He was chief test pilot at Rockwell, and prior, North American. One if his aircraft was the Vigilante.
Added: Edward A. "Ed" Gillespie ---SP
F-16 test pilot and engineer Phil Oestricher has passed away.

Video of his unscheduled first flight of the YF-16:

The picture below and a nice biography about Phil at this test pilot site:

I saw and spoke to Phil at many flying model meets in the Fort Worth area. One of the most memorable discussions I got to listen in on was between Phil and Paul Metz discussing the aircraft they had flown and some of their most interesting flights. Phil mentioned making maximum dynamic pressure low altitude high speed flights over the Gulf in the F-111 and how its ride was smooth like riding in a Cadillac. The Skyray at Pensacola is one of the aircraft Phil had personally flown.

Last July at a Burleson, Texas EAA meeting, Phil did a presentation on his part in the RB-57F program. When General Dynamics got the contract for the RB-57F, Martin wasn't too happy about it or interested in cooperating. Phil's solution to the lack of basic documentation was to go to a local hobby shop and pick up a Revell B-57 kit and after some melding of plastic and balsa came up with the earliest shapes of what eventually became the RB-57F.

Have a good flight west Phil.


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Great list!! BTW how far back are you going? I noticed the Wright brothers were on the list. Some of the early factory test pilots for the early years of aviation (Golden Age 1919-1939) such as Leonard Bonney (Sloan), Cyrus Zimmermann (Aeromarine), Roland Rohlfs (Curtiss), Robert Hewitt (Wright Aeronautical), Edmund Turney Allen (NACA), etc. are not on the list. Interestingly enough many aircraft designers were also test pilots on their own machines on occasion, such as Igor Sikorsky and Alexander de Seversky, etc.

Its hard to differentiate who was an adventuring pilot and who was a trained or seasoned test pilot.

Also, helicopter test pilots, such as Sikorsky's Bill Fell who flew various test flights on different versions of the Blackhawk, RAH-66 Comanche, and new Raider helicopter. And Lockheed Cheyenne AH-56's David Bell.

Note: Correction, I see Eddie Allen already represented in your list.
F-16 test pilot and aeronautical engineer Phil Oestricher's RB-57F story given at the June 2015 EAA Chapter 280 meeting at Spinks Airport, Burleson, Texas.

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