Tag Archives: Test Pilot

12 August 1960

Major Robert M. White, U.S. Air Force. (NASA)

12 August 1960: At Edwards Air Force Base, California, Major Robert M. White flew the North American Aviation X-15 rocketplane to an altitude of 136,500 feet (41,605 meters), exceeding the previous unofficial record of 126,200 feet (38,466 meters) set by the late Captain Iven C. Kincheloe, Jr., with the Bell X-2, 7 September 1956.

Iven Kincheloe had been assigned as the Air Force’s project pilot for the X-15. When he was killed on a routine flight, Bob White was designated to replace him.

This was White’s fourth flight in an X-15, and the 19th flight of the X-15 Program. The Number 1 rocketplane, serial number 56-6670, was carried aloft under the right wing of the “mothership,” Boeing NB-52A Stratofortress 52-003. At 08:48:43.0 a.m., PDT, 56-6670 was dropped over Silver Lake, near the Nevada-California border. White fired the two Reaction Motors XLR11-RM-13 rocket engines and they burned for 256.2 seconds.

This flight took place in Phase II of the Program and was intended to gradually increase the envelope of X-15 performance with the XLR11 engines while waiting for the much more powerful XLR99. The purpose of Flight 19 was to reach maximum altitude in order to test the rocketplane’s stability and controllability above the atmosphere.

The X-15 accelerated to Mach 2.52, 1,773 miles per hour (2,853 kilometers per hour) while climbing at nearly a 70° angle and reached a peak altitude of 136,500 feet (41,605 meters). After engine shutdown, White glided to a landing on Rogers Dry Lake and touched down. The duration of the flight was 11 minutes, 39.1 seconds.

Neither Kincheloe’s or White’s altitudes are recognized as records by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale(FAI). Over the next few years, the X-15 would reach to nearly three times higher.

An X-15 is dropped from the NB-52A, 52-003, at an altitude of 45,000 feet at 0.8 Mach. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 August 1986: The World’s Fastest Helicopter

Westland Lynx AH.1 G-LYNX.

11 August 1986: A modified factory demonstration Westland Lynx AH.1 helicopter, civil registration G-LYNX, piloted by Chief Test Pilot John Trevor Egginton and Flight Test Engineer Derek J. Clews, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute Record for Speed for helicopters over a straight 15/25 km course with an average speed of 400.87 kilometers per hour (249.09 miles per hour) over a measured 15 kilometer (9.32 miles) course near Glastonbury on the Somerset Levels and Moors, Southwest England.¹ ² ³

Westland WG.13 Lynx G-LYNX, c/n 102. (Vertipedia)

The helicopter was equipped with experimental BERP main rotor blades and two Rolls Royce Gem 60 turboshaft engines with digital electronic fuel control and water-methanol injection, producing 1,345 shaft horsepower, each. The engines’ exhausts were modified to provide 600 pounds of thrust (2,669 Newtons). The horizontal tail plane and vertical fins from a Westland WG.30 were used to increase longitudinal stability and to unload the tail rotor in forward flight. In an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag, items such as steps, antennas and windshield wipers were removed.

During the speed runs, the main rotor blade tips reached a speed of 0.97 Mach.

Four passes over the course were made at an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters). The results of the two best successive passes were averaged. This set records for helicopters; helicopters in the 3,000–4,500 kilogram weight class; and an Absolute World Record for Rotorcraft. Thirty-two years later, these official speed records still stand.

Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World's Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)
Westland Lynx AH.1, G-LYNX. This is the World’s Fastest Helicopter. (Westland)

Another Westland AH.1 Lynx, flown by then Westland Chief Pilot Leonard Roy Moxham and Michael Ball, had set two FAI World Records for Speed, 20 and 22 June 1972. Flying over a straight 15/25 kilometer course, the Lynx averaged 321.74 kilometers per hour (199.92 miles per hour).⁴ Two days later, the Lynx flew a closed 100 kilometer circuit at an average speed of 318.50 kilometers per hour (197.91 miles per hour).⁵ Both of these records were for helicopters in the 3,000–4,500 kilogram weight class.

Westland WG.13 c/n 102 made its first flight in May 1979. After setting the speed record, G-LYNX was used as a demonstrator and as a test platform, before finally being retired in 1992. Beginning in 2007, AgustaWestland restored the Lynx to its speed record configuration, withe more than 25,000 man hours expended on the project.

G-LYNX was unveiled on 11 August 2011, the 25th anniversary of the world record flight. Today, it is on display at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, South West England.

On 25 September 2014, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers bestowed its Engineering Heritage Award on G-LYNX. John Wood, chairman of the Institution said,

“The G-Lynx helicopter is a remarkable example of British engineering and vision. It is a testament to the cutting-edge modifications made to the helicopter, that the world speed record still stands 28 years later.

“This award is in recognition of all the people in making the 1986 record possible, but also to the AgustaWestland apprentices who restored the helicopter in 2011 and the Helicopter Museum who continue to maintain the craft in such excellent condition.”

The Engineering Heritage Award was accepted by Elfan Ap Rees, founder of the Helicopter Museum, and John Trevor Egginton, pilot of the world record helicopter.

John Trevor Egginton, O.B.E., A.F.C., FRAeS. Chief Test Pilot, Westland Helicopters. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight test Engineers)

John Trevor Egginton was born in Birmingham, England, 14 March 1933. He was the second child of Alfred T. Egginton and Emma Hammond Egginton. John attended the George Dixon Grammar School at Edgbaston, a suburb of Birmingham.

In 1951, Egginton joined the Royal Air Force. On 7 May 1952, he was appointed a cadet pilot, with date of service from 2 January 1952. He was sent to the United States for flight training, and returned to England aboard RMS Queen Elizabeth, arriving at Southampton, 17 November 1953. He flew the Canadair CL-13 Sabre Mk.4 with No. 67 Squadron and the Hawker Hunter with Nos. 222 and 63 Squadrons.

In December 1956, Pilot Officer Egginton married Miss Joan Mary Wheeler at Bromsgrove, near Birmingham. They would have three children, Jane, Michael and Frazer.

Pilot Officer Egginton was promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant, 2 October 1957. His commission was made permanent, 31 August 1961.

Following an overseas tour of duty in the Colony of Aden, Flight Lieutenant Egginton transitioned to helicopters, training in the Bristol Sycamore. He was then assigned to No. 22 Squadron at RAF Chivenor, on the north coast of Devon, as a search and rescue pilot. The squadron was equipped with the Westland Whirlwind HAR.2, a licensed variant of the Sikorsky S-55. In August 1962, the unit upgraded to the turboshaft-powered Whirlwind HAR.10.

On the night of 2–3 November 1962, the French fishing trawler Jeanne Gougy, with a crew of 18 men, went aground at Land’s End, Cornwall. A Royal Air Force helicopter from RAF Chivenor and a lifeboat from the Sennen Cove life boat station went to the scene. The lifeboat was unable to approach the wreck because of the heavy weather, but recovered two dead fishermen offshore. The helicopter also recovered a body. No other sailors were seen, the the two rescue craft returned to there bases with the remains.

Later that morning, observers from the shore saw several men inside the Jeanne Gougy‘s pilot house. A helicopter and the Penlee lifeboat, Soloman Brown, hurried to the scene, but conditions were still too extreme for the lifeboat to approach the trawler.

The Westland Whirlwind, flown by Flight Lieutenants John Lorimer Neville Canham, D.F.C., and John Trevor Egginton, hovered over the capsized fishing trawler while the winch operator, Sergeant Eric Charles Smith, was lowered to the ship’s pilot house. A rescue line was also rigged to the nearby rocks. Sergeant Smith rigged two men for hoisting to the hovering helicopter and continued searching for additional survivors. Four sailors were rescued by the line to the shore. 12 of the fishermen did not survive.

Westland Whirlwind HAR.10, No. 22 Squadron, hoists a man from the fishing trawler Jeanne Gougy at Armoured Knight Rock, Land’s End, Cornwall, England, 3 November 1962. (RNLI Penlee Lifeboat Station)
Sergeant Eric Smith, RAF, is lowered to the wreck of Jeanne Gougy, 3 November 1962. (BFI)

For his bravery during the rescue, Sergeant Smith was awarded the George Medal by Queen Elizabeth II. He was also awarded the Silver Medal of the Société des Hospitalers Sauveteurts Bretons.

The President of the French Republic, Charles de Gaulle, conferred the honor of Chevalier du Mérite Maritime on Flight Lieutenant Canham, Flight Lieutenant Egginton, and Sergeant Smith. On 13 June 1964, Egginton was awarded the Air Force Cross.

In 1965, Flight Lieutenant Egginton attended the Empire Test Pilots’ School at RAF Boscombe Down. On graduation, he was assigned as a helicopter test pilot with D Squadron (now the Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron, or RWTES). In 1969, Egginton returned to the Test Pilots’ School as a helicopter flight instructor.

Squadron Leader Egginton retired from the Royal Air Force in 1973. He was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, 2 June 1973. (London Gazette No. 45984 at Page 6463)

Egginton joined Westland Helicopters at Yeovil as deputy chief test pilot, and later became the company’s chief test pilot. He from Westland retired after 15 years.

In the 1989 New Year’s Honours List, Squadron Leader Egginton was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.):

Squadron Leader John Trevor Egginton, O.B.E., A.F.C., F.R.Ae.S., Q.C.V.S.A., Chevalier du Mérite Maritime, died at his home in Yeovil, 23 November 2014. He was 81 years of age.

In April 2013, Trevor Egginton spoke to members of the Empire Test Pilots’ School at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare. In this photograph, Mr. Egginton is seated in the World Record Helicopter’s pilot seat. (The Helicopter Museum)

¹ FAI Record File Number 11659: Rotorcraft, Absolute Record for Speed Over a 15–25 Kilometer Straight Course

² FAI Record File Number 1842: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1e, 3,000–4,500 kilograms (6,613.9–9,920.8 pounds), takeoff weight

³ FAI Record File Number 1843: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1

⁴ FAI Record File Number 1826: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1e

⁵ FAI Record File Number 1853: Rotorcraft, Helicopters, Subclass E-1e

Westland Lynx G-LYNX.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 August 1967

Colonel Robert M. White, United States Air Force, Deputy Commander for Operations, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli RTAFB, 1967, with other Republic F-105 Thunderchief pilots. Colonel White is the third from the left. (U.S. Air Force)
Colonel Robert M. White, United States Air Force, Deputy Commander for Operations, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli RTAFB, 1967, with other Republic F-105 Thunderchief pilots. Colonel White is the third from the left. (U.S. Air Force)
Air Force Cross
Air Force Cross

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Colonel Robert M. White (AFSN: 0-24589A), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Mission Commander and Pilot of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 11 August 1967. On that date, Colonel White led the entire combat force against a key railroad and highway bridge in the vicinity of Hanoi. In spite of 14 surface-to-air missile launches, MiG interceptor attacks, and intense anti-aircraft artillery fire, he gallantly led the attack. By being the first aircraft to dive through the dark clouds of bursting flak, Colonel White set an example that inspired the remaining attacking force to destroy the bridge without a single aircraft being lost to the hostile gunners. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Colonel White reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Action Date: 11-Aug-67

Service: Air Force

Rank: Colonel

Company: Deputy Commander for Operations

Regiment: 355th Tactical Fighter Wing

Division: Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand

Republic F-105F-10-RE Thunderchief 60-0464, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli RTAFB. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105D-10-RE Thunderchief 60-0464, 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli RTAFB. (U.S. Air Force)
Recoonaissance photograph of Paul Doumer Bridge, Hanoi, 12 August 1967. (U.S. Air Force)
Reconnaissance photograph of Paul Doumer Bridge, Hanoi, 12 August 1967. (U.S. Air Force)
Doumer Bridge, by keith ferris, oil on panel, depicts Col. Robert M. White leading the strike against the Paul Doumer Bridge, 11 August 1967. This painting is on display at teh george H.W. Bush presidential Library, on loan from the United States Air Force art collection.
Doumer Bridge, by Keith Ferris, oil on panel, depicts Col. Robert M. White leading the strike against the Paul Doumer Bridge, 11 August 1967. This painting is in the United States Air Force Art Collection. (George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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Jacqueline Cochran (11 May 1906–9 August 1980)

COCHRAN, Jacqueline, in the cockpit of her North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang NX28388, AAF 43-24760, c/n 104-25789, #13, at Cleveland Municipal Airport. (Image Number: SI-86-533, National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)
Jackie Cochran in the cockpit of her North American Aviation P-51B-15-NA Mustang NX28388, #13, at Cleveland Municipal Airport. (Image Number: SI-86-533, National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

9 August 1980: Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran, Colonel, United States Air Force Reserve, passed away at her home in Indio, CA, at the age of 74. Jackie was truly a giant of aviation. She earned her pilot’s license in 1932 and was best of friends with Amelia Earhart. She helped found the WASPs in World War II. She was a friend and advisor to generals and presidents. Jackie was highly respected by such legendary test pilots as Fred Ascani and Chuck Yeager.

During her aviation career, Colonel Cochran won the Harmon Trophy 14 times. She set many speed, distance and altitude records. Just a few are:  Piloting a Canadair CL13 Sabre Mk 3, serial number 19200 (a license-built F-86E variant), she was the first woman to exceed the speed of sound, flying 652.337 mph on 18 May 1953. She flew the same Sabre to a world record 47,169 feet (14,377 meters). She was also the first woman to fly Mach 2, flying a record 1,400.30 miles per hour (2,300.23 kilometers per hour) in a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, 11 May 1964.

The following is the official U.S. Air Force biography:

“Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Cochran was a leading aviatrix who promoted an independent Air Force and was the director of women’s flying training for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots program during World War II. She held more speed, altitude and distance records than any other male or female pilot in aviation history at the time of her death.

“She was born between 1905 and 1908 in Florida. Orphaned at early age, she spent her childhood moving from one town to another with her foster family. At 13, she became a beauty operator in the salon she first cleaned. Eventually she rose to the top of her profession, owning a prestigious salon, and establishing her own cosmetics company. She learned to fly at the suggestion of her future husband, millionaire Floyd Odlum, to travel more efficiently. In 1932, she received her license after only three weeks of lessons and immediately pursued advanced instruction. Cochran set three major flying records in 1937 and won the prestigious Bendix Race in 1938.

“As a test pilot, she flew and tested the first turbo-supercharger ever installed on an aircraft engine in 1934. During the following two years, she became the first person to fly and test the forerunner to the Pratt & Whitney 1340 and 1535 engines. In 1938, she flew and tested the first wet wing ever installed on an aircraft. With Dr. Randolph Lovelace, she helped design the first oxygen mask, and then became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one.

“In 1940, she made the first flight on the Republic P-43, and recommended a longer tail wheel installation, which was later installed on all P-47 aircraft. Between 1935 and 1942, she flew many experimental flights for Sperry Corp., testing gyro instruments.

“Cochran was hooked on flying. She set three speed records, won the Clifford Burke Harmon trophy three times and set a world altitude record of 33,000 feet – all before 1940. In the year 1941, Cochran captured an aviation first when she became the first woman pilot to pilot a military bomber across the Atlantic Ocean.

“With World War II on the horizon, Cochran talked Eleanor Roosevelt into the necessity of women pilots in the coming war effort. Cochran was soon recruiting women pilots to ferry planes for the British Ferry Command, and became the first female trans-Atlantic bomber pilot. While Cochran was in Britain, another renowned female pilot, Nancy Harkness Love, suggested the establishment of a small ferrying squadron of trained female pilots. The proposal was ultimately approved. Almost simultaneously, Gen. H.H. Arnold asked Cochran to return to the U.S. to establish a program to train women to fly. In August of 1943, the two schemes merged under Cochran’s leadership. They became the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots.

“She recruited more than 1,000 Women’s Airforce Service Pilots and supervised their training and service until they were disbanded in 1944. More than 25,000 applied for training, 1,830 were accepted and 1,074 made it through a very tough program to graduation. These women flew approximately 60 million miles for the Army Air Force with only 38 fatalities, or about 1 for every 16,000 hours flown. Cochran was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for services to her country during World War II.

“She went on to be a press correspondent and was present at the surrender of Japanese General Yamashita, was the first U.S. woman to set foot in Japan after the war, and then went on to China, Russia, Germany and the Nuremburg trials. In 1948 she became a member of the independent Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in the Reserve. She had various assignments which included working on sensitive projects important to defense.

“Flying was still her passion, and with the onset of the jet age, there were new planes to fly. Access to jet aircraft was mainly restricted to military personnel, but Cochran, with the assistance of her friend Gen. Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet owned by the company in 1953, and went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph in 1964.

“Cochran retired from the Reserve in 1970 as a colonel. After heart problems and a pacemaker stopped her fast-flying activities at the age of 70, Cochran took up soaring. In 1971, she was named Honorary Fellow, Society of Experimental Test Pilots and inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame.

“She wrote her autobiography, The Autobiography of the Greatest Woman Pilot in Aviation History with Maryann B. Brinley (Bantam Books). After her husband died in 1976, her health deteriorated rapidly and she died Aug. 9, 1980.”

The above biography is from the web site of the United States Air Force:


Jackie Cochran with her record-setting Beech D17W “Staggerwing”, NR18562. (FAI)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 August 1955

8 August 1955: While being carried aloft by a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the Bell X-1A was being readied for it’s next high-altitude supersonic flight by NACA test pilot Joe Walker. During the countdown, an internal explosion occurred. Walker was not injured and was able to get out. The X-1A was jettisoned. It crashed onto the desert floor and was destroyed.

A number of similar explosions had occurred in the X-1, D-558-II and the X-2. Several aircraft had been damaged or destroyed, and Bell Aircraft test pilot Skip Ziegler was killed when an X-2 exploded during a captive flight. A flight engineer aboard the B-29 mothership was also killed. The B-29 was able to land but was so heavily damaged that it never flew again.

Debris from the X-1A crash site was brought back to Edwards AFB for examination. It was discovered that a gasket material used in the rocket engine fuel systems was reacting with the fuel, resulting in the explosions. The problem was corrected and the mysterious explosions stopped.

Test pilot Joe Walker “horsing around” with the Bell X-1A, 1955. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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