Maj. Gen. Robert "Bob" White
Fighter Pilot, POW WWII, X–15 Test Pilot
Major General Robert White began his military career as an 18 year–old aviation cadet in November 1942 and received his pilot's wings in February 1944. In July 1944, he joined the 354th Fighter Squadron in England flying P–51 Mustang fighters escorting bombers over Germany. In February 1945 he was shot down by anti–aircraft fire during his 52nd combat mission. He was captured and remained a POW until his prison camp was liberated two months later.
White returned to the U.S. and enrolled as a student at New York University, where he received a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1951. During his student years he remained in the Air Force Reserve at Mitchel Field, N.Y. In February 1952 he was sent to Japan and assigned to the 40th Fighter Squadron, as an F–80 fighter pilot and flight commander until the summer of 1953. After leaving Japan he attended the Air Force's Experimental Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB. He graduated with Class 54C in January 1955 and stayed on at Edwards as a working test pilot flying advanced models of fighter planes. It wasn't long before White was designated as the Air Force's primary pilot for the X015 program in 1958, making his initial flight on April 15, 1960. Four months later, he took the experimental craft to an altitude of 136,000 feet. With increased thrust interim rocket engines, he was able to obtain speeds of 2,275 mph in February 1961. 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. 9th, when White reached a speed of 4,093 mph. Six times faster than the speed of sound. On July 17, 1962, he was able to take the X–15 to a record–setting altitude of 314,750 feet, more than 59 miles over the earth's surface. Flying at this altitude qualified him for astronaut wings. He was then given his new rating as Command Pilot Astronaut.
In October 1963, he returned to Germany as Operations Officer for the 367th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bitburg. Returning to the States in August 1965 he earned a Master of Science degree from George Washington University.
As things were getting a little dull, Bob White then took off for SE Asia as Deputy Commander for Operations of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing. He flew 70 combat missions over North Vietnam in the F–105 Thunderchief.
Returning again to the States he was assigned to Wright Pat AFB managing the development of the new F–15 Eagle weapons system. Then back to Edwards, the 46 year–old officer assumed command of the Test Center in 1970.
In February 1981, Major General Robert White retired from the Air Force and settled in Tampa Bay's Sun City Center.
His awards include the Air Force Cross, 3 Distinguished Service Medals, 4 Silver Stars, 5 DFC's and 16 Air medals. He also won the Harmon and Collier Trophies and in 1992 he was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor in Lancaster, CA.
Chalmers H. "Slick" Goodlin
Test Pilot Bell X–1 Program,CEO Burnelli Aircraft Company
Chalmers H. "Slick" Goodlin was born in Greensburg, PA on January 2, 1923. He obtained his pilot's license in 1939 at age 16 and in 1941 joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was assigned as an Instructor and Ferry Pilot and flew Spitfires over England.
In 1943, he switched to the U.S. Navy as an instructor. From 1944–1948, he flew for the Bell Aircraft Corporation as a test pilot which included 80 flights in the YP–59 (our first jet), 25 in the XP–83 and 26 flights in the XS–1 (the 1st rocket–propelled aircraft designed to exceed Mach 1). He was portrayed in the movie "The Right Stuff" as the civilian Bell test pilot who forgave the opportunity to be the first to fly through the sound barrier to Capt. Chuck Yeager, a military pilot at Muroc in 1947.
Chalmers joined the "Caterpillar Club" in 1944 when he was forced to bail out of a P–39Q and again in 1946, from an XP–83 when both sustained uncontrollable fires.
During 1946, he was co–owner with "Tex" Johnson of a Cobra II aircraft, which won the Thomason Trophy Race. In 1948–1949, Chalmers flew for the Israeli Air Force, flying Me–109's and Spitfires on combat duty. During this time he had one aerial victory. He also became the first chief test pilot for the IAF.
In 1949, Chalmers met Vincent Justus Burnelli (the Burnelli Company) and invested in the company. He subsequently published numerous articles on the importance of the Burnelli Lifting Body design to propagate safety in airline and aviation flight.
From 1950–1955, he established the Seycheles–Kilimanjaro Air Trans–port (SKAT) in East Africa with PBY Catalina equipment. The airline flies today under the name Simbair.
He also held the position of International Editor of the Aviation Age magazine and completed an in–depth study of the Burnelli lifting body design, including flight test analysis of the Burnelli CBY–3 aircraft.
In 1955, he founded the Boreas Corporation located in Venice, Italy. During this time he also accepted the Presidency of the Burnelli Avionics Corporation. In 1966–1968, he served as special advisor in restructuring the defunct Transavia–Holland Air Charter Company.
In 1982, he became Chairman and CEO of the Burnelli Company. During this time he continued to champion the cause of lifting body design for airline usage, a design similar to that of today's new Boeing Blended Wing.
Chalmers resided in Florida since 1984. He was not only a pioneer aviator from the Golden Age of Test Flight, but a humanitarian and aviation businessman of great stature.
John Paul Riddle
Founder of Embry Riddle Company
and Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University
John Paul Riddle, Chairman of the Board, Riddle Airlines, Inc., Miami, and founder of what became the Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, was born in Pikesville, KY on May 19, 1901. He married Adele Goeser and had six children.
On December 17, 1925, exactly 22 years after the historic flight of the Wright Flyer, barnstormer John Paul Riddle and entrepreneur T. Higbee Embry founded the Embry-Riddle Company at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He was founder and president of the J.P. Riddle Co., 1939–1943 which became the largest flying and technical school in the U.S., contracting five flying schools to the U.S. and British governments. He founded and was president of Escola Tecnica de Aviacao, Sao Paulo, Brazil from 1943–1945. In May 1945, Riddle Airlines was incorporated as an extension of his wartime operation in which the J.P. Riddle Co. flew a series of regular flights to Brazil for American transport instructors at his technical aviation school in Brazil.
Riddle served in the U.S. Air Service 1920–1922. He was a member of the Quiet Birdmen, Greater Miami Aviation Association; Wings Club; Air Force Association; and the National Aviation Club. His Pilot certificates included commercial, single and multi–engine land, single and multi–engine sea and instrument.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University began with a simple plan to train airplane pilots. Today, Embry-Riddle leads the world in aviation and aerospace higher education.
Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.
B–29 "Enola Gay" Pilot
Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr. was born in Quincy, Illinois on February 23rd, 1915. Later his parents moved to Florida where, at the age of twelve, Paul had his first airplane ride. As part of an advertising stunt, he threw Baby Ruth candy bars, with paper parachutes attached, from a biplane flying over a crowd gathered at the Hialeah horse track near Miami. From that day on, Paul knew he had to fly.
He attended Western Military Academy, the Universities of Florida and Cincinnati planning to study medicine. However, he was determined to fly, so on February 25th, 1937, Paul enlisted as a flying cadet. A year later he got his pilot wings at Kelly Field, Texas and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.
In February 1942, Paul became the Squadron Commander of the 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group, destined for England. He flew 25 missions in B-17s, including the first American Flying Fortress raid against occupied Europe. In November of that year he was in Algeria leading the first bombardment missions in support of the North African invasion.
In March 1943, he was returned to the states to test the combat capability of Boeing's new Super Fortress, the B-29.
In September 1944, Paul was briefed on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the development of the atom bomb. It was to be his responsibility to organize and train a unit to deliver these weapons in combat operations. He would also determine and supervise the modifications necessary to make the B-29 capable of delivering the weapons. Secrecy was paramount. On August 6th, 1945, the B–29 Enola Gay lifted off en route to its historic mission to Hiroshima. At 0915 + 15 seconds, the uranium 235 atomic bomb "Little Boy" exploded. The course of history and the nature of warfare was changed forever.
When Paul Tibbets retired from the U.S. Air Force on August 31, 1966, he had completed more than 29 1/2 years of service, but he was not through flying. Initially he resided in Geneva, Switzerland, operating three Lear jets throughout central Europe. Back in Columbus, Ohio in 1970, Paul joined Executive Jet Aviation, an all-jet air taxi service company, where he served in different capacities. Paul became Chairman of the Board in 1982. He retired in 1985.
As pilot of one of the most famous flights of WW II, which brought about a quicker surrender from the enemy and a reduction in the loss of Allied lives, and for his leadership and skill with both airplanes and people in times of stress, Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. is enshrined with honor into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
His awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit and the Joint Staff Commendation Medal.