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Memories of General Chuck Yeager, other great pilots

 

December 19, 2020

Mark La Ciura

"Just signatures in a log book but they mean a lot to me."

I looked through my stack of pilot log books to find a special book, while thinking of the passing of the great pilot General Chuck Yeager at 97 years old on December 7. I never met the General. It was next to impossible to meet him unless you were a "big wig." I wish I had, but at least an Edwards AFB History office employee presented my log book to the General for signature, which he signed.

I did get to see General Yeager fly the F15 and break the sound barrier at the Edwards AFB Air Show a few times. I also had a chance meeting with Milton Orville Thompson, the NASA Research Pilot. He was one of 12 pilots who flew the X-15. He flew the X-15 Rocket Plane to a max speed of 3,712 MPH (Mach 5.48) at a peak altitude of 214,000 feet (msl). Thompson flew into Mountain Airport where I was working. I refueled his aircraft and he signed my log book. Thompson also flew the NASA M2-F1 and the M2-F2 lifting body aircraft, just to name a few.

Mark La Ciura

I also had the privilege to meet NASA test pilot Bill Dana a few times. I got to drive to work with him many times. He, too, signed my pilot log book. It was interesting that Dana did not have a FAA Pilots certificate but flew the hottest, fastest jet rocket aircraft that NASA had as a research test pilot engineer. I was very happy and honored when he asked me to take his grandson flying in a sailplane. My flight instructor was good friends with Dana. He told Dana I was okay and fully good to go as a commercial pilot.

Dana had 16 flights in the X-15 rocket plane to a max speed of 3,897 mph. I believe this is faster than Mach 6. His peak altitude was 307,000 feet (msl). This was nearly 59 miles high and he subsequently received his astronaut wings and badge. Dana was the chief pilot at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB California when I met him.

If there were ever natural born pilots, these three great men fit the bill. By the way, I did get to meet another great X-15 rocket pilot named Armstrong. He went on to be the first human to step foot on the moon.

 
 

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