Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Charles 'Chuck' Tucker 1919 -2010

Charles Tucker made the first flight of the X-4 at Edwards on December 15, 1948. He later flew all subsequent Northrop flights of the X-4 research plane. An experimental test pilot for Lockheed and Northrop, Tucker also piloted the extremely high-risk stall and spin tests on the YB-49 Flying Wing jet bomber.
Charles ( Chuck ) Tucker was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on Dec. 23 1919. Tucker first developed an interest in aerospace while attending Pasadena City College, when a classmate who had completed a Civilian Pilot Training Program invited him on a flight. After that flight, Tucker became determined to learn how to fly. He received an Associate’s Degree in English in 1941, and joined the U.S. Army Air Forces in January 1942.
During WWII, Tucker was assigned to the 23rd fighter group in China, where he scored four air combat victories. He returned to the United States in 1943. It was then that Tucker maintains he became a test pilot. “I’ve felt that I was a test pilot since I came back from China, being assigned to the 412th fighter group in the Air Force,” he recalls, “we had P-59s, America’s first jet, and every flight was an adventure.” He separated from the service in 1946 and flew production tests on P-80s for Lockheed. In 1948, Tucker became an experimental test pilot and Assistant Chief of Northrop’s Missiles Division, where he flew on F-89 and YB-49 Flying Wing bomber programs. He also participated in the National Air Races from 1946 - 1949.
Tucker gained notoriety for his stall and spin tests in the YB-49 and for his test flights in the highly experimental X-4, a small twin-jet airplane that had no horizontal tail surfaces. He flew a total of 30 flights in the X-4. His experiences with this aircraft inspired him to design the first full-face shield helmet, for which he was awarded a U.S. patent.
In 1955, Tucker became an experimental test pilot for Lockheed, working with XF-104 and T2V projects. He retired from Lockheed as Chief Pilot in 1975. Tucker spent a great deal of his career at Edwards, and considers watching Muroc Army Airfield grow into the Edwards AFB we know today to be one of his fondest memories. Tucker logged over 10,000 hours on a wide range of aircraft, including over 2,000 hours in jet aircraft. He was a founder and Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.