James 'Jim' W. Smolka 1950-
James W. "Smoke" Smolka is a research test pilot in the Flight Crew Branch of the Flight Operations Directorate at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, located on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Smolka has been a research pilot at NASA Dryden since 1985. He is currently a project pilot for the Autonomous Formation Flight and Intelligent Flight Control System experiments and flies the F-15B Aeronautical Research Aircraft on a variety of experiments. In addition, Smolka is a co-pilot the NASA NB-52B launch aircraft and pilots the C-17A at the Air Force Flight Test Center.
Smolka was the project pilot on the F-15 Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles (ACTIVE) research project. He has flown as a co-project pilot on the F-16XL Supersonic Laminar Flow Control aircraft and the F-18 High Alpha (Angle-of-Attack) Research Vehicle (HARV) aircraft. He also participated in F-15 HiDEC flight and engine control system projects, the AFTI/F-16, F-111 Mission Adaptive Wing, and F-104 Aeronautical Research Aircraft projects.
Before joining NASA, Smolka was an F-16 experimental test pilot with General Dynamics Corp-oration for two years at Edwards. During this period he was also a project pilot with the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration F-16 (AFTI/F-16) Joint Test Force located at Dryden.
Smolka, born July 31, 1950, in Mt. Clemens, Mich., received his bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1972. He is a 1978 graduate of the Air Force Test Pilot School, served on active duty until 1983, and subsequently served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve until 1999. Among the aircraft he flew in the Air Force were the T-38, A-7D, OV-10A, A-37, A-10A, and F-15B. Smolka retired from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of colonel in 1999 after 27 years of active and reserve service.
Smolka received a master of science degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1980 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also received an engineer of aeronautics and astronautics degree from Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., in 1994.
A member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Smolka has authored several technical publications and has taught a number of courses in the field of aerospace for California State University, Fresno, and Chapman College. He has accumulated more than 6,500 hours of flight time since he became a pilot in 1973.