Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Samuel 'Sammy' Homer Mason, Jr. 1917-2001
Born Samuel Homer Mason, Jr. in Los Angeles, December 15, 1917, Sammy began what was to become a distinguished flying career at the age of 16. Following his marriage to Wanda Lee Hintz in 1941, he settled in Tulare, California to fly for the Rankin Flying Academy to train pilots in Stearman biplanes for WWII.
After the war, Sammy selected a Stearman for the air show circuit. With its distinctive international orange and white checkerboard wings, “Checkers” and Sammy, along with friends Rex Wells, Ray Goudy and others, formed the Hollywood Hawks and made aerobatic history in the postwar ’40s, incorporating a number of aviation “firsts” into his act, most notably a Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) bottle mounted under the fuselage. Sammy and Checkers were profiled in the April 18, 1949 issue of Life magazine.
In 1950, with a growing family, Sammy went to work for Lockheed Aircraft as an engineering test pilot under his close friend, Tony LeVier. During his 27-year career with Lockheed, Sammy again made history: In 1967 he became the first pilot to demonstrate a full complement of aerobatics in a helicopter, performing at the Paris Air Show in the compound version of the Lockheed 286 rigid-rotor helicopter.Sammy retired to Santa Paula Airport where he instructed pilots in aerobatics and increased proficiency, among them actor Steve McQueen, who became a close friend. He earned a degree as a Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation Science and in 1987 he became an Honorary Fellow in the prestigious Society of Experimental Test Pilots
John (Jack) A. 'Suitcase' Simpson 1927-
Jack 'Suitcase' Simpson was born in Philadelphia and raided in Pittsburgh,Pa. After high school he served in the U.S.Army Air Corps during WWII. After receiving a BS in Aeronautics from St Louis University in 1951, he won his wings as a fighter pilot in the USAF,flying the F-86 Sabre in the Korean War.
After the war he was a test pilot in Southern Japan. Upon returning to the USA,Jack served the office of the USAF Plant Representative at North Aerican Aviation as a project test pilot in the development of the F-100,the world's first supersonic fighter. Upon discharge he was hired by Lockheed as an experimental test pilot in the devekopment of the F-104,designed as a MACH 2 fighter.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Benjamin Scovill "Ben" Kelsey 1906 –1981
Benjamin S. Kelsey was born in Waterbury, Conn., in 1906, and attended public schools there. At the age of 15 he completed a flying course with the Curtiss Flying Service at Garden City, N.Y. He graduated from Msachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in June 1928, and then conducted research work and instructed in the aeronautics department there.
Prior to being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps on May 2, 1929, General Kelsey had participated in extensive private and commercial flying and had obtained his transport pilot license. First assigned at Mitchel Field, N.Y., he was associated with the Guggenheim Fog Flying Laboratory. The following year he graduated from Primary and Advanced Flying Schools, and in 1931 he obtained his master of science degree in aeronautical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Assigned with the 20th Pursuit Group at Mather Field, Calif., and later at Barksdale Field, La., he served in various tactical unit duties.
Transferred to the Materiel Command at Wright Field, Ohio, in 1934, General Kelsey was fighter project officer in the Engineering Section, and in addition participated in various phases of blind landing and instrument flying development. He was first to fly the Bell twin-Allison XFM-1 Airacuda prototype on September 1, 1937, the P-39 Airacobra and the Lockheed XP-38.
From May to July 1940 he served as assistant military attache for air at London, England, and then returned to Wright Field as chief of the Pursuit Branch in the Production Engineering Section. In the spring of 1942 he was attached to the Eighth Fighter Command at Dow Field, Maine, to assist in preparing for Trans-Atlantic ferry flights, and the following July he flew in the first ferry flight of fighters across the North Atlantic to England. Returning to the States in September 1942, he resumed his former position as chief of the Pursuit Branch, and the following July he was named chief of the Flight Research Branch, Flight Test Division.
Going to England in November 1943, General Kelsey was deputy chief of staff of the Ninth Fighter Command, and the following February he was appointed chief of the Operation Engineering Section of the Eighth Air Force Headquarters there. In February 1945 he was assigned to the Materiel Division at Air Corps Headquarters.
Reassigned to the Materiel Command at Wright Field that July, General Kelsey was chief of the All-Weather Operations Section. From December 1946 to January 1948 he served successively as assistant deputy commanding general for personnel; deputy commanding general for personnel, and chief of personnel and administration there.
Returning to Air Force Headquarters in February 1948, General Kelsey was chief of the Control Group in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel. Entering the National War College in August 1948, he graduated the following June and remained there as an instructor. In June 1952 he was appointed Deputy Director of Research and Development in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Development at Air Force Headquarters.
General Kelsey reverted to his permanent rank of colonel Dec. 30, 1955 and retired from active duty the following day.
His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters; French Croix de Guerre; and Belgian Croix de Guerre. He is rated a command pilot. In 1944 he received the Octave Chanute Award from the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences for contributions to high speed flight testing.