Hugh M. Jackson joined NASA'S Flight Research Center (now the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center) in June of 1966 as a research pilot in the center's flight operations department.
Over the next five years, Jackson served as project pilot in the general aviation research program and Aero Commander Fluidic Autopilot research program, work previously done by former NASA astronaut and research pilot Fred Haise prior to his departure when he joined NASA's astronaut corps. Jackson also flew safety chase missions for flights of the X-15 rocket plane.
Jackson also flew zero-G profiles in the F-4A Phantom, gathering biomedical research data on three instrumented animals – a cat, a rat, and a monkey - positioned in the rear cockpit to determine their physiological reactions to the environment.
During what would be his last flight in this particular F-4 on July 25, 1967, as the landing gear retracted on take-off and the wing fuel cells pressurized, stray voltage arced across the fuel sensor unit in the right wing tank. The resulting explosion ripped a large hole through the wing. Jackson landed safely on the dry lakebed and the badly damaged aircraft was subsequently retired from service.
Jackson also flew safety chase missions for flights of the X-15 rocket plane, the YF-12 the lifting bodies, F-106 engine studies, Mars Viking recovery support, ballute drag research, and other NASA and Air Force programs. In addition to the F-4, he flew F-104, F-5D, F-111, F-8, T-33, B-57, JetStar, Learjet, C-47, Aero Commander, and Twin Comanche aircraft when with NASA.
Jackson received his Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, in aeronautical engineering from the University of Illinois. After graduate study at Cornell University, he began employment at Douglas Aircraft Company, and later, at Hughes Aircraft Company. He returned to the University of Illinois for additional graduate work, as well as pilot training with the U.S. Air Force. He began teaching engineering classes while still in school, and completed his doctoral dissertation in 1969.
Upon leaving NASA in 1971, Jackson returned to the teaching profession and the military reserve.