Prior to his untimely death in a light plane crash in November 2007, Edwin W. Lewis Jr. served NASA for 18 years as a research pilot at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., and the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Lewis flew a variety of research and mission support aircraft during his 10 years at Dryden, including NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory, a modified Gulfstream-III, Beechcraft B-200 King Air, Lockheed YO-3A, and the Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor. He also served as Dryden's Aviation Safety Officer.
Prior to transferring to Dryden in late 1997, Lewis flew 10 different research and support aircraft at NASA Ames - a C-130B, the C-141A Kuiper Airborne Observatory, the DC-8, UH-1, SH-3, King Air, Lear 24, T-38A, T-39G, and YO-3A - in support of NASA research missions. He was also project pilot for Ames' 747 and T-38 programs.
Lewis began flight training as a Civil Air Patrol cadet in 1951, ultimately earning his commercial pilot's certificate in 1958. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Hobart College, Geneva, N.Y., and entered the U.S. Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Following pilot training he was assigned to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., as an instructor pilot, for the T-33 and T-37 aircraft. He served in Vietnam from 1965 through 1966, where he was a forward air controller, instructor and standardization/evaluation pilot, flying more than 1,000 hours in the O-1 "Bird Dog."
Lewis separated from the regular Air Force and joined Pan American World Airways and the 129th Air Commando Group, California Air National Guard (ANG) based in Hayward, Calif. During his 18 years with the California ANG he flew the U-6, U-10, C-119, HC-130 aircraft, and the HH-3 helicopter. At the time of his military retirement with the rank of colonel, Lewis was commander of the 129th Air Rescue and Recovery Group, a composite combat rescue group. During his 22 years as an airline pilot, he flew the Boeing 707, 727 and 747. He took early retirement from Pan American in 1989 to become a pilot with NASA.
Lewis had also been active in the Civil Air Patrol for more than 50 years, serving as the organization's California and Pacific Region commander and national vice commander. He had also received numerous awards during his military career, among them the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Lewis, along with another CAP pilot, was killed on Nov. 8, 2007, when the Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182 they were flying crashed into a mountain southwest of Las Vegas, Nev. At the time of his death, Lewis had accumulated more than 28,000 flight hours in flying career.