From 1951 until his retirement in 1976, Stanley P. Butchart served as a research test pilot at NASA's Flight Research Center, now the Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Butchart joined the Center - then known as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' High-Speed Flight Research Station - as a research pilot on May 10, 1951.
During his career as a research pilot, he flew a great variety of research aircraft. Among the more significant research aircraft he flew were the specialized Douglas D-558-I Skystreak, Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, the Northrop X-4, and the Bell X-5 research craft.
As the Center's principal multi-engine aircraft pilot, Butchart flew the Boeing B-29 (plus its Navy version, the P2B) motherships for air-launches of the D-558-II and several of the X-1 rocket planes. As the pilot in command on the B-29 / P2B motherships, Butchart basically directed the operations. It was he who called for the chase planes before each drop, directed the positioning of fire rescue vehicles, and released the experimental aircraft after ensuring that all was ready for the drop. As pilot of the B-29 and P2B, Butchart launched the X-1A once, the X-1B 13 times, the X-1E 22 times, and the D-558-II 102 times.
Butchart also served as launch panel operator on the B-52 used for air-launching the famed X-15 rocket plane. In addition, he towed the M2-F1 lightweight lifting body 14 times behind an R4D, the Navy version of the C-47 and the DC-3.
Butchart also flew a number of production aircraft that were either the subject of various research investigations, testbeds modified for aeronautics experiments, or used for mission support. Among these were the Boeing KC-135, B-47, and 747, the Convair CV-880 and CV-990, the North American F-100A, McDonnell F-101, Convair F-102, Lockheed F-104, and General Dynamics F-111 fighters, the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, the Douglas R4D, the Boeing 720, and the Lockheed JetStar, which he considered his favorite.
Butchart served for about six months in 1966 as head of the Research Pilots Branch (Chief Pilot) and then as acting Chief (later, Director) of Flight Operations before being advanced to the permanent position that December, a post he held until his retirement in early 1976. His responsibilities in this position initially involved oversight of three branches, including research pilots, maintenance and manufacturing and operations engineering, the last of which included propulsion and electrical/electronic sections and project engineering for the X-15 and lifting bodies. During his tenure, the responsibilities of his directorate were expanded to include flight test engineering support and flight systems and loads laboratories.
Among other awards, Butchart received the NACA Exceptional Service Medal for his decisions and actions when the X-1A exploded while attached to the B-29 launch aircraft on August 8, 1955. Although the X-1A had to be jettisoned and was destroyed in its ensuing crash, X-1A pilot Joe Walker, the B-29, and its crew landed safely without injury or damage. During his career, he wrote several technical reports and presented a number of research papers. He became one of 65 charter members of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He later was elected a Fellow of the society and served as its president in 1980.
Stan Butchart attended school in Spokane, Wash. He received primary and secondary civilian pilot training while attending Whitworth College in Spokane, but quit school to join the Navy in July 1942. Upon his completion of flight training at Corpus Christi, Tex., he joined torpedo-bomber Air Group VT-51 and flew the Grumman-General Motors TBM Avenger from the aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto in the South Pacific during World War II. He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Presidential Unit Citation among other service medals.
While continuing to fly in the Naval Reserve, he earned bachelor's degrees in aeronautical and mechanical engineering at the University of Washington. Following graduation in 1950, he worked briefly as a design engineer for Boeing Aircraft before beginning his career as a research pilot for the NACA / NASA.
After a lengthy retirement, Butchart died Oct. 1, 2007 in Lancaster, Calif., his home for the past 56 years.