Lancaster Jethawks Honor Retired NASA Test Pilot Bill Dana
Retired NASA Dryden Flight Research Center test pilot Bill Dana was honored Saturday evening, Aug. 9, by the Lancaster Jethawks California League baseball team during its annual Aerospace Appreciation Night. Dana, who attended the event at Clear Channel Stadium in Lancaster, Calif., with his wife Judy and several members of his family, received an ovation from the fans during a pre-game drive around the stadium's warning track.
The first 1,000 fans attending the game also received a bobblehead doll in Dana's likeness, and artist Randy Barnicki presented Dana with a limited-edition print of his painting, "The Hypersonic X-15."
The first employee to be hired by the newly-created aerospace agency when it began operations on Oct. 1, 1958, Dana had a distinguished 40-year career in research flying and engineering at NASA Dryden, flying high-risk missions in the hypersonic X-15 rocket plane, the rocket-powered lifting bodies, and a variety of unique research aircraft.
Several other NASA Dryden staff were recognized during a break in the Jethawks' game with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, including Dryden research pilots Jim Smolka and Frank Batteas, flight test engineer Tim Krall, and retired Dryden research pilots Rogers Smith and Tom McMurtry. The event also featured displays about NASA's 50 years of aerospace research and exploration, and Smolka and Krall autographed photos for hundreds of appreciative aerospace aficionados.