Feature

Driving Forces
01.08.09
 
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Joseph A. Walker Joseph A. Walker
NASA Photo
Joseph A. Walker

Joseph A. Walker joined the NACA in March 1945 and became chief research pilot at Dryden during the mid-1960s.

He was project pilot on such pioneering research projects as the D-558-1, D-558-2, X-1, X-3, X-4, X-5 and the X-15. He also flew programs involving the F-100, F-101, F-102, F-104 and the B-47.

Walker made the first NASA X-15 flight on March 25, 1960, eventually flying the legendary research aircraft 24 times. Some of his most significant achievements on the X-15 program included reaching a speed of 4,104 mph, or Mach 5.92, during a flight on June 27, 1962, and an altitude of 354,300 feet on Aug. 22, 1963, his final X-15 flight. He was awarded astronaut wings posthumously in 2005 for the X-15 altitude flight.

Walker was the first man to pilot the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle that was used to develop piloting and operational techniques for lunar landings.

Nominators said he expected the best of those who worked for him when he was the chief pilot and had high expectations of others as he had for himself.

During World War II he flew P-38 fighters for the Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Seven Oak Clusters.

Walker was the recipient of many awards during his 21 years as a research pilot. These include the 1961 Robert J. Collier Trophy, 1961 Harmon International Trophy for Aviators, the 1961 Kincheloe Award and 1961 Octave Chanute Award. He received an honorary Doctor of Aeronautical Sciences degree from his alma mater in June of 1962. Walker was named Pilot of the Year in 1963 by the National Pilots Association.

He was a charter member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and one of the first to be designated a Fellow. He was fatally injured on June 8, 1966, in a mid-air collision between the F-104 he was piloting and the XB-70 bomber prototype.




Walter C. Williams Walter C. Williams
NASA Photo
Walter C. Williams

Walter C. Williams was the first chief of the facility that became Dryden. He saw its transformation from a makeshift organization housed in a single hangar and a decaying wartime building through construction of a permanent facility to the initial flights of the X-15 rocket plane.

Williams joined the NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1939 as an aeronautical engineer. He initially worked in aircraft stability and control. In September 1946, he was named NACA project engineer for the X-1 flights.

To his assignment at the Muroc detachment, he brought with him an attitude about flight research that focused on systematic testing. His methodology included advance planning, incremental progress with flight series, and using data gathered to plan the next step in a research program. This, he argued, was "how to avoid killing pilots."

When the Muroc NACA detachment was made into a permanent operation, Williams was named its chief. His tenure spanned the golden age of flight test, as aviation progressed from subsonic flight to the dawn of the space age. Williams' career reflected this change; he left the High-Speed Flight Station on Aug. 28, 1959, to direct tracking and recovery operations for the Mercury manned spacecraft.

"His connections convinced the [Air Force] that the XB-70 program could be done by NASA. He brought business to the center because of his reputation for perfect oversight of test operations," said Gary Krier, another member of the Dryden Driving Forces category.

"His 8:45 a.m. coffee-in-the-cafeteria sessions provided access to the center director every work day. He was accurately described by one fan as 'sensitive, but not necessarily sympathetic,' Krier added.

Williams began with the X-1, a single hangar, and decaying facilities, and transformed this into a state-of-the-art flight research center preparing to fly the X-15 to hypersonic speeds and to the edge of space. Williams died Oct. 7, 1995.




Roxanah B. Yancey Roxanah B. Yancey
NASA Photo
Roxanah B. Yancey

Roxanah B. Yancey was head of the NACA Muroc Unit "computers."

Women were hired by the NACA and by most military branches as human "computers" to reduce raw data into something engineers could read.

From the inception of the Muroc Unit in 1946 until 1960, Yancey led the computers and was one of the first two women who worked at what would later become Dryden. As was the practice of the day, Yancey and other "computers" were selected for earning a mathematics degree.

She accepted a position as an aerospace engineer in 1960, which she retained until her retirement in 1973. During her tenure, she was a supervisory mathematician and branch head of the Computing Service and an engineer in the Manned Flight Control branch.

Yancey was known for her knowledge in data reduction work on the Air Force XS-1 flight nine, Oct. 14, 1947, which was the first supersonic flight. Identifying traces on film, marking time to coordinate all data recordings and reading film deflections before converting them into engineering units for the legendary flight were key responsibilities, ones her nominators said she was well prepared to do.

She was considered by her nominators to be an excellent teacher as well as a mathematician. It was her responsibility to teach new members of the computer group - in the 1950s referred to as "mathematic aids," who did not have math degrees - to reduce and evaluate the flight records from research aircraft.

In the 1960s, when Yancey accepted a new job title as aerospace engineer, her new responsibilities included determining stability and control derivative characteristics for all three X-15 airplanes. The derivatives were used in flight planning for the X-15 simulator. Later, Yancey studied the characteristics of the aircraft at speeds exceeding Mach 6.

She died in April 1974.




Driving Forces Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions in the Driving Forces category include: Bill Andrews, Jenny Baer-Riedhart, Charlie Baker, Bob Baron, Roger Barnicki, De E. Beeler, Don Bellman, Larry Biscayart, Michael Bondy, Don Black, Vance Brand, Bill Brockett, Dick Day, Robert Downing, Hubert "Jake" Drake, Angel Dunn, Lance Dykoff, Dale Edminister, Tom Finch, Michael Harlow, Bob James, Marty Knutson, Jack Kolf, Don Kordes, Mary Little, Jim Love, Richard Maine, Gene Matranga, John McTigue, Dick Monaghan, Al Myers, Harold O'Brien, Wayne Ottinger, Jack Russell, William Schweikhard, Jim Stewart, Tim Stidham, Ed Teets, Tom Toll, Gerry Truscynski, Joe Vensel and Joe Weil.