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Driving Forces
July 25, 2011
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William P. AlbrechtWilliam P. Albrecht
NASA Photo
William P. Albrecht

Former Dryden engineer William P. Albrecht was indispensable to the successful flight test of Dryden's exotic research aircraft and was a trusted advisor, brilliant engineer and "a sterling human," according to his nominators. They also said he was an inspiration and a role model.

Albrecht retired from the center in 2002 after serving for 45 years in multiple capacities. He came to Dryden in October 1959, one year after the agency was established as NASA.

The first project to which he was assigned involved sounding rockets air-launched from an F-104. Albrecht was a member of the launcher design team.

He next was lead flight operations engineer on the second X-15 aircraft, where his duties involved resolving challenges with the aircraft, scheduling work on the it and other technical aspects. His work was instrumental in the successful flight test that led to the maximum speed recorded for a manned aircraft of Mach 6.7, a record that still stands.

"Bill had an uncanny ability to see potential safety of flight issues and was known for developing simple solutions to provide the needed safety features," said Johnny Armstrong, an Air Force engineer on the X-15.

Albrecht's next assignment as operations engineer for one of the YF-12 aircraft.

Albrecht directed maintenance as well as modification work to enable aircraft to be used for scientific research. He also participated in control room operations. Albrecht later served as chief of Flight Operations Engineering, and then as assistant chief of the Flight Operations directorate.

Albrecht died on July 16, 2007 as a result of complications from injuries sustained in a vehicle accident several months earlier. He was 83 at the time of his death.

Neil A. ArmstrongNeil A. Armstrong
NASA Photo
Neil A. Armstrong

Neil A. Armstrong was a pilot and engineer who joined the NACA at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Lab (now Glenn Research Center) in 1955, but transferred to the High Speed Flight Station (now Dryden) later that year. A pilot through and through, Armstrong nevertheless retained his passion for engineering and approached his work with that background firmly in mind.

Armstrong served as project pilot on the F-100A and F-100C aircraft during NASA's investigation of inertial coupling. He also flew the X-1B, X-5, F-105, F-106, B-47, KC-135 and Paresev. He flew the B-29 motherships from which the early rocket planes were air-launched. An early project pilot on the X-15, Armstrong made seven flights before he was selected as one of nine men for the second class of NASA astronauts. He left Dryden with more than 2,450 flying hours.

Armstrong was actively engaged in both piloting and engineering aspects of the X-15 program from its inception. He completed the first flight in the aircraft when it was equipped with a new flow-direction sensor (ball nose) as well as the initial flight in X-15 no. 3, the only model equipped with a self-adaptive flight control system. He worked closely with designers and engineers in development of the adaptive system. During those fights he reached a peak altitude of 207,500 feet in X-15 no. 3, and a speed of 3,989 mph (Mach 5.74) in X-15 no. 1.

In March 1966 he served as commander of the Gemini 8 orbital mission (David Scott, who later was a Dryden center director, was the pilot) during which he performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in orbit. On July 20, 1969, during the Apollo 11 lunar mission, Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. Armstrong has a total of eight days and 14 hours in space, including two hours and 48 minutes walking on the lunar surface.

Paul F. BiklePaul F. Bikle
NASA Photo
Paul F. Bikle

Paul F. Bikle was a former Dryden center director who for more than a decade guided the development of many historic Dryden research projects and was "the ideal manager for a flight test organization," his nominators said.

On Sept. 15, 1959, Bikle became the chief of the NASA High-Speed Flight Station. Later that month, the station became the NASA Flight Research Center. Bikle became its director, a position he held until 1971.

As director of the facility, he was responsible for flight operations on many major aeronautical research programs, including the rocket-powered X-15, the supersonic XB-70, the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle and the lifting body aircraft.

In 1947, after the first glide flights of the XS-1 Bikle participated in early plans for powered flights later made by Maj. Charles E. Yeager. He returned to aircraft evaluation in 1947, when he was appointed chief of the Performance Engineering branch and directed tests of the XB-43, the first jet bomber; the XC-99; and the F-86A.

As flight test was transferred to the newly formed Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards, he advanced to assistant chief of the Flight Test Engineering Laboratory in 1951. In this capacity he directed the engineering phase of the flight evaluation of the Russian MiG-15 on Okinawa in 1953.

In 1954 Bikle was appointed technical director of the Directorate of Flight Test at Edwards. A year later he was named technical director of the Flight Test Center.

He wrote more than 40 technical publications.

Marta Bohn-MeyerMarta Bohn-Meyer
NASA Photo
Marta Bohn-Meyer

Marta Bohn-Meyer's legacy is the relentless pursuit of excellence for which she was so well known, her passion and service to principles larger than herself. She was the first female flight engineer from NASA or the U.S. Air Force to fly to Mach 3 in an SR-71, an event many have said broke the glass ceiling for thousands of young women seeking careers in aerospace.

Bohn-Meyer was Dryden's chief engineer and also served as both deputy director and director of flight operations, as director of safety and mission assurance, deputy director of aerospace projects and project manager for the F-16 XL Supersonic Laminar Flow Control project.

She worked on a variety of research projects, specializing in flight test operations, test-technique development and laminar flow research.

Among such efforts she worked with were flight tests of space shuttle thermal protection tiles with a NASA F-104, B-57 gust gradient evaluations and the F-14 aileron-rudder interconnect and variable sweep transition laminar flow programs in addition to work on the F-16XL laminar flow project before becoming project manager.

And in what she may have considered her most important role, she was a devoted and determined mentor for young girls interested in technical career fields. Bohn-Meyer frequently spoke to young people in classrooms or other educational environments in hopes of helping young women realize their dreams in fields traditionally dominated by men.

The annual Math and Science Odyssey at Antelope Valley College, in which she participated each year, now is named in her honor.

Bohn-Meyer lost her life Sept. 18, 2005, near Oklahoma City while practicing for an aerobatic flying competition. She was 48.

Roy G. BryantRoy G. Bryant
NASA Photo
Roy G. Bryant

Roy G. Bryant was best known as NB-52B project manager, but his work involved many projects during a Dryden career that spanned 48 years.

Bryant accepted an active-duty assignment May 3, 1957, as an aeronautical research engineer with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA's predecessor organization. He joined the Project Coordinator's group at the NACA High Speed Flight Station (now Dryden).

He became a full-time NASA employee just weeks after the NACA became NASA. He served as an aeronautical research engineer in the Special Projects office as project coordinator. Bryant was assigned to manage the Century Series fighters, which includes the F-100, F-104 and F-107. Some projects like the F-107A were of short duration, but he found himself associated with the F-104 for longer than the span of most people's careers; Bryant managed research projects involving the F-104 from 1957 to 1994.

In October 1959, Bryant was transferred to the stability and control branch. While continuing his work with jet aircraft projects, he also served as a member of the X-15 Research Airplane Flight Test Organization until the program's completion in 1968. The X-15, the first of the hypersonic rocket planes, was the centerpiece of what is considered one of the most successful aviation research programs of all time, tallying a record 199 missions.

Bryant became project manager for the NB-52B in September 1975. Originally modified as a launch platform for the X-15, the NB-52B became a workhorse. Bryant retired in April 2005 and died a month later.

Frank W. BurchamFrank W. Burcham
NASA Photo
Frank W. Burcham

Frank W. Burcham retired as Dryden chief engineer but spent most of his career at the center as Propulsion Branch chief. He is best known for his contributions and leadership in developing and applying advanced integrated propulsion technology to modern aircraft and as a pioneer in the development of propulsion control systems and their integration to the flight control system. Nominators called Burcham "a respected propulsion pioneer and guru who has helped advance the state-of-the-art in propulsion flight testing," saying he is "always there to help."

Integrated propulsion systems have undergone revolutionary changes during the past three decades and designers have new opportunities to optimize engine, inlet and nozzle performance throughout the flight envelope as a result of work to which Burcham was a major contributor.

Programs he worked on such as the F-111E Integrated Propulsion Control System and YF-12 Cooperative Control demonstrated the significant performance and operational benefits integrated propulsion systems can have. The F-15 Digital Electronic Engine Control program led the way to the modern age of digital engine control and advancements in integrated propulsion control.

Burcham's influence and work also is seen in the flight evaluation and demonstration of the F-15 Highly Integrated Digital Electronic Control and the follow-on F-15 Performance-Seeking Control programs. Those programs proved the maturity of integrated propulsion controls and their flexibility in adapting to variations in engine health. The Propulsion Controlled Aircraft program, in which Burcham was the driving force, extended integrated propulsion controls technology to a safety-of-flight role. Flight demonstrations on F-15 and MD-11 aircraft proved the propulsion system could completely control and land an aircraft safely without the aid of conventional flight control surfaces.

Stanley P. ButchartStanley P. Butchart
NASA Photo
Stanley P. Butchart

Stanley P. Butchart was a research pilot at NASA's Flight Research Center (today known as Dryden). When he started work on May 10, 1951, the center was known as the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station.

He flew several research aircraft, including the Douglas D-558-I Skystreak, Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, the Northrop X-4 and the Bell X-5 research aircraft.

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 directed operations. As pilot of the B-29/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 served as launch panel operator on the B-52 used for air-launching the X-15 rocket plane. In addition, he towed the M2-F1 lightweight lifting body 14 times behind a Douglas R4D, the Navy version of the C-47, and the DC-3. Butchart also flew the Boeing KC-135, B-47, 720 and 747, the Convair CV-880 and CV-990.

Additional aircraft he flew included the North American F-100A, McDonnell F-101, Convair F-102, Lockheed F-104 and General Dynamics F-111 fighters and the Lockheed JetStar (which he considered his favorite).

Butchart was head of the Research Pilots branch (chief pilot) for six months and then was chosen as acting chief of flight operations. He was selected as chief in December 1966 and held the post until retirement.

Butchart received the NACA Exceptional Service Medal for his decisions and action when the X-1A exploded while attached to the B-29 on Aug. 8, 1955. Although the X-1A had to be jettisoned and was destroyed in the ensuing crash, X-1A pilot Joe Walker, the B-29 and its crew landed safely without injury or damage.

Butchart retired in 1976 and died Oct. 1, 2007, at the age of 85 in Lancaster, Calif.

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Page Last Updated: August 15th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator