Driving Forces
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Edwin Saltzman Edwin Saltzman
NASA Photo
Edwin Saltzman

Edwin Saltzman applied to and received job offers at several NACA facilities, including Ames Research Center, Wallops Flight Facility, Lewis Research Center (now Glenn), the Flight Research Center (now Dryden), and Langley Research Center. Just why his wife Lois picked the garden spot of the nation here in the desert is unclear, but Saltzman started work at the Flight Research Center in 1951.

His first project was calculating lift-over-drag ratios for the X-1E, which currently is perched in front of building 4800 at Dryden.

Within two years, he again worked on lift-over-drag ratios, a critical data component for rocket planes, this time on the X-15. In the era of 20-inch slide rulers, difficult work was even more challenging. When he completed his assignment on the X-15, he was assigned to the supersonic XB-70 Valkyrie.

He also worked on Supercritical Wing projects on the F-8 SCW and the F-111 Transonic Aircraft Technology aircraft.

Saltzman is well known for his innovative work on truck fairings, work he began with Vic Horton. Starting with a van, and moving on to a tractor-trailer unit, Saltzman and his team demonstrated that significant aerodynamic improvements to blunt vehicles could lead to dramatic improvements in fuel mileage.

His team's work on these and other land vehicles migrated to the automotive and truck industries, with visible and tangible results. But in order to gain support for the first aerodynamic van project, Saltzman went to Milt Thompson, then director of Research Projects, with his proposal.

While giving his full support to the project, Thompson wrote dryly in the margins, "The results of this should be so obviously productive that it probably won't get approved."

Saltzman retired in 1981 and continued to work at the center as a contractor until 2003.

Lawrence J. Schilling Lawrence J. Schilling
NASA Photo
Lawrence J. Schilling

Lawrence J. Schilling retired in January 2008 as Dryden's associate director for operations, concluding a 32-year career. He was an architect of Dryden's digital real-time simulation capability and a driving force in establishing key Dryden infrastructure.

In November 1975, he joined Electronic Associates Inc. as an onsite simulation engineer assigned to the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire project. Three years later he was hired as a civil servant and served as Simulation Technology leader from March 1987 until March 1993, when he became branch chief.

Schilling led the development of simulations for Dryden's space shuttle engineering; the remotely piloted, three-eighths-scale F-15 Spin Research Vehicle; the Highly-Maneuverable Aircraft Technology research vehicle; and the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration F-111 research aircraft. He also was the government-wide simulation lead for the X-30 National Aerospace Plane. In 18 years as a simulation engineer, he contributed to the F-111 Mission Adaptive Wing; F-18 High-Angle-of-Attach Research Vehicle; F-18 Systems Research Aircraft; SR-71; Forward-Swept Wing X-29; and the X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability demonstrator.

Schilling also served on a small design team that developed the Integrated Test Facility (renamed the Walter C. Williams Research Aircraft Integration Facility on Nov. 17, 1995). Schilling designed the simulation elements, defined aircraft-in-the-loop simulation requirements and influenced building layout. He also had a long-term advocacy role in the management of the Western Aeronautical Test Range and Dryden's information technology systems.

He also was research systems director; acting deputy center director; acting associate director; acting director for research facilities; and deputy director for research facilities. Prior to his retirement, he was associate director for operations for three years. Schilling led the organizations that perform Dryden's programmatic work - Flight Operations, Research Engineering, Test Facilities, Safety and Information Technology.

Edward T. Schneider Edward T. Schneider
NASA Photo
Edward T. Schneider

Edward T. Schneider was as a Dryden research pilot from 1983 to 2000.

During his career at the center, Schneider was best known for his nine-year stint as project pilot for the F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle, in which he became the first pilot in history to conduct multi-axis thrust-vectored flight.

Schneider was project pilot for the F-18 Systems Research Aircraft, the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire research program, the Boeing 720 Controlled Impact Demonstration, the F-14 Automatic Rudder Interconnect and the laminar flow research programs. As a project pilot, he also flew the F-104 Aeronautical Research and Microgravity programs, the F-15 Advanced Controls Technology for Integrated Vehicles, the SR-71 High-Speed research program, the NASA B-52B launch aircraft, and the F-15B aeronautical testbed aircraft.

From July 1998 through March 2000, Schneider was acting chief of the Flight Crew branch, heading a team of 13 research pilots. He then served as deputy director of Flight Operations at Dryden from March through September 2000. In this position, Schneider helped manage the Avionics, Operations Engineering, Flight Crew, Quality Inspection, Aircraft Maintenance and Modification, and the Shuttle and Flight Operations Support branches.

In September of 2000, Schneider transferred from Dryden to Johnson Space Center, Houston, where he was a staff pilot and T-38 instructor pilot. When he left Dryden, he had accumulated a career total of more than 6,700 flight hours in 84 different models of aircraft and had flown "first flights" on five unique aircraft configurations.

In 1996 he received both the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Chanute Flight Award for the conduct of hazardous F-18 high-angle-of-attack flight testing. Schneider was honored with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 2004, and was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor in Lancaster, Calif., in September 2005.

Rogers E. Smith Rogers E. Smith
NASA Photo
Rogers E. Smith

Rogers E. Smith was best known as Dryden chief pilot.

Nominators recalled Smith, who currently is a consultant, lecturer and instructor at the National Test Pilot School, Mojave, Calif., as a team builder on efforts such as the X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability Demonstrator project. Smith remembers his work as a project pilot with the multi-axis, thrust vectoring X-31 and as well as acting director of flight operations.

Smith participated in a wide variety of test efforts, including the X-29 Forward Swept Wing, Advanced Fighter Technology Integration F-16 and the AFTI F-111 Mission Adaptive Wing programs.

He also was a project pilot for the SR-71, the F-15 Advanced Controls Technology for Integrated Vehicles project and the F-104 aeronautical research aircraft. Smith was a co-project pilot on the F-15B aeronautical experiment testbed aircraft and flew the F-18 and NASA's DC-8 airborne science platform.

Also associated with Langley Research Center in Virginia in 1967 as a research pilot, Smith has specialized in the areas of advanced flight control systems, stability and control, and flying qualities throughout his flying career.

Smith served as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1955 to 1963. He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air National Guard from 1970 until he concluded his service as a Group Commander of an F-16 Air Defense Unit in 1994.

He has also served with the National Research Council of Canada, flying variable stability helicopters used for flying qualities research.

He is a former president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Smith also has written more than 30 technical papers during his career.

Kenneth J. Szalai Kenneth J. Szalai
NASA Photo
Kenneth J. Szalai

Former Center Director Kenneth J. Szalai was a strong advocate for Dryden who promoted and oversaw the reemergence of the facility as a center during his tenure from 1990-98.

From 1982 until December 1990, Szalai directed the Dryden Research Engineering division. Prior to that position, he was Director of Engineering. From 1964-1982 Szalai was a research engineer and technical supervisor.

His first project was as a research and flight test engineer on the JetStar Airborne Simulator. Szalai was principal investigator and chief engineer on the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire program, which involved the first aircraft equipped with a digital electronic fly-by-wire control system with no mechanical-reversion capability.

Szalai participated and led numerous experimental and X-plane aircraft programs in areas of flight controls, flight dynamics, aerodynamics, propulsion, structures and integrated systems. In addition, Szalai initiated the U.S. and Russian Tu-144LL research program. Tu-144 research allowed comparisons of full-scale supersonic aircraft flight data with results from models in wind tunnels, computer-aided techniques and other flight tests. The flight experiments provided aerodynamic, structures, acoustics and operating environment data on supersonic passenger aircraft.

He said his objective was to create an environment in which the extraordinary and unparalleled team at Dryden would be free to demonstrate their "creativity, talent, commitment, and dedication to safe and important flight programs of discovery." Szalai said he took pride in the Dryden team's ability to work in partnership with virtually every company and government agency in the United States and with international partners.

In a reponses on the ballot for the vote that is the basis for this project, Szalai said, "I always believed that every single person who came through the gate was essential for Dryden's success. Every single one."

Milton O. ThompsonMilton O. Thompson
NASA Photo

Milton O. Thompson joined the NACA on March 19, 1956, as an aeronautical research scientist, beginning a career at Dryden that spanned 37 years. He transferred to the pilots' office in January 1959.

In his first major project, an F-104 was used to test the feasibility of large-scale laminar flow at supersonic speeds.

In 1959, Thompson was named a pilot-consultant to the X-20 Dyna-Soar project, involving a small delta-wing spacecraft that was to be launched by a rocket and capable of making a horizontal landing. The project faced challenges, however, and was never flown.

Thompson began to look at alternative concepts that would allow a spacecraft to make an airplane-like landing. It was this work for which he is best known.

The first effort was the Paresev vehicle, featuring a triangular fabric wing similar to those later seen on hang gliders and attached to a tubular framework. The vehicle flew successfully, but technical difficulties prevented a similar wing's use on the Gemini spacecraft.

Thompson also supported efforts to build the M2-F1 wooden lifting body. After early control problems, Thompson flew the M2-F1, initially towed by a car and later behind a C-47. This success led to construction of the "heavyweight" M2-F2, which was launched from the B-52 mothership. Thompson piloted the vehicle's first five flights. Amid the lifting body flights, Thompson also made 14 flights in the X-15, reaching a top speed of Mach 5.48 and a peak altitude of 214,100 feet.

Thompson retired from research flying in January 1967, moving into management. In 1969, he was put in charge of all flight projects at the center. He urged that the space shuttle be built without landing engines, arguing that a glide landing would be safer. In April 1975 he was named chief engineer, a job he held until his death on Aug. 6, 1993.