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Bryant Leaves Behind a Legacy
June 17, 2005
Bryant makes a point to, from left, Richard Reeves, James Fletcher, Dale Compton and Ted Ayers. Noted NASA engineer Roy Glenn Bryant died May 30 at his Lancaster home. He had retired from Dryden in April after a 48-year career, much of it dedicated to work with the Center's legendary research aircraft Bryant was born Feb. 3, 1933, in Olton, Texas. He received a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Texas Technological College in Lubbock in 1956 and then joined the U.S. Army with a rank of lieutenant.

Image Right: Bryant makes a point to, from left, Richard Reeves, James Fletcher, Dale Compton and Ted Ayers.

After completing the Student Officer course at Ft. Belvoir, Va., Bryant was assigned as platoon leader in the 547th Engineer Combat Battalion at Ft. Ord, Calif., where he served as an engineering instructor.

On May 3, 1957, Bryant accepted an active-duty assignment as an aeronautical research engineer with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA's predecessor organization, joining the Project Coordinator's Group at the NACA High Speed Flight Station at Edwards, Calif. There he was responsible for coordinating flight research activities of the HSFS engineering, operations and instrumentation divisions. His first assignment was as project engineer for the JB-47A aircraft, which was used for aerodynamic noise studies and landing-approach investigations.

Bryant subsequently was assigned to manage projects involving several of the so-called "Century Series" fighters such as the F-100, F-104 and F-107. While some projects, such as that with the F-107A, were of short duration, he sometimes found himself associated with an airplane for longer than the span of most people's careers; Bryant managed research projects involving the F-104 from 1957 to 1994.

Bryant ended his active-duty Army career in October 1958 just two weeks after the NACA became NASA. At that time, he became a full-time NASA employee but remained in the Army Reserve. At what was then known as the Flight Research Center (at Edwards), he served as an aeronautical research engineer in the Special Projects Office, where he continued his duties as project coordinator.

Bryant is seated in the front row at left in this photo of the NASA Image Right: Roy Bryant is seen at far right in this 1959 image, wearing a flowered shirt, with other Dryden engineers as they inspected film records of the X-15 from its first powered flight. Bryant had recently retired from Dryden following a 48-year career.

In October 1959, Bryant was transferred to the stability and control branch of the Research Division. While continuing his work with various 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 considered one of the most successful aviation research programs of all time.

During the 1970s, Bryant continued to manage NASA's F-104 fleet. These supersonic jets performed chase and support duties as well as serving as testbeds for various research projects. In September 1975, he became project manager for the NB-52B. This airplane, originally modified as a launch platform for the X-15, became a workhorse at the Flight Research Center. It was used to carry or launch a wide variety of research vehicles and experiments until its retirement in December 2004.

In 1976, Bryant was assigned as project manager for the YF-17 Lightweight Fighter prototype used by NASA for base drag studies and transonic maneuvering capabilities evaluations. Although forced to work under a demanding schedule, he was recognized for creating a highly efficient test plan to acquire all the requested data.

Roy Bryant is seen at far right in this 1959 image, wearing a Image Right: Bryant is seated in the front row at left in this photo of the NASA basketball team from 1959 to 1960.

Bryant later served as NASA project manager for two joint U.S.-U.K. research activities involving remotely piloted scale models. First, in 1981, he coordinated NASA support of the Cooperative High-Incidence Research Program, or CHIRP. The success of CHIRP led to two High-Incidence Research Model projects in 1983 and 1986.

He also served as project manager for the F-4C Spanwise Blowing project in 1983 and the Daedalus human-powered aircraft project in 1987.

Over the course of his career, Bryant received group achievement awards for participation in the following programs:

  • X-15 Research Airplane Flight Test Organization
  • Lightweight Fighter Test Team
  • B-52 Operations Team
  • Solid Rocket Booster Deceleration Subsystem Development Air Drop Test Team
  • Thermal Protection System Test Team
  • B-52 Wing Pylon Proof Load Team
  • Dryden Basic Operations Manual Development Team
  • Pegasus Launch Team
  • B-52/Space Shuttle Orbiter Drag Chute Flight Test Team
Bryant retired from Dryden April 1. He is survived by his wife, Elouise, and two sons, Jeffrey, of Las Vegas, Nev., and Joel, of Lancaster.

At the time of his retirement, Bryant was the last former NACA employee still working as a civil servant at Dryden. His distinguished NASA career was book-ended by the first X-15 flight in 1959 and the last X-43A flight in 2004, spanning more than 40 years of hypersonic flight research at Dryden.

Compiled by Peter Merlin
Dryden History Office