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NASA Research Pilots to Enter Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame
NASA Langley researcher Dick Yenni.
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NASA Langley researcher Dick Yenni tries out a proposal for an Apollo space suit in 1967. Credit: NASA

Test pilot Lee Person.
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Test pilot Lee Person evaluates a Synthetic Visibility System in 1989 - in essence, two helmet-mounted eyepieces connected to video cameras that swivel in response to head movements. Credit: NASA

By: Kathy Barnstorff

Two retired research pilots, who combined logged more than 17,000 hours of flight time at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, are set to enter the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame at the Virginia Aviation Museum.

Kenneth R. (Dick) Yenni and Lee Person are being honored in part for their extensive contributions to improving aviation safety and advancing aeronautics research. They will be celebrated, along with a retired airport director, at the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society's Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Virginia Aviation Museum on November 12.

Yenni, who lives in Williamsburg, worked at NASA Langley from 1963 to 1995. His early research and test pilot work centered on improving the handling and stability of rigid rotor and heavy lift helicopters. He also worked to advance airline flight systems and general aviation cockpit displays. Yenni was one of three pilots who practiced moon landing simulations at the Lunar Landing Research Facility and demonstrated that stand-up landings could allow steeper descent profiles and save fuel. He was also the primary research subject in experiments on weightlessness, proving that humans could work in space.

A research pilot and engineer, Yenni has flown 105 types of aircraft during more than 7,000 flight hours. He is a graduate of the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School and has qualified in all classes of aircraft, including rotorcraft, jet fighters and multi-engine transports. During his career, Yenni contributed to aeronautics, atmospheric science and space flight research and received a number of awards.

NASA Langley pilot/engineer Lee Person, now of Yorktown, often flew with Yenni. Person's NASA career spanned 33 years, from 1962 to1995. During that time his work included aeronautics and space research. He did pioneering work in the use of in-flight thrust vectoring in close air combat for military fighters.

Person was also a part of moon landing research. He tested several one-man lunar flying devices and worked on orbital missions and space station rendezvous simulations. Chief among his space research tasks was Gemini – Lunar Excursion Module docking simulations, flying lunar landing simulations and participation in the development of the Rendezvous and Docking Simulator at Langley.

Person has flown more than 100 different types of aircraft and rotorcraft during more than 10,000 flight hours.

In the 1980s and '90s, with Yenni as safety and research pilot and Person as chief test pilot, NASA Langley spent six years developing radar to combat potentially deadly wind shear. The two flew a specially equipped jet into hazardous weather to test the technology. Their work led directly to the hardware and procedures used by today's transport and general aviation pilots to avoid dangerous and potentially fatal encounters with wind shear.

Yenni and Person will be joined in the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame by retired Norfolk International Airport director Kenneth R. Scott. Scott’s career with the Norfolk Airport Authority began in 1970 as a project engineer and continued for 39 years, 37 of which he served as the executive director of the authority.

During his tenure Scott oversaw major improvements that included the opening of the departure terminal in 1971 and dedication of the new arrivals terminal in 2002. Other improvements to the Norfolk airport including new general aviation, air cargo, airfield maintenance and airport rescue and fire fighting facilities plus the current FAA air traffic control tower were completed under Scott's watch.

The Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame, located at the Virginia Aviation Museum at the Richmond International Airport, is run by the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society.

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NASA Langley Research Center
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