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Donations to Families of Two Killed in Bell Helicopter Accident

On July 6th, 2016 we learned of the loss of a Bell 525 test vehicle. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the crew. 


To make donations to the families, please use the following links:

Boyce Family: youcaring.com/eboyce

Grogan Family: youcaring.com/jgrogan


Phil F. Oestricher 1931 - 2015

poestricherRetired test pilot and engineer Phil Oestricher, 84, the first person to fly the YF-16 prototype, passed away in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday, Dec. 18.

Phil’s first flight in the YF-16 technology demonstrator aircraft earned him a lasting place in aviation history on Jan. 20, 1974. The aircraft unintentionally became airborne during a high speed taxi test at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and he made the decision to keep flying rather than risk catastrophic damage in a crash landing. His excellent flying skills and quick reaction saved the prototype from destruction, which could have resulted in an early end to the F-16 development program.

Phil contributed to the development of several F-16 versions as a test pilot and helped establish safety protocols that have benefited the worldwide F-16 pilot community.

He also flew all models of the F-111, the fighter-bomber that preceded the F-16 on the Fort Worth production line. He was proud to have flown the F-4D Skyray with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Before his Marine Corps service, he worked at heritage company Consolidated Vultee as an aerodynamics engineer on the B-36, which was the first true intercontinental bomber.

Since his retirement, Phil was active in the Lockheed Martin-Fort Worth retirees association and was an avid builder and flyer of radio-control model aircraft.

To learn more about the YF-16 first flight, see Aeronautics’ Code One magazine.

To see a video of the famous flight, visit YouTube.

Charlie Van Norman 1943 - 2015

cnormanCharles Vernon Van Norman was born in Los Angeles, California on February 1, 1943. “Charlie” graduated from California Polytechnic Institute San Luis Obispo in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering and also earned a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1974. In the summer of 1964 he was hired as a civilian employee at the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC), Edwards AFB, California shortly after graduating from Cal Poly. He was a performance and flying qualities engineer on projects such as YAT-28E, RB-57F, Lear Jet Model 23, U-10B, XC-142A, C-123K, C-5A, EC-47Q, NC-123X, C-130A, C- 130B, B-52A and B-52G, A-9A, YF-16, B-1B, and various aircraft associated with the Have Idea program. He later became the section chief of the P&FQ branch and was a Program Manager for Joint Air Force/NASA testing of the F-111 TACT, HiMat, AFTI-16 and AFTI-111 research aircraft. Charlie then served in a number of senior roles at AFFTC including Deputy Chief, Flight Dynamics Division; Deputy for Data, Air Launched Cruise Missile; Deputy for Operations and Chief, Computer Sciences Division; Deputy Director, 6521 Range Squadron; Director and Deputy Director, B-2 Combined Test Force; and Senior Technical Advisor for the 412th Test Wing.

Charlie retired from civil service in February 1998. He moved from his home in Lancaster, California to a new home he designed and built in Wellington, Nevada. He started working as a government support contractor with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), TYBRIN, and INQU LLC on various projects.

Charlie was a winner of the Society of Flight Test Engineers Kelly Johnson Award Winner in 1996 and was a Fellow & Life Member of SFTE.

Jesualdo Martínez Ródenas 1970 - 2015

jrodenas2Jesualdo was a Major in the Spanish Air Force. As a Military pilot, he completed the Master in Flight Test from the University Polytechnic of Madrid. He started working for Airbus Defence & Space as Test Engineer in the P-3 modernisation program. Later he became involved in all the turboprop test programs from the company (CN-235 and C-295). Recently he was assigned to the A400M program as Flight Test Engineer. He was married, with two sons. Jesualdo joined the Society in 2008. He participated in the European symposium in Braunschweig and in the international symposium in Forth Worth. He was currently the European representative in the Technical Council. We all will miss his enthusiasm and strength. He was always ready to participate and, really became a strong support for the society in a very short time. We would like to express our condolences and sorrow to family and friends.

Michael Tyner Alsbury 1975 - 2014

Mike Alsbury, 39, passed away October 31, 2014. He died in the crash of SpaceShipTwo near the Mojave airport.

malsburyMike was born March 19, 1975, in Santa Clara, California, to Linda and Rich Alsbury. He grew up in Scotts Valley, California, and graduated as a valedictorian from Soquel High School in 1993. Mike went on to obtain a degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In college he met the love of his life, Michelle Saling. They moved to Tehachapi in 2000 and were married in August 2003.

Mike's love of planes and flying began in childhood. He got his pilot's license at the age of 23, followed by numerous other pilot ratings. Mike was a "pilot's pilot" and absolutely loved to fly. He was a brilliant engineer and started working at Scaled Composites right out of college in 1998. Mike was indeed a class act and well respected colleague.

Mike was an avid fly fisherman and San Francisco Giants fan. He enjoyed hiking, camping, backpacking, mountain biking, and traveling with his family. He was an Eagle Scout and also played soccer from a young age.

Above all things, Mike loved his family. He was a devoted and loving husband, father, and son. He was a kid at heart and will be remembered for his endless energy, easy smile, great sense of humor, and generosity.

Mike is survived by his loving wife, Michelle; and their daughter and son (ages 10 and 7); parents, Rich and Linda; twin sister, Nikki; her husband and their children; his grandparents; sister-in-law, Melanie; her husband and their children; and parents-in-law, Denise and Fred.

Don Archer 1931 - 2014

don archer singleDon Archer passed away early on December 11th, surrounded by his wife Gloria, children David and Lori, and Lori’s family. He was 83. A memorial service was held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle near Boeing field where Don spent most of his career in Boeing Flight Test.

Don was born in Omak, Washington, in 1931. His family moved to Yakima, Washington, where he graduated from high school. After attending Yakima Junior College for a year, in 1950 he became a cadet in the US Coast Guard Academy. After two years, Don resigned from the Academy to try to become a Navy fighter pilot during the Korean War, but astigmatism disqualified him. To avoid becoming a foot soldier, Don enrolled at the University of Washington as an aeronautics student, in the advanced Air Force ROTC program. During his last year at the University of Washington, Don met and married Gloria; they celebrated their fifty-ninth anniversary in 2013.

After graduating from the University of Washington in 1955, Don fulfilled his Air Force duty by working for two years as a flight test engineer at Edwards Air Force Base, where his son was born. Don was discharged from the Air Force in 1957 and started working at Boeing as a flight test analysis engineer in November of that year, one month before the first flight of the 707. By 1958, Don was lead engineer of the aeronautics test analysis group, and in 1963 became supervisor of the aeronautics and flight controls analysis group. In 1965, Don became unit chief of all analysis groups, and in 1970 was named manager of all flight test engineering operations and analysis groups. In 1980 Don became Assistant Director of Flight Test Engineering, and in 1984 he was promoted to Director of Flight Test Engineering. Don retired in 1991.

Text and pictures excerpted from a blog written by Rebecca “Becky” Wallick, the daughter of Lew Wallick, former Boeing Chief Test Pilot and Director of Flight Test, posted Dec 12, 2014


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