vendredi 7 mai 2010

Interview de Fitzhugh ''Fitz'' Fulton, pilote d'essai de la NASA

Fitz Fulton est ancien de pilote d'essais de l'US Air Force (il a servi 23 ans dans l'USAF).

Il supervisera et sera pilote d'essai du programme du B-58 Hustler puis sera le chef-pilote de l'USAF pour le programme XB-70 Valkyrie avec lequel il effectuera 59 vols.

Il est également un des pilotes du B-52 qui larguera les X-1, X-2, D-558, et aussi le X-15 et les premiers Lifting Body.
En 1966, le programme XB-70 est transféré à la NASA et Fitz Fulton rejoint naturellement celle-ci en tant que chef-pilote NASA pour ce projet. Il restera à la NASA 20 ans...
Fitz Fulton est le responsable du programme Boeing 747 SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft) pour les vols d'Enterprise ALT. Il effectuera tous les vols de qualifications du Boeing 747 et les 5 missions ALT-Enterprise...
Parallèlement, il est ''project pilot'' du programme YF-12A et YF-12C, où il effectuera des vols à très hautes altitudes et très hautes vitesses (Mach 3).
Pilote de très nombreuses fois récompensé (Harmon Aviation International Trophy pour le B-58, Iven C. Kincheloe Award pour le programme ALT, etc...), Fitz Fulton quitte la NASA en 1986 avec plus de 15 000 heures de vol sur plus de 200 types d'appareils.
Ensuite, il travaille quelques années chez Scaled Composites en tant que chef-pilote...

Interview réalisée en 2010

When have you decided to become pilot and why ?
I’m interested in aviation as a teenager and worked at on airport on weekend and was paid in flying time. 5 minutes flying for a Saturday or Sunday work.
World War 2 came and I joined the Air Force at age 18. 
I trained for 1 ½ year and completed flight training and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutnant Officer.

How did you have choose by NASA to become Test Pilot ?
I was in the Air Force for 23 years before I joined NASA. 
During my Air Force service, I flew on the Berlin Air Lift and made 225 rounds trips from Frankfort (Germany) to Berlin. I hauled food and coals.

Later, I flew combat in the Douglas B-26 airplane from South Korea up to North Korea. 
I made 55 missions at night. These missions were all flown at night. 
The targets were trucks and trains that were transporting supplied.

After that I attended the Air Force Test Pilot School for 8 months (1952).
From that time on, most of my Air Force career was as Air Force Test Pilot.

I flew many types of airplanes and made test flights on many of them.

I was considered to be a specialist on large airplane while still in the Air Force and was one of the 4 test pilots (2 Air Force and 2 civilian contractor) flying the XB-70 an a joint Air Force (NASA) research project.
The project was turned over to NASA and I joined NASA as Chief Pilot for the project.
I stayed with NASA for 20 years, flying many different airplanes.
What is the most incredible flight experience had you during your pilot career ?
I have had many flights that I have enjoyed and I felt that my tests have resulted in making the airplane more safe for other pilots to fly.

What is the best airplane have you piloted and why / What is your favorite aircraft ?
My favorite was the B-58, four engines supersonic bomber.

I was the 1st Air Force test pilot to fly a test project on that bomber.

I completed 8 separate test project on the airplane.

I help the airplane go from being dangerous to fly to becoming relatively safe and a pleasure to fly.
What were some of the problems you encountered and how did you fixed them during your B-58 tests flights ?
Tires were weak and would fait. Developed a metal wheel that allowed the airplane to continue the take off if a tire failed.
Helped improve could system.
Flew tests to develop an emergency escape capsule.

How did you feel when you have made the 1st take off with the Boeing SCA and Enterprise together ?
Was pleased to show that the piggyback concept was safe and acceptable, as we thought it would be.
How did you feel when Enterprise made his 1st glide flight ?
Was proud that I was part of a giant program and that the space shuttle could now prepare for going into space.

What was the best memory about your test pilot career ?
Working with some wonderful people who were very talented. Helping to make airplanes safer to fly.

Crédit : Collection Spacemen1969
             Stéphane Sebile / Space Quotes - Souvenirs d'espace

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