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Fulton, Fitzhugh L
American test pilot, flew the B-52 launch aircraft for the X-15 and the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft for shuttle ALT tests.

Status: Deceased. Born: 1925-06-06. Died: 2015-02-04. Birth Place: Blakley, Georgia.

NASA Official Biography

Fitzhugh L. Fulton Jr. was a civilian research pilot at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. from August 1, 1966, until July 3, 1986, following 23 years of service as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

Fulton was the project pilot on all early tests of the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) used to air launch the Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise in the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) at Dryden in l977. During these flights, the SCA carried the un-powered Enterprise to an altitude of about 25,000 feet, where it was separated from the 747 and flown to a landing by the Shuttle test crew. Several uncrewed and crewed captive flights preceded the initial free-flights.

For his work in the ALT program, Fulton received NASA's Exceptional Service Medal. He also received the Exceptional Service Medal again in 1983 for flying the 747 SCA during the European tour of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. After orbital flights began in 1981, Fulton continued to fly the SCA during ferry missions returning Orbiters to the Kennedy Space Center Florida.

During his career at Dryden, Fulton was project pilot on NASA's B-52 launch aircraft used to air launch a variety of piloted and unpiloted research aircraft, including the X-15s and lifting bodies, as well as project pilot on the Laminar Flow Control Leading Edge research program using a specially modified C-140 JetStar.

He flew the XB-70 prototype supersonic bomber on both NASA-USAF tests and NASA research flights during the late 1960s, attaining speeds exceeding Mach 3. He was also a project pilot on the YF-12A and YF-12C research program from April 14, 1969, until September 25, 1978. The planes were flown at speeds and altitudes in excess of 2,000 mph and 70,000 feet to acquire flight data for the development of future aircraft.

Fulton was the project pilot for the FAA/NASA Controlled Impact Demonstration program during 1984. It culminated on December 1, 1984, when he remotely flew an unpiloted, heavily instrumented Boeing 720 to a prepared impact point on Rogers Dry Lake to test the flammability of anti-misting jet fuel in a crash situation.

Before becoming a NASA research pilot Fulton was a test pilot with the Air Force. He was a project pilot on the B-58 supersonic bomber program and set an international altitude record of 85,360 feet with the aircraft carrying a payload of 11,023 pounds (5000 kilograms) in 1962. He received the 1962 Harmon International Aviation Trophy for his work on the program.

Fulton was also assigned as the Air Force pilot on the B-52 launch aircraft for the X-15 research aircraft and other air-launched vehicles.

During his earlier Air Force career Fulton received three Distinguished Flying Cross medals for his test pilot work. He also received a Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals for flying 55 missions in Korea and taking part in the the Berlin Airlift.

Born in Blakley, Ga., June 6, 1925, Fulton attended Auburn University, the University of Oklahoma, and is a graduate of Golden Gate University. He completed the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School in 1952. He is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and in 1977 received the Society's Iven C. Kincheloe Award as Test Pilot of the Year for his work on the ALT program. At the time of his NASA retirement, Fulton had over 15,000 flying hours in over 200 types of aircraft.

Following his retirement, Fulton became Director of Flight Operations and Chief Pilot for Scaled Composites, Mojave, Calif., where he was responsible for the developmental test flying of the Triumph business jet, the Model 33 Advanced Technology Tactical Transport, and the microlight category Mercury Aircraft.

LA Times Obituary: Fitzhugh 'Fitz' Fulton, revered military and NASA test pilot, dies at 89

By Melody Petersen February 7, 2015, 11:31 p.m.

Pilot Fitzhugh "Fitz" Fulton Jr., known as the "Dean of Flight Test" for his involvement in pioneering programs including the space shuttle piggyback flights, died Wednesday at home in Thousand Oaks. He was 89.

The cause was complications of Parkinson's disease, said his daughter, Ginger Terry.

His four-decade career included flying for the military, NASA and Scaled Composites, headed by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan in Mojave.

In 1977, he was at the controls of the specially modified Boeing 747 that flew the first piggyback tests of the shuttle out of Edwards Air Force Base. "It was a good old bird," he said of the 747 that had formerly been used as a passenger jet. "You couldn't even tell there was a shuttle on its back."

In further tests, he piloted the 747 when it carried the space shuttle Enterprise to 25,000 feet, then nosed into a dive to allow the shuttle to launch. The Enterprise was then flown and landed by its own crew.

Finally, after the program progressed to making spaceflights and landing at Edwards, he repeatedly ferried shuttles back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "Just a matter of flying low and slow," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1982 after one of those flights.

Fulton, who was born June 6, 1925, in Blakely, Ga., took his first solo flight at 16 before he had his driver's license. As a teen, he persuaded pilots at an airport near his hometown to give him flying lessons. In exchange, he swept hangars and washed planes.

In 1943, he joined the Army Air Corps, predecessor of the Air Force. His 23-year military career included flying 200 missions during the Berlin Airlift of 1948 and 1949, delivering food and fuel to the residents of West Berlin during the Soviet siege.

He was also involved in the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests in 1946, and later served as a combat pilot during the Korean War, where he flew 55 sorties in a Douglas B-26.

In 1952, he graduated from the Air Force's Test Pilot School at Edwards and began flying a myriad of experimental planes.

On April 13, 1960, he landed a B-58 supersonic bomber with seven of its eight tires blown out at Edwards. Two years later, he flew the B-58 to a record-setting altitude of 85,360 feet.

Fulton joined NASA in 1966, where he worked for two decades, flying 60 different types of aircraft from sailplanes to fighter jets. He piloted some of the world's fastest jet planes including the XB-70 and YF-12, each capable of speeds in excess of 2,000 mph and altitudes above 70,000 feet.

During a 1984 research program, Fulton remotely piloted a Boeing 720 from a cockpit on the ground, guiding the plane to a controlled crash on Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert to test the flammability of a jet fuel.

In July 1986, he retired from NASA and joined Scaled, where he worked for three years, serving as the company's flight operations director and chief research pilot.

At Scaled, he flew the maiden flights of the Advanced Technology Tactical Transport, an experimental military plane, and the Triumph, a twin-engine business jet built for Beechcraft.

Fulton received numerous awards including four Air Force Distinguished Flying Crosses. In 1999, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Friends and colleagues said he was not cocky a reputation that tends to follow test pilots. Instead, Fulton presented himself as a modest Southern gentleman.

In addition to his daughter Ginger Terry, who lives in Denver, he is survived by his wife, Erma; daughter Nancy Grover of Livermore; son James Fulton of Sacramento; six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and sister Louise Fulton of Santa Monica.

Country: USA. Agency: NASA. Bibliography: 459, 5410.

1925 June 6 - .
2015 February 4 - .

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