Tuesday, September 13, 2005

MGen Fred J. Ascani, USAF 1917-2010

Major General Fred J. Ascani was one of the "Men of Mach 1." As Executive of the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio, he was involved in selecting Chuck Yeager as the pilot to surpass Mach 1 in the X-1.
Setting his life's goal at nine years of age, Fred Ascani earned his wings in 1942 and entered combat. He commanded the 816th Bombardment Squadron, completing 53 missions in the B-17, including delivery of supplies in German-occupied Slovakia to partisans and the evacuation of escaping Allied airmen.
He arrived at Wright Field and flight test activities in 1944. In 1947, he assisted Colonel Albert Boyd, Chief of the Flight Test Division, in the selection of the aircrew that would make the successful assault on the "sound barrier".
He arrived at Edwards Air Force Base in 1950, and, as the Director of Experimental Flight Test and Engineering as well as the first vice commander of the new Air Force Flight Test Center, he was an active test pilot, flying more than 50 experimental prototype and research aircraft including the XB-42, X-1, X-4 and XF-92A. In a highlight of his career, he flew an F-86E at the 1951 National Air Races establishing a new world speed record of 635.686 miles per hour over a 100-kilometer closed course. In 1961, as the system program director for the XB-70, he directed the development of the Mach 3 bomber prototype.
A 1946 graduate of the Flight Performance School, General Ascani had flown over 5,400 hours. His military decorations included two Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals and two Army Commendation Medals, He had been presented with the Thompson and the MacKay Trophies in 1951, the De La Vaulx Medal, the Croix de Guerre, the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. He was inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997, selected as an Eagle by the Flight Test Historical Foundation in 1997 and by the Gathering of Eagles International organization in 1998 and named to the Aerospace Walk of Honor.