Friday, February 24, 2006

Richard G 'Dick' Thomas 1930-2006

Richard "Dick" Thomas, chief project pilot, flew the first flight of the Tacit Blue demonstrator aircraft and the first flight of the F-5F Freedom Fighter. His hazardous high angle of attack test flights in the F-5 established procedures now followed by fighter pilots around the world.
As a Northrop Grumman test pilot, Thomas led the flight testing of Tacit Blue. According to the U.S. Air Force, Tacit Blue was one of the most successful high tech demonstrator programs ever conducted and it had a direct influence on the design of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Thomas was a test pilot for the T-38 and the F-5, as well as for the highly experimental laminar flow control X-21. He also spent time in Madrid, Spain, helping the Spanish Air Force flight test the CASA 101 trainer aircraft.
Thomas earned his Air Force pilot wings in an open cockpit Stearman in 1952. He flew F-80C, T-33, F-86, F-100D for six years before leaving the military for a flight test career with Beech Aircraft and later Boeing. He tested the ERB-47 and B-52 for Boeing and in 1962, Boeing sent him to U.S. Navy Test Pilot School. He joined Northrop Aircraft in 1963 and retired from that company in 2000.
A Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and recipient of their Iven C. Kincheloe Award, Thomas was named an Eagle by the Flight Test Historical Foundation in 2004. He has logged 8,000 hours flying more than 116 different aircraft.