Test Pilot Dies

Message posted by Peter Merlin on April 24, 2007 at 20:43:19 PST:

Robert L. Riedenauer, the only test pilot to have flown the U-2, SR-71 and F-117A, has passed away following a long illness. He was 71.

Reidenauer was born in Fresno, Calif., in 1936. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 1967 and joined the U.S. Air Force where he served as a fighter pilot. He flew 120 combat missions in the F-105 in Southeast Asia in 1968 and was honored with the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with eleven oak leaf clusters and the Meritorious Service Medal. He served as an aircraft commander in the B-52 Stratofortress until he was accepted into Class 69A of the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1969.

After graduation, he conducted performance and handling quality tests of the FB-111A, prototype development of the Pre-SCANA F-111 and various programs in the U-2. Reidenauer later flew
developmental test flights of the SR-71 at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale and eventually retired from the Air Force as chief of SR-71 Flight Test.

He then joined Lockheed's Skunk Works as an engineering test pilot. He helped design, develop and test classified programs and served as one of Lockheed's principal test pilots during initial flight tests of the YF-117A Nighthawk "stealth fighter."

Riedenauer was seriously injured in a crash at the Groom Lake test facility on 20 April 1982, while he was attempting takeoff for the initial contractor checkout flight of the first production F-117A. The airplane flipped over, trapping him inside.

Riedenauer recovered from his injuries and was eventually promoted to Director of Operations at the Skunk Works. He retired from Lockheed in 1993.

He was a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and logged over 6,500 hours in more than 50 different aircraft, including the T-33, AT-37, T-38, F-86, F-104, F-105, F-4, F-111, FB-111A, F-117A, SR-71, B-52 and U-2. In 2002, Riedenauer was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor in Lancaster, Calif.

Riedenauer is survived by his wife, Sharon. They have two sons, Jeff Koontz of Palmdale and Scott Riedenauer of Bellflower, and two daughters, Cheryl Clayton of Palmdale and Kimberly Riedenauer of Florida, and three grandchildren.


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