Decorated former test pilot Dave Ferguson passes away

Message posted by Peter Merlin on August 13, 2011 at 8:34:55 PST:

Former Red Hats commander and stealth test pilot David Lynn Ferguson passed away on August 10 after a long battle with cancer. With 20 years in the Air Force and 20 years at the Lockheed Skunk Works, he is best known for test flying the YF-117A and YF-22A stealth fighter prototypes.

Following two combat tours in Vietnam, during which he flew more than 100 missions in the F-105, he sought greater challenges as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and was a 1972 graduate of Air Force Test Pilot School. His early assignments included projects TRIM (Target Radiation Intensity Measurement) and Have Coffee, measuring the infrared signatures of missile launch plumes, satellites and reentry vehicles from a U-2. He evaluated redesigned pitot-static probes with a modified air data compute on an F-105B, and served as project pilot on several programs using the F-4E for wet runway tests, air starts, and to drop a variety of parachute test articles.

In June 1973, he was assigned to the 6512th Test Squadron’s Special Projects Branch for projects Have Glib and Have Idea. Few details about these tests, which involved evaluation of foreign fighter planes, have been declassified. Ferguson was promoted to chief of the Special Projects Branch six months later, which in December 1977 was upgraded to squadron status. Ferguson was promoted to commander of the newly formed 6513th Test Squadron, known as the Red Hats.
Upon retirement from the Air Force in 1979, Ferguson joined Lockheed’s Skunk Works organization as a test pilot for project Senior Trend, the first production stealth combat aircraft. He was the second company pilot to fly the YF-117A, participating in all phases of the flight test program including flying qualities tests, structural demonstrations, high-angle-of-attack maneuvering limits, and weapon separation tests. By 1986, he had flown 500 flights in the YF-117A and F-117A.

As chief test pilot for Lockheed's Advanced Tactical Fighter Program, Ferguson piloted the first flight and initial airworthiness demonstration of the YF-22A on September 29, 1990. He was promoted to director of flight operations for the Skunk Works in July 1991, and finally retired in 1999.

He logged over 6,500 flight hours in 60 different types of aircraft. A Fellow and past president of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Ferguson was twice honored with the Society's Iven C. Kincheloe Award, first in 1983 for flight test of the F-117A, and again in 1991 for testing the YF-22A. He twice received the Legion of Merit for his work on classified programs, and was honored with two Distinguished Flying Crosses and eight Air Medals for his combat service. He was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor, Lancaster, Calif., in 1998.


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