A Hell of an Engineer

We’ve lost another hero and in fact, a hell of an engineer and pilot. By now you’ve figured out that we Boilers hold an almost proprietary interest in space, not least since both the first and most recent men on the moon are our alumni, and even one of our band members. But “The Cradle of Astronauts” has had some fellow travelers. One of them John Young died this weekend, the great heroes of the space program continue to thin on the ground, and even in that company Captain John Young, USN (Ret) was special.

From Wikipedia:

After graduating from Georgia Tech in 1952, Young entered the United States Navythrough the Navy ROTC and was commissioned on June 6, 1952, as an ensign. He served as fire control officer on the destroyer USS Laws until June 1953 and completed a tour in the Sea of Japan during the Korean War. Following this assignment, he was sent to flight training. In January 1954, he was designated a Navy helicopter pilot. After receiving his aviator wings on December 20, 1954, he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 103 (VF-103) for four years, flying Grumman F-9 Cougars from USS Coral Sea and Vought F-8 Crusaders from USS Forrestal.

After training at the United States Naval Test Pilot School in 1959 with the Class 23, Young was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, for three years. His test projects included evaluations of the XF8U-3 Crusader III and F-4 Phantom II fighter weapons systems. In 1962, he set two world time-to-climb records while flying his Phantom II, attaining 3,000 meters (9,843 ft) from a standing start in 34.52 seconds and 25,000 meters (82,021 ft) from a standing start in 227.6 seconds. He also served as maintenance officer of Fighter Squadron 143 (VF-143) from April to September 1962.

Fellow astronaut Charles Bolden described Young and Robert “Hoot” Gibson as the two best pilots he had met during his aviation career: “Never met two people like them. Everyone else gets into an airplane; John and Hoot wear their airplane. They’re just awesome”. Young retired from the Navy as a Captain in September 1976, after 25 years.

It’s before my time but it seems to me that getting assigned to Pax River after only about five years as a naval aviator tells us quite a lot about how great a pilot he was. So does the rest of his career.

The rest of his career would bear that out, he flew with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, the first manned Gemini mission. He also won himself a Congressional reprimand when he smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board, knowing that Grissom would complain about the food. He commanded Gemini 10, including two spacewalks and two dockings with Agena target vehicles.

In May 1969 he was the first man to fly solo around the moon as part of Apollo 10. While commanding Apollo 16 he became the ninth man to walk on the moon. You may recall that the astronauts saluted the colors there upon leaving their spacecraft. Young made it special by saluting while in the middle of an approximately 24 in jump on the surface.

After that, he commanded STS 1, the maiden flight of the space shuttle and again commanded STS 9 which carried the first piece of Spacelab.

In January 1974 he became Chief of the Astronaut Office after the retirement of Alan Shepherd, the first American in space.

Young was openly critical of NASA management following the Challenger disaster, and in April 1987 was made Special Assistant to JSC Director Aaron Cohen for Engineering, Operations and Safety. NASA denied that his criticism triggered the move, although Young and industry insiders believed that was the reason for the reassignment In February 1996, he was assigned as Associate Director (Technical) JSC.

He officially retired on December 31, 2004, but remained involved for several years thereafter.

I’m not sure how much of a Ramblin Wreck he was but like so many from Georgia Tech, He was a hell of an engineer, and pilot, and astronaut. He’ll be missed.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of; wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sun-lit silence. Hovering there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air;
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark nor even eagle flew;
And while, with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Another hero crosses over, Rest in peace, sir.

About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

22 Responses to A Hell of an Engineer

  1. The “Right-Stuff” Generation! RIP!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. the unit says:

    Yep. What kept our eyes glued to the TV before present day terrorists were suicide flying and bombing?


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Though my father was a British physicist, he was able to get go to Houston back in the day, and see some aspect of NASA. As I have shared he later got to meet Armstrong, one on one, and all they talked about was the military aircraft they flew! He was of course older than Armstrong as a WW II fighter pilot, Armstrong the Korean War. Definite Breeds of the same! They are sorely missed!

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      They are, indeed. But there are still some about, but enough, hopefully. I was listening to a BBC 5 interview the other night with one of the RAFs F-35 drivers, it was like a breath of fresh air. He sounded just about like you’d expect. Did laugh at the Beeb though, they though an appropriate interlude music was the Wild Blue Yonder song. By the way, he was assigned to the returning Dambusters squadron, which has been reactivated.


      • Oh yes the Dam Busters, the once young Wing Commander of the now infamous No. 617 Group, Guy Gibson, was killed later flying in a Mosquito bombing mission. He was only 26 when he died. God Bless such men, of guts & glory! RIP to all the Airman lost in WW II! He had only about 9 hours in that great Mosquito bomber, some believe that was part of the reason he did not make it? It was NOT easy to fly they say, but GOD alone knows what happened that day!

        God Bless the rather new RAF F-35 flyers and the reactivated 617 squadron!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Btw, I should have mentioned Gibson’s navigator who also died, Jim/James Warwick, who had NOT flown operationally in the Mosquito, but was a qualified navigator. They both are buried where they crashed in Steenbergen, Netherlands.

          Btw, just an opinion, but I do not believe they were shot down by friendly fire, the crash site did not show such evidence it appears? So like some who flew the mission, who believed they probably ran out of fuel? But again, only God knows! RIP! See the Wiki here, they/Gibson & Warwick were late flying out of the area.

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I’d say that’s quite possible, and by that point I rather doubt the ground forces were doing a really great job of air watch anyway. Possible, of course, but suspect you’re correct.


        • Yes, mine is just a lay historical opinion, but I have read my share of the history and so-called evidence of the Gibson/Warwick last flight & mission. My father got to fly a Mosquito near the end and right after the war both, and he said it was no piece of cake to fly! But of course he loved the thing for sure! I remember him saying it flew like a single engine aircraft, but he loved the power of the two engines. Later of course he had multi-engine civilian ratings. He got to fly a Lear-Jet several times, and boy did he love that! But he was older then too.

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Lears always looked like fun, for the pilot. A bit of a pain for the pax, but it was sure fast, and sexy too.


    • Indeed my Father wanted one, but it was beyond even his budget! But he loved it when he could get behind those controls. He had several planes however, and I learned to fly (as a teen) in his L-5. But chasing my Father’s image got old, at that time anyway, and I went my own intellectual way. But I am always HIS firstborn!

      *I always loved it, when I was younger, when I could beat my Father at golf! Later, we were hard to beat together at best ball! Those were the days! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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