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Capt. Iven C. “Kinch” Kincheloe Jr., USAF

Iven Carl Kincheloe Jr.


Capt. Iven C. " Kinch" Kincheloe Jr. was born July 2, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan. His family subsequently moved to Cassopolis, Michigan, where he would go on to become a combat pilot, test pilot, and "the first of [the United States'] spacemen."

Iven's aviation career started in 1949 when he received his commission in the Air Force through the Air Force R.O.T.C. program at Purdue University. He graduated from Purdue with degrees in Mechanical and Aeronautical engineering. He began his pilot training at Randolf Field, Texas, and went on to the Air Force Jet Fighter School at Williams AFB, Arizona where he received his wings.

He was assigned to the 51st Fighter Wing in Korea completing 30 missions flying the F-80 and an additional 101 combat missions as an F-86 pilot. Captain Kincheloe was a jet ace in Korea with credits for ten aircraft destroyed and eleven damaged.

After Korea he attended the British Empire Test Pilot's School in England. In 1955 he was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, California.
ON September 7, 1956 Iven was the first human to fly beyond 100,000 feet when he piloted the Bell X-2 to 126,200 feet (23.9 miles).
Captain Kincheloe was selected to fly the X-15 to outer space when development was complete. He participated in the flight development of all century series military aircraft built during the middle and late 1950s.

Kincheloe was named Chief of the Manned Spacecraft branch section; USAF project officer for the F-106 and the F-104. Kincheloe lost his life on July 26, 1958 when his F-104 suffered an engine failure on takeoff at Edwards AFB. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

He earned the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals, the Mackay Trophy, David C. Schilling Trophy, American Rocket Society's Astronautic Award, USAF Legion of Merit, Haley Astronautics Award and AFA Air Progress Award. Kincheloe Air Force Base, Michigan was named in his honor in 1959.

Captain Iven C. Kincheloe, USAF was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 19, 1996 for his combat flying skills in Korea and for his leadership in testing the X-2 high altitude space ship and high speed military jet aircraft.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program