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John P. "Jack" Reeder

John P. Reeder


John P. "Jack" Reeder was born on May 27, 1916 in Houghton, Michigan. His pioneering efforts have helped to improve the quality and safety of both military and civilian flight.

Reeder became interested in flying in 1923 when he saw his first aircraft, a WWI Curtis flying boat, and by high school he knew he wanted to be an engineering test pilot. He studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan, and upon graduation in 1938, was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the forerunner of NASA.

Though he wanted to go immediately into the flight research division, he was assigned to the Full Scale Wind Tunnel staff at Langley Research Center. Jack was finally transferred to Langley's Flight Research Division in 1942, and in his first year there he piloted 19 new aircraft, nine of which were fighters. IN 1951, he became head of Flight Operations and Chief Test Pilot. In 1958 he became Assistant Chief of the Flight Mechanics and Technology Division.

Although Reeder spent much of time in airplanes, he is best known for his pioneering work in helicopter and V/STOL aerodynamics and handling as NASA's first helicopter pilot. In addition to being a member of the team that drafted the original military specifications for the flying qualities of helicopters, he is a founding member of the Twirly Birds.

His most important and lasting contribution to aviation may have been convincing NASA management to pursue the Terminal Configured Vehicle (TVC) program which identified, evaluated, and demonstrated systems and concepts that would enhance airport and runway capacity. As part of this program, Reeder led the team that won a NASA Group Achievement Award for demonstrating the capability of MLS. He also received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.

Reeder retired in July, 1980, after 42 years with NACA/NASA. He has captained more than 200 different aircraft types, including 36 jets, 40 fighter aircraft, 60 helicopters, and eight VTOL aircraft. He has also published 75 technical paper and reports.

Reeder was enshrined on November 7, 1992 for his outstanding contributions to the advancement of aircraft of all types. He passed away May 23, 1999 at the age of 82.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program