PALMDALE – Retired NASA Armstrong research pilot Thomas C. McMurtry was honored by the Federal Aviation Administration Oct. 25 with the presentation of the agency’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award during a ceremony before family, friends and associates at the AERO Institute in Palmdale.
Richard Dilbeck, coordinator of the Master Pilot award presentations for the FAA’s Sacramento regional office, presented the prestigious award to McMurtry as his wife, Mary Louise McMurtry and an estimated 120 attendees applauded the honoree.
McMurtry, whose activity is severely limited following a debilitating stroke, was also presented with resolutions and certificates honoring his service to NASA and the nation from several public officials, including California state senator Steve Knight of the 21st district, Los Angeles County fifth district supervisor Michael Antonovich and U.S. Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon of California’s 25th district.
Now 79, McMurtry joined the NASA Flight Research Center in 1967 after service as a U.S. Navy pilot and with Lockheed Corporation.
He was a project pilot on some of the most significant flight research projects in the center’s history during his 32-year tenure, including the AD-1 oblique wing program, the F-15 Digital Electronic Engine Control project, the KC-135 winglets and the F-8 Supercritical Wing program for which he received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal.
He also served as co-project pilot on a number of other flight research projects, including the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire program and the X-24B lifting body, and also flew the modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft when it ferried space shuttles across the country.
McMurtry also served the center as chief of the Flight Crew Branch, Director for Flight Operations and Associate Director for Operations and Acting Chief Engineer prior to his retirement in June 1999.
McMurtry counts time in the triple-sonic YF-12C, the U-2 and F-104 aircraft in his more than 15,000 hours of flight time throughout his lengthy career, including 4,000 hours recorded while flying for two private aviation firms for 12 years after his retirement from NASA. He was honored by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots with its Iven Kincheloe Award for his work on the AD-1 program in 1982, was enshrined in the Aerospace Walk of Honor in Lancaster, California in 1998, and was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1999 prior to his retirement from NASA.
More information on Tom McMurtry’s life and career is available here.