John B. McKay
|John B. McKay|
|USAF / NASA Astronaut|
December 8, 1922|
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||April 27, 1975
Lancaster, California, U.S.
|John Barron McKay|
|Naval aviator, test pilot|
|Virginia Tech, B.S. 1950|
|Selection||1957 MISS Group|
|Missions||X-15 Flight 150|
John Barron McKay (December 8, 1922 – April 27, 1975) was an American naval officer and aviator in World War II, test pilot, and one of the first pilots assigned to the X-15 flight research program at NASA's Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. As a civilian research pilot and aeronautical engineer, he made 30 flights in X-15s from October 28, 1960, until September 8, 1966. His peak altitude was 295,600 feet (55.98 miles), and his highest speed was 3,863 mph (Mach 5.64).
Early life and education
Born on December 8, 1922, in Portsmouth, Virginia, to parents Milton Barron McKay (1895–1974) and Wilhelmina Emaline McKay ( Dearing; 1885–1970). During World War II he served as a Naval Aviator in the Pacific Theater, earning the Air Medal with two clusters, and a Presidential Unit Citation. He graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He was married and had eight children.
McKay worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and its successor, NASA, from February 8, 1951 until October 5, 1971, and specialized in high-speed flight research programs. He began as an NACA intern, but assumed pilot status on July 11, 1952. In addition to the X-15, he flew such experimental aircraft as the D-558-1, D-558-2, X-lB, and the X-lE. He has also served as a research pilot on flight programs involving the F-100, F-102, F-104, and the F-107. In 1958, McKay was selected for and would have participated in the U.S. Air Force's Man In Space Soonest program, had it come to fruition.
McKay wrote several technical papers, and was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, as well as the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
John B. McKay died on April 27, 1975 in Lancaster, California at the age of 52. The injuries he had sustained during his X-15 crash (rolled inverted during rollout with his helmet dug into the lakebed) were major contributing factors. In 1996, he was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor, and in 2005 he was posthumously awarded Astronaut Wings.
Awards and honors
- Air Medal (two clusters)
- Presidential Unit Citation
- John J. Montgomery Award
- National Society of Aerospace Professionals
- Award for Achievement, National Aeronautics Association
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute’s Hall of Fame
- Aerospace Walk of Honor (1996).
- The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings Into Space by Michelle L. Evans, "When they did the autopsy, it showed quite a bit of brain damage..." (p163)
- Johnsen, Frederick A. (2005-08-23). "X-15 Pioneers Honored as Astronauts" (Press release). NASA. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- Thompson, Milton O. (1992) At The Edge Of Space: The X-15 Flight Program, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London. ISBN 1-56098-107-5
- Astronautix biography of John B. McKay
- Spacefacts biography of John B. McKay
- McKay page at Astronaut Memorial
- John B. McKay at Find a Grave
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