Bill Dana (pilot)
November 3, 1930|
Pasadena, California, U.S.
|Died||May 6, 2014
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
|USMA, B.S. 1952
USC, M.S. 1958
|Selection||1960 Dyna-Soar Group 1|
|Missions||X-15 Flight 197|
Dana was born in Pasadena, California on November 3, 1930. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy in 1952 and served four years as a pilot in the United States Air Force. He joined NASA on 1 October 1958, after receiving a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California.
Dana was Chief Engineer at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, from 1993 until 1998, when he retired after almost 40 years of distinguished service to NASA. Formerly an aerospace research pilot, Dana flew the F-100 variable stability research aircraft and the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration/F-16 aircraft, as well as many others.
Before his assignment as Chief Engineer, he was Assistant Chief of the Flight Operations Division, a position he assumed after serving since 1986 as Chief Pilot. He was also a project pilot on the F-15 HIDEC (Highly Integrated Digital Electronic Control) research program, and a co-project pilot on the F-18 Hornet High Angle of Attack research program.
As a research pilot, Dana was involved in some of the most significant aeronautical programs carried out at Dryden. For his service as a flight research pilot, he received NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1997. In 2000 he was awarded the Milton O. Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dryden Flight Research Center.
From 1960 through 1962 he was a pilot astronaut in the U.S. Air Force X-20 Dyna-Soar program. That program was canceled before the vehicle flew, but Dana later tested several other lifting-body space vehicle projects. He made one of the earliest flights in the plywood M2-F1, and flew the HL-10, the M2-F3, and the X-24B. He made the highest-ever flight in a lifting body, to 90,303 feet, in the HL-10. He also made the final powered flight of a lifting body, in the X-24B (1975).
Dana began as an engineer on the North American X-15 program. He progressed to chase pilot, and finally as project pilot on the hypersonic research aircraft. He flew the rocket-powered vehicle 16 times, reaching a top speed of 3,897 mph. His peak altitude of 307,000 feet (nearly 59 miles high) technically qualified him for the Astronaut Badge, although he was not formally recognized as an astronaut until 2005. He was the pilot on the final (199th) flight of the 10-year program.
In the late 1960s and in the 1970s, Dana was a project pilot on the manned lifting body program, which flew several versions of the wingless vehicles and produced data that helped in development of the Space Shuttle. He completed one NASA M2-F1, nine Northrop HL-10, nineteen Northrop M2-F3 and two Martin Marietta X-24B flights, for a total of 31 lifting body missions.
Dana was married to Judi Dana since 1962. They had four children — Sidney, Matt, Janet (Jan), and Leslie (Cricket). Dana died in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 6, 2014, following a long struggle with Parkinson's disease.
For his contributions to the lifting body program, Dana received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. In 1976 he received the Haley Space Flight Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) for his research work on the M2-F3 lifting body control systems.
On August 23, 2005, NASA officially conferred on Dana his astronaut's wings.
- Following his retirement, Dana continued to work with NASA as a contractor and a historian. Obituary, Aviation Week & Space Technology, 12 May 2014, p. 13
- Aerospace Pioneer William H. Dana Dies - NASA Press Release.
- X-15 Pioneers Honored as Astronauts - Official Web site of NASA
- 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