John B. McKay

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John B. McKay
John B. McKay X-15.jpg
USAF / NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Deceased
Born (1922-12-08)December 8, 1922
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
Died April 27, 1975(1975-04-27) (aged 52)
Lancaster, California, U.S.
Other names
John Barron McKay
Other occupation
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[edit]

Born on December 8, 1922, in Portsmouth, Virginia, to parents Milton Barron McKay (1895–1974) and Wilhelmina Emaline McKay (née 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.

Test pilot[edit]

While McKay recovered from this mishap to fly again, the remainder of his life was plagued by injuries he had sustained and he died at age 52

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.[1] McKay, who also suffered from diabetes, turned to alcohol to numb the pain of his accident injuries. Liver disease was a contributing factor to his death. [2]In 1996, he was inducted into the Aerospace Walk of Honor, and in 2005 he was posthumously awarded Astronaut Wings.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]



  • 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

External links[edit]