Philip F. Oestricher 1931 -2015
Phil Oestricher, was a Navy Test Pilot School graduate who participated in the first flight of the YF-16 program and other F-16 tests for General Dynamics. Oestricher also flew U.S. Navy flight tests for the F-111.
On Feb. 2, 1974, the General Dynamics YF-16 made its "official" first flight. That 90-minute flight was completely successful, and the prototype went on to be developed into one of the world’s most accomplished fighter planes. The plane’s actual first flight, however, had already taken place nearly two weeks earlier. On Jan. 20, General Dynamics test pilot Philip F. Oestricher was conducting a series of high-speed taxi runs on the main runway. Suddenly the red-white-and-blue fighter (s/n 72-01567) developed a series of roll oscillations that grew worse until its right horizontal stabilizer dragged along the runway. Oestricher quickly decided to take off and prevent further damage. The YF-16 quickly reached flying speed and wobbled into the air for an uneventful six-minute flight to a normal landing. Subsequent investigation revealed a high sensitivity in the roll channel of the fly-by-wire control system that was corrected by installing an automatic gain switch.