Thursday, May 17, 2007

John 'Jack' Barron McKay 1922-1975

Jack McKay died in 1975,20 years to the day after his first rocket flight. He had retired from NASA four years earlier, climaxing a 20-year flying career at Edwards in which he become one of the Center’s most experienced rocket pilots. In the 50's and 60's, McKay flew most of the nation’s rocket aircraft--from the "B" and "E" versions of the famed X-1, to the X-15. McKay flew the jet and rocket versions of the D-558 Skyrocket. He went aloft in the follow-on versions of the X-1, flying the first 13 of the 17 NACA missions logged with the X-1B. Other aircraft McKay flew included the semi-tailless X-4, the X-5 first swing-wing aircraft, plus the Century-Series Fighters--the F-100, F-102, F-104 and F-107. He was selected as one of the original seven pilots to fly the X-15. McKay flew the X-15 29 times, earning an astronaut rating in the aircraft, taking it to an altitude of 295,600 feet, nearly 56 miles, and achieving a speed of 3,935 mph, Mach 5.6. He flew 82 combat missions as a Navy Fighter Pilot in World War II. He returned home to earn a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1950. In 2005 he received posthumously his astronaut wings at Edwards AFB along with Joe Walker and Bill Dana.