Wednesday, April 08, 2009

James Thomas Fitzgerald, Jr. 1920-1948

Yeager,Lundquist and Fitzgerald with the Bell X-1

James Fitzgerald was a US Army Air Force test pilot who had joined the X-1 program, and was 2nd person to fly supersonic after Chuck Yeager.Fitzgerald had been an accomplished fighter pilot during World War II before he was shot down and held in a German prisoner of war camp until liberated in 1945. Though denied the opportunity to continue flying combat in the Pacific, Fitzgerald was later selected to become an Air Force test pilot. He completed seven flights aboard the X-1 including four at supersonic speeds. Fitzgerald first surpassed Mach 1 during the 71st flight of the program on 24 February 1948. He reached a top speed of Mach 1.1 before a fire forced him to shut off the engine and jettison the propellants. Fitzgerald continued flying the X-1 over the next few months until he was tragically killed in September 1948 following a landing accident aboard a T-33.