PAUL F. BIKLE, NASA
Paul F. Bikle was born on 5 June 1916 in Wilkensburg, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Detroit with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1939. His career with the Army Air Forces began in 1940 when he became an aeronautical engineer at Wright Field, and in 1944 he became chief of the aerodynamics branch of the Flight Test Division. While working closely with other government agencies in establishing the first flying qualities specifications for aircraft, he wrote AAF Technical Report 50693 ("Flight Test Methods"), which was used as a standard manual for conducting flight tests for more than five years. During World War II he was involved in more than 30 test projects and flew over 1,200 hours as an engineering observer.
In 1947, Bikle became chief of the performance engineering branch and directed tests of the XB – 43, XC-99, and F-86A. When the flight-test mission was transferred to the newly formed Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards, Bikle came to the desert and advanced to assistant chief of the flight-test engineering laboratory in 1951. From there, he advanced to the position of AFFTC technical director. He replaced Walt Williams as director of the NASA Flight Research Center (FRC) in September 1959. Like Williams, Bikle had little use for unnecessary paperwork, and often remarked that he would stay with NASA as long as the paperwork level remained below what he had experienced in the Air Force. He was also an avid soaring enthusiast and established two world soaring records during a flight near Lancaster on 25 February 1961 that still stands as of 2006. In July 1962, Bikle received the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership for directing the "successful X-15 flight operations and research activities," and he received the 1963 FAI Lilienthal Medal. Bikle retired from NASA in May 1971 and died on 20 January 1991.