ROBERT M. WHITE, USAF
Bob White flew the X-15 for 32 months from 13 April 1960 until 14 December 1962, making 16 flights. These included six flights with the XLR11 and 10 with the XLR99. White reached Mach 6.04, a maximum speed of 4,093 mph, and an altitude of 314,750 feet. His accomplishments include the maximum Mach number (3.50) and maximum altitude (136,000 feet) with the XLR11, the first Mach 4 flight (of any manned aircraft), the first Mach 5 flight, the first Mach 6 flight, the first flight over 200,000 feet (of any manned aircraft), the first flight over 300,000 feet, and an FAI record flight of 314,750 feet (which still stands as of 2006).
Robert Michael White was born on 6 July 1924 in New York, New York. He entered the Army Air Forces in November 1942 and received his wings in February 1944. White subsequently joined the 354th Fighter Squadron in July 1944 flying the P-51 Mustang. In February 1945, the Germans shot White down during his 52nd combat mission. He was captured by the Germans and remained a prisoner of war for two months.
White returned to the United States and enrolled in New York University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1951. The Air Force recalled him to active duty in May 1951 as a pilot and engineering officer with the 514th Troop Carrier Wing at Mitchel AFB,
New York. In February 1952, the Air Force sent him to Japan and assigned him to the 40th Fighter Squadron as an F-80 pilot and flight commander until the summer of 1953.
White became a systems engineer at the Rome Air Development Center in New York. In January 1955, he graduated from the Experimental Test Pilot School and stayed at Edwards to test the F – 86K, F-89H, F – 102A, and F-105b. He became the deputy chief of the Flight Test Operations Division, and somewhat later became assistant chief of the manned spacecraft branch. Following the death of Iven Kincheloe, backup pilot White was designated the primary Air Force pilot for the X-15 program in 1958.
In October 1963, White became the operations officer for the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bitburg, and then served as the commanding officer of the 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadron. He returned to the United States in August 1965 to attend the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, where he graduated in 1966. That same year, he received a master of science degree in business administration from The George Washington University. White went to Southeast Asia in May 1967 as deputy commander for operations of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, and flew 70 combat missions.
In June 1968, he went back to Wright-Patterson as director of the F-15 Systems Program Office. Brigadier General-selectee White assumed command of the AFFTC on 31 July 1970. White commanded the AFFTC until 17 October 1972 when he assumed the duties of commandant of the Air Force ROTC. In February 1975 he received his second star, and in March he became chief of staff of the Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force. White retired from active duty as a major general in February 1981.-131
White was a joint recipient of the 1961 Robert J. Collier Trophy presented by President John F. Kennedy at the White House in July 1962. He also received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the Harmon International Trophy from the Ligue Internationale des Aviateurs for the most outstanding contribution to aviation for the year, and the Iven C. Kincheloe Award. Among his many military decorations are the Air Force Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters, and the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.-1321