Test pilot::Alvin M. Johnston


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Test pilot In December 1942, Johnston moved to Bell Aircraft as a flight test engineer. He flew the P-39 Airacobra and the XP-63 during the prototype phases. He also flew the first US jet, the XP-59 Airacomet. Johnston earned his nickname "Tex" because of his penchant for wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson hat on the flightline.<ref name="Jet Age">Sam Howe Verhovek, Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World, c. pp. 48-49</ref>

After World War II ended, he bought two surplus Airacobras and modified them to enter and win the Thompson Trophy at the 1946 National Air Races.

Johnston helped design and flew the rocket propelled Bell X-1 on May 22, 1947.<ref name="dryden_flight_summary">"NASA - Dryden History - Historic Aircraft - X-1 Flight Summary."</ref> He stayed on the program as a design advisor on modifications to the trim controls that he discovered were unusable in their manufactured configuration at high subsonic speeds. In 1991, he recounted his experience in the rocket plane in The Discovery Channel's documentary series "Frontiers of Flight" stating "...the airplane was just gorgeous" and that its 18 G design was "indestructible".

He became a test pilot for Boeing in July 1948. He flew the B-47 Stratojet and piloted the first flight of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress prototype.<ref name="boeing_b52_first_flight">"Boeing: News Feature - B-52 50th Anniversary - First Flight."</ref>

Johnston is best known for performing a barnstormer-style barrel-roll maneuver with Boeing's pioneering 367-80 jet in a demonstration flight over Lake Washington outside Seattle, on August 7, 1955.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }} </ref> The maneuver was caught on film and was frequently shown on the Discovery Wings cable channel in a three-minute short as part of the Touched by History series, while the channel still aired. Called before the then-president of Boeing, Bill Allen, for rolling the airplane, Johnston was asked what he thought he was doing, and responded with "I was selling airplanes". He kept his position as a test pilot, and did not get in legal trouble for his actions. Along with his cowboy style of dress, such maverick behavior is said to have inspired the creation of Dr. Strangelove's Maj. T.J. "King" Kong character, who, in rodeo style, rode a balky nuclear weapon to its target.<ref name="Jet Age"/>

From 1960 to 1963, he was assistant program manager for Boeing's X-20 Dyna-Soar program in Seattle, Washington.

From 1964 to 1968, he was manager of the Boeing Atlantic Test Center in Cocoa Beach, Florida, working on two of Boeing's programs, the Minuteman missile and the Lunar Orbiter designed for the Apollo missions. He also worked with NASA managing Saturn and Apollo programs.

In 1968 Johnston left Boeing to manage Tex Johnston, Inc., Total-In-Flight-Simulator Inc. and Aero Spacelines (which handled the manufacture and certification of an outsized cargo airplane known as the Pregnant Guppy).

In 1975, he became director and chief pilot of Stanley Aviation Corporation, focusing on personnel escape systems (ejection seats). Johnston was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1993.<ref name=AviationHOF>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Alvin M. Johnston sections
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Test pilot
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