Published by Midwest Flyer – February/March 2018
OSHKOSH, WIS. – Joe Engle, who set records as a test pilot in the famed North American X-15 rocket plane, and later became one of the first commanders in the space shuttle program, was the featured speaker as the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) commemorated the birthday of powered flight at the annual Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet, December 8, 2017.
The annual gala held at the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, commemorated the 114th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first successful powered flight on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Over the past 15 years, the banquet has featured some of the most impressive speakers in the aviation world.
Engle was a U.S. Air Force pilot when then-Col. Chuck Yeager was leading the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School. Yeager personally vouched to get Joe Engle into the school, where Engle pushed experimental aircraft to the edge of the envelope. He flew the North American X-15, which set the all-time speed record for a manned aircraft by flying at speeds above Mach 6. Engle qualified for NASA’s Apollo program in 1966, eventually training as a backup crew member for Apollo 14, best known as the mission where Alan Shepard hit a golf ball on the moon. Engle was part of the primary crew for Apollo 17, but was moved off the mission when the scientific community requested that geologist Harrison Schmitt join the crew.
After the final three Apollo missions were canceled by Congress, Engle stayed with NASA and flew the initial space shuttle approach and landing test flights. He commanded the second space shuttle mission in 1981, becoming the only person to manually fly an aerospace vehicle from Mach 25 (approximately 19,000 mph) to landing. His final space flight was as commander of space shuttle “Discovery” in 1985. Engle was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell (and hopefully Bill Anders) will be the featured speakers at EAA’s Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet, Friday, December 7, 2018.
Tickets will be available at www.EAA.org/WrightBrothers later this year. The banquet is expected to once again sell out, so watch for an announcement by EAA and in this publication as to when tickets go on sale!