Lt. Gen. Laurence Craigie, First U.S. Military Jet Pilot
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Laurence C. ″Bill″ Craigie, America’s first military jet pilot and an air command veteran of World War II and the Korean War, died Sunday. He was 92.
Craigie died at the March Air Force Base hospital, said family friend Bradley Grose.
Craigie, who was involved in developing many types of military aircraft in the 1930s and ’40s, was one of the first two pilots to fly the Bell XP-59A Airacomet, developed in secrecy as the first U.S. jet airplane.
On Oct. 2, 1942, then-Col. Craigie took the XP-59A up after two flights by Bell Aircraft civilian test pilot Bob Stanley.
The 50th anniversary of the event was commemorated at Edwards Air Force Base in 1992 and Craigie was saluted with a flyby of an F-16 with Chuck Yeager at the controls.
″It was a great thrill to be part of it. But it really wasn’t as emotional a flight as you might think,″ Craigie told the Los Angeles Times that day, saying he and Stanley were just ″feeling out the aircraft.″
Born Jan. 26, 1902, Craigie graduated from West Point in 1923.
During many years at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, he served in posts that put him in the center of military aircraft development and procurement during a period of fundamental modernizations.
From 1935-38 he was project officer for training and transport aircraft, and chief of experimental aircraft from 1939-43. He oversaw development of 11 fighters, six bombers, two transports and two trainers, Grose said.
In March 1944, Craigie became Allied air commander on Corsica, from which the invasion of southern France was launched.
He later returned to Wright Field as deputy chief of the engineering division and became the first military pilot to ride in an aircraft that took off, flew and landed under remote control.
During the Korean War he was vice commander and chief of staff for Far East air forces and was the Air Force delegate to the truce talks.
Other assignments during the 1950s included Air Force deputy chief of staff for research and development, and commander of NATO air forces in southern Europe. He retired in 1955 after suffering a heart attack.
Craigie is survived by his wife, Victoria; son, Jack and daughter, Gale Craigie Chidlaw.