I received word this morning of the passing of legendary Grumman test pilot Robert "Bob" Smyth. Smyth, 84, was responsible for an extraordinary contribution to civil and military aeronautics and astronautics.
After leaving the US Navy as a pilot in the Grumman F8F Bearcat, Vought F4U Corsair and McDonnell F2H Banshee and de Havilland 112 Venom, Smyth joined Grumman Aircraft Engineering in 1955. Smyth served as assistant project pilot of the Gulfstream I, consulting pilot and astronaut liaison to NASA on the Lunar Excursion Module during the Apollo program.
Smyth was at the controls for the first flights of the Grumman A2F (later the A-6A Intruder) and captured the experience in 2001, writing:
Now, the real purpose of a first flight is to make a successful landing. There is a tremendous level of interest at this point. Hundreds of people have worked long hours for months to reach this point; a large part of the company's future is tied to the airplane's success; and the customer is anxious to see what he's buying. All this creates a great deal of pressure on all concerned. One person has it within his power to bring instant relief to all hands: the lucky guy who gets to make the first flight.
His career spanned an extraordinary variety of aircraft, being the first to fly the Gullfstream II and as chief Grumman test pilot, flew the F-14A for the first time in 1970. Smyth left Grumman and joined Gulfstream Aerospace in 1981 and retired as vice president of flight operations in 1993.
Smyth spoke to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in 2007, discussing his incredible career and his indelible contribution to aerospace in the video above.
Smyth passed away yesterday at his home in Florida and is survived by his wife, Sally, and two sons, Robert and Andy.