Concept

Milton Orville Thompson

Summary
Milton Orville Thompson (May 4, 1926 – August 6, 1993), (Lt Cmdr, USNR), better known as Milt Thompson, was an American naval officer, aviator, engineer, and NASA research pilot. He was one of twelve pilots who flew the North American X-15, an experimental spaceplane jointly operated by the United States Air Force and NASA. Following his involvement with the X-15 program, Thompson became Chief Engineer and Director of Research Projects at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. Born in Crookston, Minnesota, on May 4, 1926, to parents Peter Thompson (1898–1960) and Alma Theresa Thompson (; 1898–1977). Thompson began flying with the U.S. Navy as a pilot trainee at age 19. He served in China and Japan during World War II. Following six years of active Naval service, Thompson entered the University of Washington, in Seattle, Washington. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering in 1953. He remained in the Naval Reserve during college and continued flying, in Navy aircraft and in crop dusters and forest-spraying aircraft, eventually receiving the rank of lieutenant commander. After graduating, Thompson became a flight test engineer for the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle. During his two years at Boeing, he flew on the sister aircraft of Dryden's B-52B air-launch vehicle. Thompson was married to Therese Beytebiere; they had one daughter named Brett and four sons. Thompson's parents were Peter Thompson and Alma T. Thompson; his siblings were Adeline, Fay and Janice. Thompson was hired as an engineer at the flight research facility on March 19, 1956, when it was still under the auspices of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). He became a research pilot in January 1958. On August 16, 1963, Thompson became the first person to fly a lifting body, the lightweight NASA M2-F1. The plywood and steel-tubing prototype was flown as a glider after being released from an R4D tow plane. He flew it a total of 47 times, and also made the first five flights of the all-metal Northrop M2-F2 lifting body, beginning July 12, 1966.
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