Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Renowned research pilot Lee H. Person, Jr.

Lee Person evaluates a Synthetic Visibility System in 1989 - in essence, two helmet-mounted eyepieces connected to video cameras that swivel in response to head movements. Person was inducted into the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society's Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame at the Virginia Aviation Museum last November [NASA].
Austin Bogus

Lee H. Person Jr., a well-known research pilot at NASA Langley, has died. He was 79 years old. A resident of Yorktown, Person was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame in 2011 in recognition of his contributions to aviation safety and aeronautics research.

Person assisted with NASA's moon landing research during the 1960s, flying lunar landing simulators and helped train for space missions.

He worked with the Apollo astronaut team before it went on its historic journey, during training at the Lunar Landing Research Facility at NASA Langley. The facility helped prepare astronauts for the final 150 feet of landing on the moon. Person was among the first pilots to test the model lander, making the practice flight some 182 times.

"We were working on it to get it to fly right," Person told the Daily Press in a 1994 interview.

"The astronauts would come into town and say something like, 'It rides pretty good, but why don't we try something like this?' They had to be comfortable with it. They were going to fly it onto the moon."

NASA said Person also helped advance the "glass cockpit" design for aircraft. He logged approximately 10,000 flight hours with 100 types of aircraft and rotorcraft.

He also experimented with some advanced gadgetry that never made it into mainstream use. Person got to try out Bell Aircraft Corp's jet pack, dubbed the Bell Rocket belt, a James Bond-style device designed to propel individuals off the ground. That incident landed Person in the hospital.

"He had a great sense of humor," said Dick Yenni, 77, who is also a former research pilot at NASA Langley. "He was a good down-to-earth test pilot and a good engineer to boot."

Person was born in Baton Rouge, La., in 1932. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps a fighter pilot until being discharged in 1958. He joined NASA Langley Research Center in 1962.

Lee Person on his career: YouTube

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