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Albert Boyd

Boyd, Albert

Test Pilot/Military Strategist
Enshrined 1984 1906-1976

Folks around Craggy, Tennessee still may talk about the day Albert Boyd flew an airplane under the Craggy Bridge, now named for him. His brother Jack, who was in the back seat of the plane said, “It didn’t happen. (He) dove low toward the bridge, but he pulled up and we passed just over it.” Al never admitted nor denied the accusations.

  • In 1939 became an engineering officer at the Hawaiian Air Depot and after Pearl Harbor directed the Depot’s assembly on new aircraft and rushed supplies to the battle zones. Also tested every aircraft for combat readiness.
  • In 1944 was Deputy Chief and later Chief of the Maintenance Division at Patterson Field, Ohio, directing 11 air material depots.
  • Commanded the Eighth Air Force Service command in the Pacific after Germany’s surrender in 1945.
  • After World War II became Chief of the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio.
  • Responsible for developing the Test Pilot School and transferring it to Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards AFB), California, with its ideal conditions for testing supersonic aircraft, and recommended establishing a Flight Dynamics Laboratory and Flight Test Division.
  • On June 19th, 1947 he set a new world’s speed record of 623.85 mph in an F-80R Shooting Star.
  • Directed the testing of the Bell X-1 rocket plane and Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier.
  • Became commander of Edwards AFB in 1949.
  • 1951 commanding general of the Air Force Test Center which he personally flight tested most of the X-series and of the experimental aircraft.
  • In 1952 became commander of the Wright Air Development Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.


During his 30 years in the USAF (1927-1957) Albert Boyd contributed immeasurably to aviation. He held many high level positions, some of which were Chief, Flight Test Division, Wright Field, Ohio; the first Commander, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, CA; Commander, Wright Air Development Center (now Aeronautical Systems Division), Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and Deputy Commander for Weapon Systems, ARDC (now AFSC, Andrews AFB, MD). In addition to his command and managerial responsibilities in those positions, he flew many and frequent hazardous test missions. Knowledge gained from those flights helped immensely towards improving aircraft and aeronautical equipment over the years. He became known as the “Father of Modern Flight Testing,” the “World’s Number One Test Pilot,” the “Dean of American Test Pilots,” and also the “Test Pilot’s Test Pilot.” These nicknames show the great esteem in which he was held and indicate recognition of his valuable recommendations and contributions toward improving the safety of flight. Boyd developed and put into practice a new philosophy of flight testing which has contributed greatly to aviation progress during the first supersonic decade. He first saw the need for an engineering scientist in the cockpit to evaluate the significance of experience in test flights and translate them into technical advances. Boyd’s contributions to aviation progress are in hundreds of design details of military aircraft flying today, as well as in the achievements of a whole generation of test pilots and the first generation of space pilots. In the decade 1947-1957 Boyd’s opinion that he gave after flying a new airplane generated so much respect that the Air Force never bought a single type of airplane which he had not personally approved.

Boyd was responsible for the development of the Test Pilot School and for its transfer to Edwards AFB, California, where ideal conditions prevailed and also recommended the establishment of a Flight Dynamics Laboratory and the Flight Test Division.

On June 19th, 1947, while piloting an F-80R at an altitude of less than 100 meters over Rogers Dry Lake, CA, he established a new world speed record of 623.85 mph. This was the first U.S. jet world speed record and was the first time in 24 years that the U.S. had held the world speed record.

The Chief of Staff, USAF, assigned him special missions to foreign countries to evaluate their aircraft. He flight tested many Canadian, French, British, Italian and Japanese aircraft and the Soviet MIG-15. Few U.S. dollars went to finance foreign aircraft that did not pass his strict flight testing standards. He was selected one of seven general Air Force officers to accompany General Nathan Twining on his trip to Moscow in 1956 as guests of Premier Khrushchev and the Soviet Air Force. For his many outstanding achievements, he received numerous awards including the Airpower Trophy, the Octave Chanute Award, the DFC, LOM and DSM plus several foreign decorations including Medaille de l’Aeronautique and Brevet Militarire de Pilote D’Avion.

Following retirement from the USAF, he was called upon by the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (R&D) to serve as a Consultant to the Air Force to review aircraft development trends. After serving a number of years in high level positions with the Westinghouse Electric Corporation and General Dynamics Corporation, he decided to accept a position as Consultant and Engineering Test Pilot for AVCO-Lycoming, Williamsport, PA, where, for a period of six years (age 61-67), he flew engine development tests in practically every aircraft and helicopter powered with a Lycoming engine – from Cherokee to Beech Dukes and pressurized Navajos at altitudes up to 33,000 feet, many flights/tests being performed in actual weather conditions.

At age 63, he completed a helicopter course and received a graduation certificate from AgRotors Helicopter Flight School, Gettysburg, PA. At age 56, he soloed a Cessna 310 across the Atlantic Ocean, from Wichita, Kansas, to Geneva, Switzerland, via the Azores. He was an active pilot and accumulated an impressive number of command pilot flying hours 21,120 hours, 2000 in every type of jet test aircraft.

General Albert Boyd made outstanding contributions to aviation by his pioneering scientific advances in flight technology and testing, military leadership and capable direction of his commands, demonstrated skill as an engineering test pilot and valued service to aeronautics and astronautics.

General Boyd died on September 18th, 1976.