Inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame in 2011, Kenneth R. “Dick” Yenni’s 32 year career as an engineer pilot was significant for his outstanding contributions to the aeronautic, atmospheric science and space flight research programs at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
Dick’s early career at Langley centered on rotor wing research where he tested stability and handling qualities of rigid rotor and heavy lift helicopters and performed V/STOL tests in HelioCourier fixed wing aircraft. Most significantly he made the first flight of NASA’s CH-47 variable stability helicopter as well as the first in flight engagement of the helicopter’s experimental Variable Stability System. Yenni’s space research work included flying prototype lunar landing simulations in NASA’s Lunar Landing Research facility. His work demonstrated the precise control required for landing on the moon’s cratered surface and he developed the stand up piloting mode allowing for steeper approach paths with their attendant fuel savings. A pitch reference bar and improved throttle system developed by Dick during these test were incorporated into the LEM design. Yenni was the primary research subject proving humans could work in weightlessness.
Yenni served as the safety and research pilot on Langley’s B737 Transport Systems Research Vehicle. Using this aircraft Dick participated in the Terminal Configured Vehicle and Advanced Transport Operating Systems leading to great advancements in transport system flight displays and through his leadership, worldwide acceptance of the Micro-wave landing system (MLS). Yenni’s research work in the Runway Friction program and, most significantly, the NASA-FAA-Industry windshear program resulted in significant and lasting contributions to air carrier safety. The flight management concepts and systems developed from 1986 through 1992 has provided pilots the information needed to effectively respond to the windshear threat that had claimed over 500 lives from 1964 to 1985.
Everyone at the VAHS sends deepest condolences to Dick’s family and friends. We are so sorry for your loss.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Dick earned his earthly wings years ago. He earned his divine Heavenly wings on February 23, 2022 when he went home to be with his Lord and Savior. Dick was born January 23, 1935 in Rochester, PA to Kenneth and Ruth Yenni. Dick attended Villanova University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and a commission into the U.S. Navy. Following graduation he married his high school sweetheart Elizabeth Embree of Monaca, PA. Together they headed to Pensacola, FL for flight training. Following flight training, they arrived in Norfolk where he performed tours of duty in the helicopter squadron on anti-submarine warfare missions. He joined NASA in 1962 as a Recovery Engineer in the space program. Shortly thereafter he accepted a position as an Aeronautical Research Pilot at the NASA Langley Research Center and attended the US Naval Test Pilot School. He made significant contributions to Aeronautical research programs, atmospheric science, and space flight. He was a recipient of many other awards during his distinguished 32 years at NASA and in 2011 he was inducted into the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society Hall of Fame. Kenneth “Dick” Yenni’s test pilot and engineering skills in Aeronautic and Space research have made airline and general aviation operations significantly safer and provided important tools and techniques resulting in the United State’s successful moon landings. Dick is survived by his wife of 64 years, his son David, his son Richard (Sharon), grandchildren Megan and Hunter, and six great grandchildren. The family is extremely grateful for the compassion and care received from Westminster Canterbury Hospice Care. In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation. Condolences may be offered to the family at parkinson.org and altmeyerfh.com.