Major Lee H. Person, Jr, USMC (Ret.)*
Inducted in 2011, Lee H. Person, Jr.’s distinguished 33 year career as a researcher and test pilot at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia placed him at the leading edge of aero space research.
Beginning in 1962, Lee led or partnered in ground breaking research in NASA’s aeronautics and space programs where he was responsible for major advances in civilian aviation safety and Apollo Lunar Excursion Module development and Vectoring in Forward Flight science. Lee conducted pioneering research as project pilot on NASA’s Vectoring in Forward Flight Program and is recognized as an international authority on inflight thrust vectoring. Lee was directly responsible for thrust vectoring system modifications and operational development of USMC and RAF Harrier aircraft.
Persons was an active researcher in NASA’s Lunar Landing Research Facility simulators where he tested and developed Apollo LEM design data, Lunar landing operational techniques and Gemini- LEM docking and space station rendezvous techniques. He led the evaluation of the “Icarus” backpack and “POGO” one man small rocket lift device for lunar surface travel. Arguably, Person’s most significant contributions came from his work as Chief Pilot on NASA’s B-737 Transport Systems Research Vehicle on the joint NASA – FAA – Industry Windshear Program.
From 1986 through 1992 he conducted research leading directly to the development of detection equipment and flight management concepts and systems providing pilots the tools needed to effectively respond to the windshear threat that had claimed over 500 lives in the 20 years prior to the program’s inception.
Lee Person, in Memoriam – NASA
One of NASA Langley Research Center’s best-known research pilots has died at the age of 79, after a series of health problems. Lee H. Person, Jr., of Yorktown had retired from the Hampton facility in 1995. Prior to that he spent more than 30 years at NASA Langley making significant contributions to both aeronautics and space research. Person was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame last year for his extensive roles in improving aviation safety and advancing aeronautics research.
In the 1980s and ’90s, with Person as chief test pilot, NASA Langley spent six years developing radar to combat potentially deadly wind shear. He and fellow pilot Dick Yenni, now retired and living in Williamsburg, Va., flew a specially equipped jet into hazardous weather to test the technology. Their work led directly to the hardware and procedures used by today’s transport and general aviation pilots to avoid dangerous and potentially fatal encounters with wind shear.
Person was also a part of NASA’s historic moon landing research. He tested a number of one-man lunar flying devices and worked on orbital missions and space station rendezvous simulations. Chief among his space research tasks was Gemini — Lunar Excursion Module docking simulations, flying lunar landing simulations and participation in the development of the Rendezvous and Docking Simulator at Langley.
LEE PERSON OBITUARY
YORKTOWN – Maj. Lee H Person Jr., 79, went to be with his Lord and Saviour on April 29, 2012, surrounded by his loving family and friends.
Lee was born in Baton Rouge, La.,, Dec. 20, 1932. He received a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a fighter pilot and tactics flight instructor. He earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State and began his career at NASA Langley in 1962. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
During his career at NASA, he had more than 10,000 hours in more than 130 different flight vehicles. Two of the most memorable were: His contributions to the military in his pioneering work as project pilot on the Vectoring in Forward Flight Program, which demonstrated the tremendous advantage of using in-flight thrust vectoring for close-in-air combat and was recognized as an international authority on in-flight thrust vectoring; and secondly, his flight research in flying the B-737 Transportation Systems Research Vehicle in a variety of aviation research efforts over several decades. There were so many superb accomplishments in this airplane, that an entire book (Airborne Trailblazer-Two Decades with NASA Langley’s Flying Laboratory, by Lane E. Wallace) has been written to tell the story of the airplane, the crew and the gifted test pilots.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to NASA and the Nation, he was awarded the prestigious IR-100 Award for development of an innovative Takeoff Performance Monitoring Systems to enhance safety of civil transports, and an esteemed NASA Group Achievement Award for demonstrating the concept of Vectoring in Forward Flight. He also received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for internationally-recognized contributions that have advanced the state-of-the-art in pilot/vehicle/air traffic control technology, and for outstanding service as a research test pilot in critical programs such as an inter-agency wind shear program, which significantly reduced the threat of fatal aircraft accidents. He was also nominated and approved for the President’s Executive Interchange Program, and in November 2011, was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.
Since his retirement in 1995, Lee used his experience and pilot skills for educational purposes, by providing tours of NASA Langley and instructions for the award-winning NASA Connect broadcast series, as well as the video series Flight Direction for Children. He also recounted career achievements for the Langley Colloquium Series, and for visiting teachers.