Flying with Luddy and Gottlob, Installment TWO
Irwin wrote that the test piloting course work/academic work at Edwards was easy. He'd done graduate school work at the University of Michigan and
presumably had seen much of it all before.
After test pilot school, Irwin was assigned to report to the Aeronautical Systems Division of Wright-Patterson. They had an office right there at
Edwards. Irwin was to work with Lt. Colonel Allan Nye. Irwin was to be the very first test pilot for the then TOP SECRET YF-12A
). This Lockheed plane would go on to set altitude and speed records, though when Irwin received his
orders, not even a prototype had been completed/constructed.
Irwin had a "cover" during this period when he was working in the capacity of test-pilot-to-be for the YF-12A. He was pretending to be going to
Hughes Aircraft to be working as the director of the test force for the ASG-18 fire control system (en.wikipedia.org...
), and the
The air base there had an Aero Club and needed instructors. Irwin saw instructing as a way to get more flying in. Irwin had "qualified" 4 pilots and
if he got a fifth qualified he could become an instructor, or so he wrote.
His plate looks pretty full to me at this time, working on both the secret project(YF-12A, Lockheed/Burbank), cover project(ASG-18, GAR-9, Hughes
Aircraft) , instructing on weekends. His fifth, and as it turns out, fateful student, was M. Sgt. Sam Wyman. He was married with 3 children.
Chubby, slow, likable was Wyman. His job was alleged by Irwin to be the man in charge of the photo lab at Edwards. During WW II the man had trained
to fly. Irwin wrote he was nervous, overreacted and never soloed.
Irwin would fly with his student Wyman early on Saturday and Sunday mornings and indicated he actually GOT WORSE as he approached soloing. Irwin
thought the key would be in calming the guy down. If he could just get him to relax, perhaps he could solo. After a series of bad landings one
Sunday morning, Sam Wyman took off in the front seat at the controls with Irwin in the back. Pulling up into a crosswind the plane was sent into a
The planed crashed in the desert. Wyman's "head went right into the front panel and caved it in." Irwin hit the back of the front seat….head
turned sideways." The front seat collapsed on Irwin's feet. The right one in particular was injured badly. Irwin sustained a compound fracture,
with his "bones sticking out through the flesh". Irwin had 2 broken legs, a broken jaw, and a head injury.
Both men were diagnosed with concussions and were amnestic. Irwin could not recall the events of the previous 24 hours and Sam Wyman's memory was
wiped out for the antecedent 5 years, "including the relationship with his wife and and the memory of his daughter, who was two to three years old."
In Wyman's case, his head injury was at first blush believed to be fatal and he was given last rites.
Amputation was considered initially as an option in the case of Irwin, but he and the foot both survived. Borman came to the hospital to visit Irwin.
I suspect Borman knew what Irwin's "secret job was". This is a hunch on my part.
Once recovered, Irwin returned to the Burbank/Lockheed YF-12A project. He said the secret project crew there was surprised to see him back, walking in
on crutches as he was.
3 and one half months after the accident, they cut the cast off what Irwin was to discover was a completely shriveled up right leg.
5 months after the accident, Irwin thought he was close to ready for a bit of flying again, but was surprised to learn that post concussion, it is
routine for a pilot to be grounded for AT LEAST A YEAR.
Somewhat discouraged by this, Irwin considered a career in law.
The whole time, Irwin is still involved in the YF-12A project which by the way they called the A-11.
Just after test pilot school, Irwin had had an EEG of all things. The test was done at Brooks Air Force Base. It was done according to Irwin as part
of baseline testing for use in selecting astronauts. As best I can tell, this was not done in the context of Irwin's applying to be an astronaut,
rather EEGs were being collected on available subjects as part of an astronaut program data base. Irwin's just post test pilot school EEG was
borderline abnormal. So now, post major closed head injury, they did a NEW EEG and compared it to the borderline abnormal post test pilot school EEG
and found the NEW EEG, the post head injury EEG to be unchanged, still borderline abnormal, but unchanged.
Now 14 months since the accident, with the unchanged EEG to support him, as well as other satisfactory medical tests in support, Irwin was reinstated,
deemed fit to fly again. He even had hope of continuing on in the YF-12A project and actually flying the thing.
By late 1962 , Irwin was doing a lot of flying again.
That is a lot to digest and so will leave this for now.
More to come in my next installment of FLYING WITH LUDDY AND GOTTLOB… "
edit on 13-6-2012 by decisively because: added, headline, and "Now 14 months since the accident, with the unchanged EEG to support him, as
well as other satisfactory medical tests in support, Irwin was reinstated, deemed fit to fly again. He even had hope of conning on in the YF-12A
project and actually flying the thing. By late 1962 , Irwin was doing a lot of flying again. That is a lot to digest and so will leave this for
now. More to come in my next installment of FLYING WITH LUDDY AND GOTTLOB… "
edit on 13-6-2012 by decisively because: spelling,
edit on 13-6-2012 by decisively because: added hyphens
edit on 13-6-2012 by decisively because:
edit on 13-6-2012 by decisively because: spelling,
edit on 13-6-2012 by decisively because: spelling, one
paragraph was doubled and so removed.