The history of the NF104 AST by its primary test pilot Lt. Col. Robert W. Smith USAF (ret.)

Robert W. Smith (December 11, 1928 - August 19, 2010)
Bob passed away peacefully at 8pm on August 19.
He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

In lieu of flowers or any other remembrances, the Family asks that
you make a donation to the South Lake Animal League

 Chapters of the Autobiography can be reached by  <Clicking Here>

Beginning in 1963 and for 40 years now, I continue to receive (in surprising numbers) a steady stream of requests for photos, autographs, etc. from all over the world.  Some are the result of my graduation from the Air Force astronaut training, but the majority are a result of my being the primary test pilot of a space plane.  I am amazed at how many successfully searched me out, long before the Internet search aids. 

The story of the unique NF-104, AeroSpace Trainer, is unusual in many ways and the true events have remained unreported for over 40 years.  I have often been urged to do just that, especially by a few close friends who know some of the story, but I avoided doing it for a number of reasons.

A major consideration was that I tried to put my flying career behind me when I left it in 1969 to begin a life as a working engineering manager in the aerospace business, which lasted for 23 years.  My attachment to flying was so strong that I feared dwelling on it and divorced myself from those thoughts, as much as possible, by dedicating myself to new interests.  As time passed, and my second career ended, I was free to renew interest in flying and found that time had heightened the urge to tell the story of my two decades as a member  of the USAF.

Another consideration was it might be taken by some readers as an effort to denigrate some of my fellow flyers.  That is not my intention.

But, as I sit here on my 75th birthday,  I decided to set the record straight and document my exciting twenty years as a pilot in the United States Air Force.

So I begin with one of my more interesting jobs; testing the NF-104.  Although the premier events in the history of the NF-104 occurred in less than 3 months (more than halfway through my two decades of flying) public interest in a real space plane causes me to lead in with that brief but exciting test program (and this website’s namesake).

As more chapters of my flying history become available, they will be posted on this website.

Robert W. Smith

hosted by kalideco 8/11/2010