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Robert W. Smith - Robert A. Rushworth - Jack Woodman - Chuck Yeager

Robert A. Rushworth

This autobiographical sketch was compiled as direct excerpts from a U.S. Air Force Oral History Interview, dated 14 April 1987, based on taped answers to question, as stated by Major General Robert A. Rushworth and edited and approved for public use by him.  This follows the sequence of his Air Force career.

Bob Rushworth and X-15

When I was at Hebron (prep school) another fellow that was going to school with me suggested that we go down to Portland to the Army, something or other, and take the aviation cadet exam—I thought that would be a great idea—and hopefully get in and beat the draft.  We went down in about April 1943 and took the exam, and I passed and he failed.  I went back to school and graduated in June.  The Monday after graduation I got my draft notice, Wednesday I took the physical, and 2 weeks later I was in the Army the draft, telling them all along that I had taken the aviation cadet exam and that I had passed it, but I ended up in Fort Devens.  I guess I only waited about 2 or 3 weeks, and they finally found all the paperwork and sent me off with a cadre of people from the east coast to basic training in the aviation cadet program.

I went to Greensboro for probably a month, and then I was sent to the University of Toledo for that college training program.  I was supposed to be there 5 months but ended up there 5 weeks.  There was an emergency shipment for students to go to San Antonio.

I started the aviation cadet program the first of 1944 and progressed through primary.  I went through the selection process at San Antonio and then into pr-flight and into primary in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, then basic in Kansas and twin-engine advanced in Oklahoma.  I graduated in September and was sent off to a RTU (replacement training unit) to transition into C-47’s.  My hope was P-38’s since I was in twin-engine advanced---they were over in Coffeeville, Kansas, and we could see them flying all the time.  I didn’t get that.  I ended up going to C-47’s and was shipped over to India.  I flew in a C-54 across the ocean into India and flew out of Ledo for a while---supplying British troops in Burma and then into the Assam Valley—and started flying the “Hump” just before the war ended.  Then we transitioned in C-46’s and flew more hump trips into Kunming.

I separated from the service in January 1946.  When I was selected to go to the University of Main--1946—there were so many people going to school, most of the GIs were sent to a separated campus down in Brunswick, Maine—abandoned Naval Air Station.  I was there for a year and then moved up to Orono on the main campus.  I got married between my freshman and sophomore year.  My wife had graduated from nurse’s training, so she was working and that helped.

That was close to Dow Air Force Base, and – I decided to become active in the Reserve—they had a few airplanes, but that didn’t seem to be what I wanted to do.  I got an opportunity to have a mobilization assignment on the base.  About a year later the Air Force pulled out so I decided to go over and join the Maine Air National Guard, who at the time were flying F-80C’s.  I didn’t have any fighter background, but they said they would take me in and give me some training and I would ultimately get into flying the F-80C’s, and I started again flying the T-6, which I had been flying in the Reserve.  I flew the P-47 and then transitioned into the F-80 about the end of 1949 and that same day was recalled back into the service for the Korean War.

Major General Rushworth retirement - AF Museum

As for going back into the service, it was for a maximum 21 months, and I figured, well, that isn’t all that bad.  I stayed right there at Dow, although we did have some TDy’s and transitioned into the F-86F.  About a year before my tour was up, another fellow and I went down to Dayton and went over and talked with the people at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and put in an application to go to school, and we were both accepted.  I took that realizing that would commit me for 3 years of active duty after I graduated, but I figured that wasn’t bad either.  It was a good year’s education, and I could go either way after that.

I left service as a first lieutenant, and when I got back into the active part of it I missed, I think, seven times getting promoted to captain for strange reasons, like ineligible in mobilization assignments and didn’t get promoted until 1952 and didn’t get promoted to major until 1962, and that was with a lot of contemporaries in that time period.

I went to AFIT and then got assigned as an engineer working in flight test at Wright-Patterson and about that time realized that I had a degree in mechanical engineering, got another degree in aeronautical engineering, and had don a lot of flying, and I wanted to put the two together, the engineering and flying, somehow.  I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that.  The job I got let me do just exactly that.  I worked on experimental automatic flight control systems and got to fly a lot of the brand-new systems that were being looked at.  Some were developed later on, and some fell by the wayside. 

I realized after about 2 more years that I wasn’t going to go very far in that kind of a job unless I went to the test pilot school.  They wouldn’t let me transition into some of the newer airplanes because I hadn’t been to the school, so I put in to go to that school.  About the only way you could change jobs in that time period was go to another school, and that became the first order of business.  If you applied for school and were accepted, it didn’t make any difference what job you had, you got the school.  I went to the test pilot school in 1956 and graduated in December and went to work at Edwards in the fighter test organization.

The test plot school was broken down into two courses, Performance and Stability and Control.  It was a 6-mont course at that time, 3 months in performance and the other half in stability and control.  I had performance in the classroom, so that wasn’t any problem.  It was just a matter of applying that to flying and the project that you do with flying.  Stability and Control I had a little bit but not really enough to satisfy myself, so that was a good part of the program.  It was more than adequate in order to train me for later work.

Probably the most important thing you get out of that is being able to converse with engineers and designers on how airplanes fly versus what they look like on the drawing board and what they look like in the wind tunnel.  If one is good at that kind of a job, he can converse and make the engineer understand what he doing while he is flying an airplane.

I think I was very fortunate.  I had two or three engineers, contemporaries, who understood both what they learned and how to accept what I was saying and what I learned and what I learned and accept what they were saying.  It worked very good for me on two or three of the airplane programs and absolutely outstanding on the X-15 program, working with all of those engineers in the Air Force and National Aeronautics Advisory Committee (later designated NASA).

Later on the school went to a year’s program and added a space effort into their curriculum.  The spoken work was, we were teaching people to be able to go into the space effort one way or another.  In reality, because there were probably 15 people in every class and you knew that they were not all going to be accepted, most of the people that graduated from those schools would go back into flight test of airplanes and more likely become managers on new space efforts.  Some years back they dropped the space course.

I mentioned that the F-101 had a pitch-up problem in stability at high angles of attack, and so did the F-104.  The F-101 was a little safer in that the pilot was able to get into the pitch-up and get out; whereas with the –104 it would be unusual:  if you got into it and were able to get out; it’s possible but unusual.  As far as unforgiving, I guess the –101 was a little more forgiving than the –104.

According to the 1959 Flight Test Center history, “Captain Iven C. Kincheloe was originally scheduled to fly the X-15 for the Air Force, but his untimely death in a crash of an F-104 on 26 July 1958 moved his alternates, Major Robert M. White and Captain Robert A. Rushworth, into pilot and alternate pilot positions, respectively”.

That accident was probably the most thoroughly investigated at that time, and there was no cause ever found as to what happened to the engine or anything else that might have gone wrong with the airplane.  We suspect that there was a partial failure in the engine and he was going to try to land it on Rosamond Lake and recognized perhaps a little bit too late that the airplane wasn’t going to glide onto the surface, so he tried to roll over and eject.  The airplane had a downward ejection seat and he was pretty low when he tried to roll the airplane over and eject up and just didn’t allow enough time and space to do it.  His chute opened and did not blossom before he hit the ground.  It was just waiting too long to get out.

Had that accident not occurred, I would have gotten less flights, but I would have had the opportunity to do the flying.  I’m sure Mike Adams (Maj. Michael J. Adams, who perished in a X-15 accident) would not have gotten on the program and perhaps one other either on the NASA side or the Air Force.

My recollection is that we had the airplane (X-15) up several times, maybe as many as 8 or 10, before it got launched.  I’ sure the first tow or three flights were planned to be captive and exercising some of the systems. Where the smoke came from (on a few  captive flights) I don’t recall, but it wouldn’t have been abnormal for something to create smoke in the cockpit.  I do recall on perhaps the second or third flight, one of the primary reasons for the captive flight would have been to start the auxiliary power units and test all the systems that drove and then extend the landing gear to see how that worked at a particular speed.

We couldn’t have gotten away with not having chase airplanes.  Undoubtedly having them at launch and at landing saved a number of aborted flights, a number of probable accidents, and a number of cases where pilots quickly had to make a decision on whether to go or not go at launch or land versus bailout.  Chase airplanes in the flight test business are mandatory, absolutely under all circumstances unless it’s impossible to do it.

The number one airplane broke in half around the 3rd or 4th flight.  One of the chambers in one engine exploded and caught fire, and Scottie (Mr. Scott Crossfield, North American Aviations, contractor test pilot) shut it down and headed for landing on Rosamond, (Dry Lake).  The airplane broke from a combination of things. I think.  One, it could not jettison all of the propellants on board, so the airplane was a little heavier, and I think the landing gear’s structure was not completely evaluated and the design finalized.  With the combination of the two problems, the airplane broke in the weakest place.

There were changes made in the structure in the aft section where the landing gear was mounted.  The center section was beefed up.  We seemed to go through a series for a great number of flights, probably a hundred flights, of seeing damage either in the land gear area or in the structural area in the center and depending on where it was, the structure was beefed up there.  The next time if there was damage seen in the center section, that was beefed up.  After a period of time, the engineers said, “Okay, we have done about all we can.  The next time it breaks it’s going to break at the cockpit, and then you are going to be riding a chariot down the runway.”

We learned later on in the program, somewhere around the hundredth flight, certainly half way through it, that we had all been trying to land the airplane with the least amount of vertical drop, in other words, trying to grease the airplane in, and we were all very successful on that. We made landings that were of such a small vertical descent that it was very difficult to measure it, and still we kept coming up with loads on the landing gear that were right of (over) the limits.  One day I was flying the number three airplanes, and everything in the traffic pattern was perfect.  I set the airplane up in the final attitude and didn’t have to touch anything, and I just let the airplane land itself.  The vertical rate of descent was quite a bit higher.  We are talking about 3 or 4 feet per second higher than we’d measured normally and certainly not as high as we had dropped the airplane in, but this was in the mid-range.  About 2 weeks after the flight, the structures engineer came to me and said, “That last landing you made we recorded the lowest for on the structure and the landing gear that we’ve ever measured.  Now, what did you do? I said, “Actually, it was kind of a hard landing compared to others that we had done.”

Through analysis they learned that was the best way to put the airplane down, not try to make it a smooth landing but just let the airplane drop in.  What actually was happening was we would touch the airplane down, and because of the fulcrum, the nose would slam down, and the tail would jump in the air.  Because the struts were already compressed, it would slam down a second time, and all that force would then go into the structure of the airplane, not being absorbed by the struts.  Then everybody got away from trying to smooth the airplane in and just let it kind of drop in the last couple of feet, and probably saved us a lot of critical problems later on in the program as structuresgrew older and things like that.

I was not selected for the DynaSoar (An exo-atmospheric airplane designed by Boeing and cancelled by SecDef McNamara) in 1960 but Bob White, Neil Armstrong (number one Air Force and NASA X-15 pilots) and I were.  Jim Wood (A.F. test pilot) was number one.  Pete Knight (later X-15) was selected on the program and Russ Rogers, Hank Gordon (A.F. test pilots), Milt Thompson from NASA, and maybe one other (Al Crews, AF test pilot).

If there had been an acceptance for that particular type of vehicle by the Government, we would not have had the Mercury flights and probably not the Gemini flights. I don’t think all that effort with NASA on vertical launches would have stopped completely.  Had it not been for that, yes, we would be into hypersonic transportation right now and a horizontal launce versus this shuttle vertical launch.

(Regarding an extremely hot aerodynamic heating research flight he flew) We did get a higher temperature and a higher transfer rate of temperature within the airplane.  The airplane design (q limit) was somewhere around 2,200 lb/ sq. in. (dynamic pressure), and we actually got a little higher on that flight than we wanted to.  We had set up an altitude and a speed to get the temperature conditions and really didn’t pay enough attention to the dynamic pressure conditions tat were comparable, not realizing they were going to be quite that high.  We were certainly well within the limit and had not extended ourselves too far but did decide later on that we didn’t need to go any further on matching the dynamic pressure with other temperature lights, so we just accepted a little higher altitude and got the temperature but no the dynamic pressure.  We hit a maximum dynamic pressure earlier than we needed to; we really didn’t need to go that far.

The temperatures were very important because we began to see early in the program we were measuring temperatures that did not match with the empirical data that the airplane was designed on.  As a matter of fact, there was about a 30 percent differential between the empirical formulas and what we were measuring, on the safe side, which allowed us to go to higher speeds and higher tempera

We also learned that there were other conditions impinging on the airplane that ewe had no knowledge of and lack of control, which would require us to stop at basically the design temperature, even though there was about a 30 percept safety factor in the empirical formulas

As we progressed through the program I knew Bob White’s desires to get into a squadron commander capacity working with TAC (Tactical Air Command) and I knew that (Rushworth’s elevation to No1 on X-15) shortly after he had accomplished his high-altitude flight  (over 50 miles, first winged astronaut).

It was decided between General Branch (AFFTC Commander), Paul Bickle (NASA Center Chief) and myself that Joe Engle (later Shuttle Commander) was sent forward to become the next X-15 pilot.  Joe became the next pilot, the pilot that replaced White, and went through a very concentrated and fast training program to get him up to speed to be able to do that type of flying and he did it very well.  He later put in his paper to go to the NASA effort at Houston and was accepted for that (Space Shuttle) and before I could leave the program he was gone. So I then had to train another pilot, which then was Pete Knight, who had been in the Dynasoar program.  We finally got Pete Knight up to speed, and ten we selected Mike Adams.  Once we got him a couple of flights, then I could leave. 

After 5 or 6 flights, there were areas where you became more comfortable, certainly the pre-launch became a repeat…up to about, say, a minute before launch and your anxiety level crept up a little bit. Once you started flying the airplane and once the drop off and the engines started, I think all the pilots became very comfortable in flying the airplane and doing the work that they had to do.  That was reflected by the data that was being taken—the pulse rate, EKG and whatnot.  The anxiety level picked back up again as we got into the traffic pattern because that was another serious part of the effort. 

According to a December 1964 AFFTC history report, “Test pilot Major Robert A. Rushworth received nomination for the 1964 McKay Trophy in recognition of hi exceptional piloting of the newly modified X-15A-2 rocket research airplane following an in-flight emergency on 14 August, which developed into an extreme hazard to both himself and the $55 million airplane.”

That speaks of the one where the nose gear came down in flight at about Mach 5.  The flight was probably the third or fourth flight on the airplane since it had been rebuilt and redesigned.  The airplane was reconfigured and made about 3 feet longer to accept a hydrogen tank that was a sphere for late on fuel for the scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet engine) that we were going to carry aloft.  The flight was supposed to be at Mach 5 at about 100,000 to 110.000 feet.  When I got up there, I shut off the artificial stability systems and did a pulse in the longitudinal axis to see how the stability of the airplane was.  In the middle of the cycling, the nose gear came down, which created a tremendous amount of drag, plus the airplane without the damping system was a lot less stable.  I immediately got the dampers back on and then had a problem and didn’t know what it was, but I got a tremendous bang, and I suspected that the nose hear cam out because I could feel all the drag.

There was a lot of question in my mind and on the ground as to whether the airplane could get all the way back to Edwards and whether it could be landed or whether there was any landing gear left.  Nobody knew.  You couldn’t tell; it didn’t have and indicators of whether there was a gear down or what the problem was.  I did manage to get back to the base with a minimum amount of altitude to make a 360 (degree landing) pattern, and by that time Joe Engle was in the final chase airplane and caught up to me and said, “Yes, the nose gear is down.  It looks like it’s locked into place and stable.”  I said, “Well, it’ got to be locked into place.”  It just came down, and, of course, there was a little pneumatic system to push it into place.  He said he couldn’t see anything bad about it, although everybody suspected the tires and whatnot from the heat.  I cam around and made a very tight turn because I was low in altitude and low in speed and put the flaps down and the skid out, and everything came out normal.  We were a little suspicious- -why did the nose gear come down, and the skids didn’t come down- -because they were hooked to the same cable system.  Everything fell into place and gave me about 5 or 10 seconds there to either make a decision to land, or if the skids didn’t com down, I had to eject.  When Joe said everything looked good, I decided to land it.

When the nose hear hit the ground and the tires hit the ground, I could just feel that the tires were shredding and a lot of vibration in the airplane for about 3 or 4 seconds, and then there were no more tires, and it was rolling on the steel wheels.  It just smoothed out and came to a stop eventually by the friction of the lakebed and the skids. 

As it turned out, the amount of heat that got up into the compartment where the nose gear was stowed burned out all of the aluminum on the back panels and some of the wires.  Of course, it burned the tires to a point where they wouldn’t accept the blow when it hit the ground and the speed that it was running, so they went flat and just threw tire everywhere.  It actually didn’t do very much damage to the airplane.  It was repaired in a very short period of time, re-inspected all over, and new gear installed, and we tried it again.

On the next flight, on a repeat, the nose gear stayed in, but the left skid came down.  Actually that was a little worse flight to control because it pulled me off line and I couldn’t control the path of the airplane, but finally at a slower speed I got it under control, and we repeated the whole thing again.  That one in the landing pattern wasn’t quite as severe.  The amount of drag from one skid was less than the nose gear.

As it turned out, the airplane, by being longer (than before modification) stretched more when it got hot, and the cables stretched.  On the first time, the cable that I pulled to drop the landing hear just stretched on its own and popped out the nose gear door and then unlocked the landing gear, and it dropped into place.  Even though they lengthened the cable, essentially the same thing happened when the left main skid came down, so it was a reengineering to get the cables the right length to accept the stretch of the airplane when it got hot.  I think we had three landing gear problems in those early flights of getting the (A-2) airplane back in the air at around Mach 5.

We got ahead of that one (problem) and got the airplane up to higher speeds and higher altitudes and then did the flights with the external tanks on it at even higher speeds.

Addressing AFFTC history for report, the first flight of X-15A2 was made by Colonel Robert Rushworth, 1 July 1966, also the first flight with full external tanks.

The redesign of number two was done so that it would carry external tanks and carry fuel for scramjet engine evaluation later on.  I had gone through a couple of flights with the external tanks captive and then launched with the tanks empty and jettisoned those at about Mach 2, and that was all successful, so se loaded up the tanks, after we were convinced that everything was going to work, with all the propellants and took of for Mud Lake (primary dry lake for emergency at/near launch).  Everything was going beautifully.  The launch was considerably different than with a clean airplane.  The envelope for launch was much tighter and very close because of the added weight on the airplane from the tanks.  It started to accelerate, and I got a call from the control people at Edwards about 15 seconds into launch that the one tank wasn’t feeding, then I would get a very severe center of gravity position because one tank was full and the other one was partially full.

The problem that I had at the time was that our jettison system was designed to either jettison full or jettison empty, and we had two charges, two buttons, and if the tanks were full, I used the one-charge button, empty I used the 2-charge button to get the tanks away from the airplane.  Now we were somewhere in between and had never planned on that.  When I jettisoned, I don’t remember which button I hit, but I hit a button, and the tanks left the airplane, and the airplane just went through a series of porpoises that were greater than any that we had ever experienced. I am just surprised that the artificial system held the airplane the way it did.  I did not shut down the engine at the time because I just was unsure of what the situation was going to be with the tanks and I was unsure of whether or not I had enough speed in order to get turned around and bet back to Mud Lake, so I left the engine running in the normal thrust setting and jettisoned the tanks and started by turnaround to go to Mud Lake.  When I was that I could make the lakebed and still had enough altitude and speed to jettison the remaining fuel, then I shut the engine down and went into jettison.  By that time the chase airplanes caught up, and the rest of the flight was uneventful down onto the lakebed.  As it turned out, it was a telemetry problem, and the tanks were feeding; actually it was in a measuring valve, which erroneously reported no flow from tank to airplane.  They did find measuring units that would determine the propellant was flowing.

Pete (Knight, backup pilot), and I had at least one very good flight where he got the airplane up to 6.7 (Mach) plus with the external tanks, and they fed all the way out, and he jettisoned, a good profile.  But they also learned that they couldn’t control hearting on the airplane, and it became too hot and too dangerous to take that airplane, even though they had ablative material on it, to that speed safely, so they gave up on it.

The December 1967 Flight Test Center history noted that Major Michael J. Adams “was the twelfth pilot to fly the Z-15 rocket research aircraft and was killed while making his eleventh flight 15 November 1967.”

I wasn’t there at the time, but later on, several months after the accident, I did get to Edwards to find out what had happened.  It was a matter of changing the configuration in the cockpit and putting another experiment on the airplane and the pilot not having some of the instrumentation in the cockpit that he had been used to having or hat we had always had in the past.  Al Mike got to the top of the trajectory, he became more involved with the experiment part that he was doing rather than continuing to evaluate the trajectory, and it was in a side-slip, quite a severe side slip, and it was moving away from the nose correctly pointed forward.  He lost control of it going over the top and never could get control again.  Had he been able to get even partial control he may have been able to eject.  The airplane began to come apart, and he still could have eject, but I was told that the canopy came off.  When it came off, it crushed his helmet, and then he lost oxygen and lost consciousness.  Up to that point in time, if he had been in some measure of control, he could have ejected and gotten away safely.  It was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that happened—perhaps a little bit of inexperience on his part or perhaps not quite enough attention paid by the flight planners and other people to support the kind of flight for him at that point, the eleventh flight.

They went back to that configuration (original instruments).  The instrument was there but it was in a different location, and it was a different size, and he just missed the cues that the airplane was moving.

The people who were in the X-15 program did not consider going to the Mercury program or the Gemini program worthwhile.  It was more fun to fly an airplane than, as we spoke of it at that time, “ride in the can.”  All of us—Kincheloe, White, and myself—had the opportunity to aim for the Mercury program, and we talked about I maybe 5 minutes and said, “There isn’t any way I’m going to give up flying the X-15 for going to ride in that can.” Since the Air Force had the Dynasoar program on the horizon, those people who were eligible for either the X-15 later on or the Dynasoar had absolutely no desire to get into the Mercury program. 

It was the (later) time of the McDivitt-Collins-Joe Engle time period those people could see that there was no more effort on the part of the Air Force to do this kind of flying and the only thing that was going to be done was by NASA, so that was the only place to go. As far as wanting to leave the X-15 program, the only one that was there that wanted to leave was Joe Engle.

The only two that left were Armstrong and Engle, and Armstrong didn’t want to go: he was told to go.  He was told that they needed an experience civilian on the program and I’m sure even at that time there was the possibility that Neil was going to be selected to be the first tan on the moon, a civilian space effort.  NASS was to control all the work in space and the civilian group that was doing it was NASA.

I stayed at Edwards so long that I knew it was too late to get into an operational organization and become a squadron commander and work my say up. I might get into one of the senior service schools (Industrial College of the Armed Forces or National War College) and be better off. I went to the NWC, was very fortunate to be able to get there and enjoyed that program immensely.

I volunteered for an assignment in the Pentagon, knowing damned good and well that I was going to go to Vietnam.  About Christmas the promotion list came out, and I had been promoted to full colonel.  I was sent for crew training to George Air Force Base at Victorville, CA., for about 5 months.

When I got to Cam Ranh Bay (South Vietnam) I was assigned as assistant deputy for operations of the 12th Fighter Wing (F-4c aircraft).  The majority of my 189 combat missions were in South Vietnam, ordnance or rockets or guns.  I would have to guess that I may have done 15 missions up in North Vietnam, and they were similar.  I had no air-to-air combat.  Our airplanes (F-4C) really weren’t a good match, for anything that the Russians had, because we had to carry the gun in the tank pod underneath the airplane and it just slowed that airplane down tremendously.  It was used by some, but once the E-model came out, it was a better airplane for that as was the F-105 under reasonable conditions.

I took hits when I didn’t even know it.  On my last flight, I got hit in the wing by the ground fire that created a problem and had an emergency landing.  Unfortunately, I was flying the commander’s airplane, which had just been repainted.  When “Buckshot” (Col. Floyd White) looked at it, he said, “Why don’t you go to Hong Kong on leave and then go home?”  I was shooting to get about 200 missions, and there was enough time left, but “Buckshot” figured we had more pilots than we had airplane seats and that I had enough flying and I was going to go home within a month anyway, so I might just as well take my leave.

Colonel Rushworth made some observations about the war, and attitude from his military and combat experience.

Well, we (military do a very bad job everywhere we go because we assume too much of the war effort instead of letting them (indigenous forces/allies) take the challenge.  I think every war we have been involved in that didn’t come out right was because we tried to do it all and we didn’t get the people involved to support themselves.  Korea was exactly the same.  If we can’t support them and get them to fight their own battles on their terms because of whomever they are fighting with, then it’s ridiculous for us to go in and do the fighting for them because when we try to give it back to them, they are going to lose.  It’s just that simple.  They can’t sustain it.

The Fiscal 1969 ASD (Aeronautical Systems Division) history noted that “on 22 April 1969 a new program director, Colonel R.A. Rushworth, replaced retiring Colonel C.E. Riddle.”

I was ready to get home and back into the business that I was more familiar with.  I had written a couple of letters to friends and asked them for some ideas .  One got to General Townsend (B/G Guy M.) and he wrote and said he had a good job for me.

The Walleye missile (already in service) was primarily designed for area destruction rather than small targets, while the Maverick was to be smaller, less costly, and more accurate.  As far as what we, the Government, asked of it, it performed very satisfactorily.  As far as TAC (Tactical Air Command) was concerned, the missile had what they termed limited capability and would have been useful only in a benign environment.  They were ready to give up on that missile and go to a new family or a new capability even when I was on the program.  It took considerable philosophizing with them to make them understand that what they were asking for was another 5-year development program, and we could probably repeat that to infinity.

1971 ASD history noted “the most extensive realignment in March involved the Directorate of Flight Test, which then became the 4950th Test Wing (Technical). Col. Rushworth’s  command of that wing was announced by him at his first new staff meeting.

I wasn’t very pleased to pick up all those other things that were going into that organization that would make it a basket organization, but that’s what L/General Stewart and L/Gen Hudson wanted to dl.  They wanted to take a lot of the smaller non-acquisition type things off their plate and put them somewhere where they didn’t have to worry about them.

General Stewart called me one day and he said, “Well, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news.  I said I’d prefer the bad news first, but he said the good news would come first.  “The I.G. (Inspector General of Systems Command, Andrews AFB, MD) is a good job.  The bad news is you’re leaving right away.”

There was one inspection that I thought, well, it is going to be relatively easy.  After the inspection was over, the team leader came to me and said, “I have got to tell that general officer that his organization absolutely stinks, and those are the words that I want to use.’  I said, “Go ahead.  I’ll sit right there and listen to you, and if he growls, I’ll back you up.”  I thought it was going to be an easy inspection, and they dug out things that you wouldn’t believe.  He told the general I said that, and I though he was going to explode, I could just see the blood coming up to the top of his head, and I thought he was just going to blow his tack right there, but he took it.  He didn’t like it, but he took it.

Well, I don’t think I got fired.  General Brown had become Air Force Chief of Staff and General Phillips (Samuel C.) took his place (C. G. Systems Command).  Something had gone wrong at TAWC (Tactical Air Warfare Center) and the Chief had known B/G Howard Lane (Commander AFFTC) who was transferred to correct the problem.  I rather suspect that when General Phillips started looking around for someone to replace Howard Lane, he asked the advice of probably Lane and Stewart and Hudson, and they probably recommended me because I had the experience (10 years at the AFFTC) and it was a logical progression.

General Phillips said to me “I’m going to fly out to Lane’s leaving ceremony, and I think you had better come with me and plan to just accept the job right then.”  That was like jumping completely out of the frying pan into the refrigerator.

The Flight Test Center history noted that on 15 December 1974 “Brigadier General Robert A. Rushworth, Center Commander, is nominated for promotion to major general.

That not only was a surprise but a complete surprise.  I think it was the first year I was eligible for promotion. I also knew that it meant I was going to give up the best job, which happened unfortunately too soon. 

The FTC history noted that on 23 December 1974 at 10:30 in the morning the B-1 had flown for the first time.  General Russell E. Dougherty, SAC commander, wired congratulations to M/G (designate) Rushworth.

The day the B-1 was scheduled to fly it came up too windy.  The winds were 30 to 35 knots, and we just wouldn’t undertake a first flight under those conditions.  So I sat around, and I got hold of the weatherman and said, “How long is this going to hold?”  A young fellow cane up, a young captain, and said, “Well, I’ve been looking at all the weather up and down the coast.  Tomorrow morning it’s going to be absolutely calm, and by 10 o’clock in the morning the wind is going to start blowing again.”  Everybody wondered how long he has been here.  We said, “We will reschedule for tomorrow morning.”  The next morning at 6 o’clock it was dead calm, and at 10 o’clock the wind was blowing again, just like he said.  I don’t think anybody ever forecasted that before. (There are extended periods when the winds howl night and day on the Mojave Desert.).  We got the airplane up and down and had a good flight, and then the wind started blowing.  I do remember that first flight.  There was an awful lot of effort on everybody’s part to support it—instrumentation, chase airplanes, radar coverage.  It was a big effort.  I absolutely couldn’t believe it when President Carter cancelled the B-1 program.

The FTC history of December 1976 reported “Major General Thomas P. Stafford (later Lt. Gen) became the Flight Test Center’s new commander on 4 November 1975, replacing Major General Robert W. Robert A. Rushworth, who left Edwards for Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, to serve as the commander of the Air Force Test and Evaluation Center.”

I was hopeful that I would be able to make it a more comfortable arrangement between the Systems Command testing and the operational center testing, but I don’t think I did that hardly at all.  Because the organization was assigned to the Air Force Chief of Staff, it was a good assignment for me in that sense on a personal basis.

The 1976 AFTEC history noted that Major General Howard Leaf (Lt. Gen. Leaf) assumed command of AFTEC on 1 October 1976 and Major General Rushworth was assigned as vice commander of Systems Command’s Aeronautical Systems Division.

I was older than all of my contemporaries by virtue of the fact that I had been in the service in World War II, had gotten out, and gone through college, and those people who had gone to West Point or the Naval Academy were several years younger and had more tenure to remain in the Air Force and, in that sense, looked much more feasible as a potential candidates than I did.  I had gone past the point where they would promote me to a permanent major general. I told General Slay, “If you want the assignment vacated and let somebody else come in, I would be happy to retire at any time but if you are not going to move me or you don’t have any requirement to move me, I’ll stay until about June of 1981.

I had no reservations or concerns or whatnot about being promoted one more time.  I had a great career.  I did things that nobody in the world is ever going to do again, and I enjoyed it.  I couldn’t complain.

There were three high points of my career, I think—when I did my altitude flight and received my astronaut rating, when I pot promoted to general officer, and them when I got commander at Edwards.  That really takes care of the majority of my career. I enjoyed it all!

I was retired by Tom Marsh (Gen. Robert T.) who was the commander at Systems Command at the time.  The ceremony was just outside the Air Force Museum out at the end of the building, and whoever set it up did a super job.  They dragged the X-15 out, and put it right in front of the reviewing stand on the other side of the parade ground.  The setting was kind of historic.  I could look out and see a whole bunch of airplanes that I had flown, and I could see a lot of airplanes that I didn’t fly, but most of the significant airplanes that I flew were all out in the field.  It was a pretty good day.

My mother was there: she lived with me at the time, but my daughter (Cheri) was about 7 or 8 months pregnant and could not make it.  But my son-in-law (Terry) flew up, with a friend, both stationed at Reese Air Force Base, Texas.

I did find a position as a director with a company.  It’s a small civilian organization—the name is Searson Research Corporation.  Primarily it’s coating windshields, canopies, glass, polyesters, polycarbonates, etc., on classified contracts with the Government.  I am one of three managing directors.  We meet monthly and go over the business and activities.  I consult also and one doesn’t interfere with the other. 

Wherein I used to work 6 or 6 days a week and the play golf 1 day, I have flipped that around now that I play golf 6 days a week and work 1 day.