Paul F. Bikle, Director of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility
from September 1959 until May 1971, has been
associated with major aeronautical research programs, including
the highly successfull rocket-powered X-15
and the wingless lifting bodies, that pioneered technology later
employed to build and fly space shuttles.
Bikle was born June 5, 1916, in Wilkensburg, Pennsylvania
Before graduating from the University of Detroit with a B.S. in
aeronautical engineering in 1939, Bikle's activity in the student
chapter of the Institute of the Aeronautical Seienees and the school
flying and gliding club led to flight instruction and qualification
for a C.A.A. pilot's license.
His career with the Air Force began in 1940 when he was appointed an
aeronautical engineer at Wright Field. In 1944 he was named Chief of
the Aerodynamies Branch in the Flight Test Division there. While
working closely with other government agencies in establishing the
first flying qualities specifications for aircraft he also wrote AAF
Technical Report 50693 "Flight Test Methods," which was used as a
standard manual for conducting flight tests for more than five years.
During the war years he was involved in more than 30 test projects
and flew over 1,200 hours as an engineering observer.
In 1947, Bikle was appointed Chief of the Performance Engineering
Branch and directed tests of the XB-43, the first U.S. jet bomber;
the XC-99, and the F-86A. With the transfer of this part of the
flight test mission to the newly formed Air Force Flight Test Center
at Edwards, he advanced to Assistant Chief of the Flight Test
Engineering Laboratory in 1951.
Author of more than 40 technical publications, Bikle also was an avid
soaring enthusiast. In 1961 he established two world soaring records
during a flight near Lancaster, California and was selected for the FAI,
1963, Lilienthal Medal.
In July, 1962, he was awarded the NASA Medal for Outstanding
Leadership. NASA cited him for his part in directing the successful
X-15 Flight Operations and Research Activities.
Bikle died in January 1991.