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Frederick D. Gregory - Tested Cutting-edge Aircraft

pilot nasa force space

After flying 550 combat missions during a year of distinguished service in Vietnam, Gregory spent the next part of his career learning to fly and test the most advanced aircraft operated by the U.S. armed forces. Gregory flew the UH-1F missile support helicopter in Missouri, and F-4 Phantom Combat jets in Texas, before becoming a U.S. Navy test pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. After his test pilot training, he was assigned to the 4950th Test Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio as an operational test pilot flying both jet fighters and helicopters. In 1974 he took on a temporary duty assignment as a research test pilot at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. Gregory returned to Vietnam in 1975 during the American evacuation to fly refugees from the American embassy in Saigon to carriers offshore.

At a Glance...

Born Frederick Drew Gregory on January 7, 1941, in Washington, D.C.; son of Francis A. (an educator) and Nora Drew Gregory; married Barbara Archer (a clinical social worker), 1964; children: Frederick, Jr., Heather Lynn. Education: United States Air Force Academy, BS, 1964; George Washington University, MS, 1977.

Career: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), research test pilot, 1974-78, selected for astronaut training program, 1978, worked in Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, 1979-83, piloted Challenger on Spacelab 3 mission, 1985, commanded crew of orbiter Discovery, 1989, commanded crew of orbiter Atlantis, 1991, appointed Associate Administrator, Office of Safety and Mission Quality, 1992; Deputy Administrator, NASA, 2002–; Acting Administrator, NASA, 2005. Military Service: U.S. Air Force, helicopter rescue pilot, 1965-66, tour of duty in Vietnam, 1966-67, missile support helicopter pilot, 1967-68, member of F-4 Phantom combat crew training wing, 1968-71, operational test pilot, 1971-74.

Memberships: Society of Experimental Test Pilots; Order of Daedalians; American Helicopter Society; Air Force Academy Association of Graduates; Air Force Association; Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity; National Technical Association; Tuskegee Airmen; Young Astronaut Council, board member; Challenger Center for Space Science Education, board member; Virginia Air and Space Center-Hampton Roads History Center, board member.

Awards: Defense Superior Service Medal; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Distinguished Flying Cross (2); Air Force Commendation Medal; NASA Space Flight Medals (3); NASA Outstanding Leadership Award; National Society of Black Engineers Distinguished National Scientist Award, 1979; Air Force Association, Ira Eaker Fellow; Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Executives, 2003.

Addresses: Office—NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546.

By 1977 Gregory had grown tired of being a test pilot and was eager to move on to something else. At this time NASA announced that it was recruiting new astronauts, and he applied without delay. At first the Air Force was reluctant to submit Gregory's application to NASA, since most of his experience was in piloting helicopters rather than high-performance jets. Intent on fulfilling the dream of flying in outer space he had nurtured since he was a teenager, Gregory was prepared to resign his commission in order to be accepted by NASA. In 1978 he was one of 35 candidates accepted and, along with Guy Bluford and Ron McNair, became one of the first American black astronauts to enter the NASA program.

By August of 1979, Gregory had successfully undergone training and evaluation that qualified him to serve as a pilot on space shuttle crews. For the next four years he worked in a variety of capacities for NASA, including a stint in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, until he was assigned to pilot the Challenger on the Spacelab 3 mission that took off in April of 1985. Gregory led a seven-man crew that performed medical and materials processing experiments during a week of round-the-clock scientific operations. Satellite deployments were also carried out during the flight.

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