List of Famous Test Pilots

List of the most notable and famous Test pilots in the world, with photos when available. Most prominent Test pilots worldwide and top Test pilots in America can be found on this list ordered by their level of prominence,. From reputable Test pilots to the lesser known Test pilots in history and today, these are the top Test pilots in their field, and should answer the question "who are the most famous Test pilots in the world?". List features people like Alan Bean, John de Havilland, and many more You're able to copy this list to build your own just like it, re-rank it to fit your opinions, then publish it to share it with your Facebook friends, Twitter followers or with any other social networks you use on a regular basis. (297 Items)
Ranked by
  • Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut and aeronautical engineer who was the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also a naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. A graduate of Purdue University, Armstrong studied aeronautical engineering; his college tuition was paid for by the U.S. Navy under the Holloway Plan. He became a midshipman in 1949 and a naval aviator the following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. In September 1951, while making a low bombing run, Armstrong's aircraft was damaged when it collided with an anti-aircraft cable which cut off a large portion of one wing. Armstrong was forced to bail out. After the war, he completed his bachelor's degree at Purdue and became a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was the project pilot on Century Series fighters and flew the North American X-15 seven times. He was also a participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs. Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in the second group, which was selected in 1962. He made his first spaceflight as command pilot of Gemini 8 in March 1966, becoming NASA's first civilian astronaut to fly in space. During this mission with pilot David Scott, he performed the first docking of two spacecraft; the mission was aborted after Armstrong used some of his re-entry control fuel to stabilize a dangerous roll caused by a stuck thruster. During training for Armstrong's second and last spaceflight as commander of Apollo 11, he had to eject from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle moments before a crash. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the Moon, and the next day they spent two and a half hours outside the spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the mission's command module (CM). When Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, he famously said: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon. President Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and Armstrong and his former crewmates received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. After he resigned from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati until 1979. He served on the Apollo 13 accident investigation and on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. He acted as a spokesman for several businesses and appeared in advertising for the automotive brand Chrysler starting in January 1979.
  • Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. (June 2, 1930 – July 8, 1999) (Captain, USN), was an American NASA astronaut, aeronautical engineer, naval officer and aviator, test pilot, and during the Apollo 12 mission became the third man to walk on the Moon. Conrad was selected in NASA's second astronaut class. He set an eight-day space endurance record along with his Command Pilot Gordon Cooper on his first spaceflight, the Gemini 5 mission. Conrad also commanded the Gemini 11 mission. He became the third human to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission. After Apollo, he commanded Skylab 2, the first crewed Skylab mission. On the mission, he and his crewmates repaired significant launch damage to the Skylab space station. For this, President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. After he retired from NASA in 1973, he became a vice president of American Television and Communications Company. He went on to work for McDonnell Douglas, as a vice president. During his tenure, he served as vice president of marketing, senior vice president of marketing, staff vice president of international business development, and vice president of project development. Conrad died on July 8, 1999, from internal injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
  • Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (April 3, 1926 – January 27, 1967) was one of the seven original National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Mercury astronauts, and the first of the Mercury Seven to die. He was also a Project Gemini and an Apollo program astronaut. Grissom was the second American to fly in space, and the first member of the NASA Astronaut Corps to fly in space twice. In addition, Grissom was a World War II and Korean War veteran, U.S. Air Force test pilot, and a mechanical engineer. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster, a two-time recipient of the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and, posthumously, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. During World War II, Grissom enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet. After his discharge from military service, Grissom enrolled at Purdue University, graduating with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering in 1950. He reenlisted in the U.S. Air Force, earning his pilot's wings in 1951, and flew 100 combat missions during the Korean War. After returning to the United States, Grissom was reassigned to work as a flight instructor at Bryan Air Force Base in Texas. He attended the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology for a year, earning a bachelor's degree in aeromechanics, and received his test pilot training at Edwards Air Force Base in California before his assignment as a test pilot at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Selected as one of the Mercury Seven astronauts, Grissom was the pilot of Mercury-Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7), the second American suborbital flight, on July 21, 1961. At the end of the flight, the capsule's hatch blew off prematurely after it landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Grissom was picked up by recovery helicopters, but the blown hatch caused the craft to fill with water and sink. His next flight was in the Project Gemini program as command pilot for Gemini 3 (Molly Brown), which was a successful three-orbit mission on March 23, 1965. Grissom, commander of AS-204 (Apollo 1), along with his fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee, died on January 27, 1967, during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission at Cape Kennedy, Florida.
  • Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American astronaut, naval aviator, test pilot, and businessman. In 1961 he became the first American to travel into space, and in 1971 he walked on the Moon. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Shepard saw action with the surface navy during World War II. He became a naval aviator in 1946, and a test pilot in 1950. He was selected as one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts in 1959, and in May 1961 he made the first crewed Project Mercury flight, MR-3, in a spacecraft he named Freedom 7. His craft entered space, but was not capable of achieving orbit. He became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space, and the first space traveler to manually control the orientation of his craft. In the final stages of Project Mercury, Shepard was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10), which was planned as a three-day mission. He named Mercury Spacecraft 15B Freedom 7 II in honor of his first spacecraft, but the mission was canceled. Shepard was designated as the commander of the first crewed Project Gemini mission, but was grounded in 1963 due to Ménière's disease, an inner-ear ailment that caused episodes of extreme dizziness and nausea. This was surgically corrected in 1969, and in 1971, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, piloting the Apollo Lunar Module Antares to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions. At age 47, he became the fifth, the oldest, and the earliest-born person to walk on the Moon, and the only one of the Mercury Seven astronauts to do so. During the mission, he hit two golf balls on the lunar surface. Shepard was Chief of the Astronaut Office from November 1963 to July 1969 (the approximate period of his grounding), and from June 1971 until his retirement from the United States Navy and NASA on August 1, 1974. He was promoted to rear admiral on August 25, 1971, the first astronaut to reach that rank.
  • James Arthur Lovell Jr. (; born March 25, 1928) is a former NASA astronaut, Naval Aviator, mechanical engineer, and retired Navy captain. In 1968, as command module pilot of Apollo 8, he became one of the first three humans to fly to and orbit the Moon. He then commanded the 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission which, after a critical failure en route, circled around the Moon and returned safely to Earth through the efforts of the crew and mission control. Lovell had previously flown on two Gemini missions, Gemini 7 in 1965 and Gemini 12 in 1966. He was the first person to fly into space four times. One of 24 people to have flown to the Moon, Lovell was the first person to fly to it twice. He is a recipient of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in 1970, as one of 17 recipients in the Space Exploration group), and co-author of the 1994 book Lost Moon, on which the 1995 film Apollo 13 was based.
  • William Reid Pogue (January 23, 1930 – March 3, 2014), (Col, USAF), was an American astronaut, U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, and test pilot who was also an accomplished teacher, public speaker and author. Born and educated in Oklahoma, Pogue graduated from college and enlisted in the United States Air Force, in which he served for 24 years. He flew combat during the Korean War, and with the elite USAF Thunderbirds. He served as a flight instructor and mathematics professor, and was a versatile test pilot, including two years in an exchange with the RAF (UK). Colonel Pogue was an Air Force instructor when accepted into NASA in 1966. His astronaut career included one orbital mission, as pilot of the last crew of Skylab. The crew set a duration record (84 days) that was unbroken in NASA for over 20 years, and in orbit they conducted dozens of research experiments. The mission was also noted for a dispute with ground control over schedule management that news media named “The Skylab Mutiny”. Pogue retired from both the USAF and NASA a few months after he returned from Skylab. Over the next 30 plus years he taught, lectured, consulted, and wrote about aviation and aeronautics, in the US and abroad. He died in 2014, age 84, survived by three children, four stepsons, and his third wife.