KILLED: November 15, 1967- X-15 aircraft breakup on re-entry.
Mike was a graduate of Sacramento Junior College in 1950 where hw was a javelin and baseball outfielder. He enlisted in the USAF Nov.22, 1950 and applied for pilot training as an aviation cadet. He was assigned to Spence Field for his initial training and then later advanced training at Webb AFB, Big Springs, Texas. He graduated in October 25, 1952, receiving his wings and commission and after some additional training, went to Japan and Korea where he was an outstanding Air Medal winning Fighter-Bomber pilot, flying 49 combat missions with the 80th Fighter-Bomber Sq. in the 4 months that he was in combat. His next assignment was at England AFB, Alexandria, La. with the Tactical Air Command's 613 Fighter-Bomber Squadron flying F-86F aircraft. He was there for a 30 month period with a short TDY tour of 6 months at Chaumont AFB, France. While stationed at England AFB, he met and married his wife, the former Freda Beard.
In 1958 he was awarded his BS Aeronautical Engineering Degree from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK under Air Force Career Development Program for promising officers. Next he had an 18 months study of astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was selected to attend the Research pilots school at Edwards AFB reporting Aug.1, 1962. While attending the Experimental Test Pilot's School school he was an honor graduate and won the Honts Trophy as best scholar and pilot out of a class of 17 students. He later was graduated from the Aerospace Research Test Pilot School, graduating in 1963. He was designated as an Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) astronaut upon completion of the school. While awaiting the start up of the MOL program he continued to serve as an MOL astronaut and fly as a research pilot. Around January 1964 he was one of four Edward AFB test pilots to be selected to participate in a five-month series of NASA Apollo moon landing simulations using the Apollo Command and Service Modules and the Lunar Excursion Module hardware.
After these tests were completed he applied for assignment to the X-15 research test program and was selected in the summer of 1966. He made his first flight on October 6, 1966. He was an outstanding pilot as he so aptly demonstrated on his first flight in the X-15 when a ammonia tank exploded and he had an control problem, but he maintained his cool and landed at Cuddeback auxiliary field. He flew the X-15 five more times and on his seventh flight he was killed. On this flight his maximum speed was 5744 kph and his maximum altitude was 81080 meters. As the aircraft reached its peak altitude of 266,000 feet the aircraft began a side-slipping-like heading deviation until it reached about 90 degrees right of the normal heading and as it approached 230,000 feet, a classical spin developed. Mike was able to get the aircraft out of the spin at about 124,000 feet and Mach 4.7 by his manual piloting inputs, the active adaptive control system, and the inherent aircraft stability. This was short lived, however, as the adaptive control system began to operate in a limit-cycle oscillation mode and began a series of nose up and down like cycles. The aircraft broke up under high dynamic pressure exceeding 100 pounds per foot per second buildup resulting from the spinning and oscillating aircraft. G levels were about 17 g's both positive and negative and 8 g's laterally as it re-entered the dense atmosphere at about 65,600 feet and traveling at about Mach 3.9.
1st Flight: October 6, 1966 X-15 Maximum Speed - 4666 kph Maximum Altitude - 22980 meters
Summary: Ammonia Tank Explosion
Engine shutdown at 90 seconds
2nd Flight: November 29, 1966 X-15 Maximum Speed - 5020 kph Maximum Altitude - 28020 meters
3rd Flight: March 22, 1967 X-15 Maximum Speed - 6150 kph Maximum Altitude - 40570 meters
Summary: Inertial system failed and cabin pressure lost during descent.
4th Flight: April 28, 1967 X-15 Maximum Speed - 5985 kph Maximum Altitude - 50900 meters
5th Flight: June 15, 1967 X-15 Maximum Speed - 5802 kph Maximum Altitude - 69890 meters
6th Flight: August 25, 1967 X-15 Maximum Speed - 5012 kph Maximum Altitud - 25720 meters
7th Flight: November 15, 1967 X-15 Maximum Speed - 5744kph Maximum Altitude - 81080 meters
Summary: Aircraft destroyed and pilot killed.
He was awarded the Astronaut Wings for this high altitude flight.