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Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

McDonnell Test Pilot Bob Little Honored by Missouri Aviation Historical Society

By Carmelo Turdo
The Missouri Aviation Historical Society held a special event during the Vintage Aeroplane Fly-In at Creve Coeur Airport Saturday to honor one of the St. Louis area's aviation legends, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (later McDonnell Douglas) test pilot and corporate executive Bob Little.  Known throughout the aviation community as the pilot who flew the then revolutionary McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II on its maiden flight over St. Louis on May 27, 1958, Little also flew the company's F3H Demon and F-101A/B Voodoo models on their first flights as well.  He later became the F-4 Phantom II Program Manager, Vice President of Marketing, Corporate Board Member and Vice Chairman - Government Business for McDonnell Douglas.

Left - Bob Little with first F4H-1 Phantom II (Boeing photo) and Right - Bob Little today

Bob Little's aviation career began when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and later flew 68 combat missions over Germany in a reconnaissance version of the P-51 Mustang.   Following the war and the attainment of his Bachelor's Degree from Texas A&M, he went to work for McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1948.  He was a Flight Test Engineer, Experimental Test Pilot and Chief Test Pilot for the Banshee, Demon, Voodoo and Phantom II before rising to the executive ranks.  He is also a recipient of the James H. Doolittle Award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Bob Little with Last F-4 Coin
The Missouri Aviation Historical Society (MAHS) has hosted Bob Little on several occasions, and has assisted in the production of media projects that have highlighted his role in the development of military jet technology.  In 2014, MAHS hosted a program celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the first flight of the McDonnell F-101A Voodoo with Little and other McDonnell Aircraft test pilots in attendance.  In 2016, MAHS teamed up with HEC-TV to produce a special video program, Legendary WWII and Test Pilot, Bob Little.  This HEC-TV special included footage from an historic event that occurred in May 2016 when Bob Little, the first F-4 Phantom II pilot, met USAF Lt. Col. Ron "Elvis" King, the last F-4 Phantom II pilot.  The F-4 Phantom II, or QF-4E flown by Colonel King's 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, was retired in December of 2016 following a number of airshow appearances.  A commemorative coin, featuring both Bob Little and Colonel King, has become a popular keepsake and one was given to Bob Little during Saturday's event.    

Joe Steimann and Bob Little
(Joe Steimann photo)
Saturday's tribute began with the arrival of Bob Little and his family during the airport's fly-in event, which featured Joe Steimann's restored F-4 Phantom II cockpit displayed just outside.  Little was greeted by MAHS members and retirees from McDonnell Douglas, who related their memories of working for "Mr. Mac" on various military aircraft programs and discussed the F-4's development in particular.  Dan O'Hara, MAHS President, gave a brief presentation on Bob Little's career and played the portion of the HEC-TV special featuring the meeting with Colonel King.  Little was then presented with several framed prints from the F-4 program and service units, and a custom-designed cake, featuring the Banshee, Demon, Voodoo and Phantom II jets in the icing, was cut and served.


The Aero Experience was proud to support this event, and thank the Missouri Aviation Historical Society, Bob Little and his family and Creve Coeur Airport for making it possible.  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Would loved to have been there McDonnell Avionics tech Rep. 1965 to 1968. Marines and USAF.

Jeff Joseph. Dept 92 Field Service.