Press Release

NASA Research Pilots To Enter Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame

By SpaceRef Editor
October 30, 2009
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RICHMOND, Va. – Two retired research pilots who logged more than 16,000 flight hours between them at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton are the latest aviators to be inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame at the Virginia Aviation Museum.

Aeronautical engineers James M. Patton Jr. and Philip W. Brown are being honored in part for their extensive contributions to improving aviation safety and advancing aeronautics research. They will be celebrated, along with a retired airport manager, at the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society’s Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at the Virginia Aviation Museum on Sat., Nov. 14.

Patton did what most pilots try to avoid … put aircraft into a spin. The former Naval aviator worked at NASA Langley from 1966 to 1987. As chief research pilot and head of flight operations, he was instrumental in making NASA Langley a national center of expertise in stall, spin and spin resistance research for small general aviation aircraft.

Patton started a 14-year long program that led to the production of new airplanes that were spin resistant and that helped develop improved flight training information, procedures and techniques. The work also led to the establishment of a Federal Aviation Administration spin resistant airplane certification category.

Patton has flown 157 types of aircraft during more than 9,000 flight hours. Over his career he received a number of awards including one from the Experimental Aircraft Association for exceptional contributions in research and technology in aircraft spin behavior. He currently lives in Florida.

NASA Langley pilot Phil Brown flew spin research planes with Patton. Brown’s NASA career spanned 27 years until his retirement in 2000. Not only did he put aircraft into spins … he intentionally flew a fighter jet into thunderstorms looking for lightning. That jet was struck more than 700 times. Brown was the pilot for a project designed to improve storm hazards detection and avoidance. His work helped establish lightning protection standards that are still in effect today.

Brown also worked to improve military aircraft performance, developing procedures and flight control systems for the F-16 and F-18. Both now have better control while flying in unusual aircraft attitudes or angles as a result of his efforts. The former Navy pilot even flew a specially instrumented plane through the plume of the space shuttle to better assess the shuttle’s environmental impact.

Brown, now of Williamsburg, has flown more than 78 types of aircraft and rotorcraft during more than 7,200 flight hours. In addition to flying, he was responsible for designing a cutting-edge onboard photographic system that captured lightning strikes on film. Brown also won a number of awards including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.

Patton and Brown will be joined in the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame by retired airport manager Alston W. Stevens. Stevens retired from the Navy as a senior chief aviation machinist mate, then went to work at South Norfolk Airport in Chesapeake. Within a year he was promoted to airport manager.

Stevens started air forest patrols and air traffic patrols for area radio stations. He created a banner flying business. All along Stevens encouraged new pilots, setting standards and fees for flight training at the airport. He hired pilots and mechanics as independent contractors. When South Norfolk Airport closed in 1985, Stevens moved his operation to Atlantic Air Park in Pungo where he stayed until he retired. He lives in Norfolk.

The Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame is located in the Virginia Aviation Museum, which is located at the Richmond International Airport. It is run by the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society.

For more information about NASA’s Langley Research Center, go to:

For more information about other NASA projects, go to:

For Virginia Aviation Museum information visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.