Test Pilot Bill Dana’s Worst Fear: Embarrassing Himself in Front of his Peers

Flying the X-15 and HL-10 was nothing compared to facing his fellow test pilots.

Bill Dana and HL-10.jpg
Just another day at the office: Bill Dana with the HL-10 lifting body in 1968, as a B-52 flies overhead.

Bill Dana, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83, was the last pilot to test-fly the X-15, but that wasn't the only contribution he made to flight research. In a NASA career spanning almost 40 years, he flew everything from F-18s to the HL-10 lifting body, and would have flown the X-20 Dyna-Soar had that project not been canceled.

Yet, as Dana revealed (at about the 4:08 mark) in this NASA video made on the occasion of receiving the agency’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1997, it wasn’t the danger of test flight that got to him. It was the peer pressure.

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