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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 8/14/2005 5:17:08 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/14/2005 5:17:33 PM EDT by KA3B]


Joseph Rogers -- record-breaking pilot

Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, August 12, 2005

Joseph Rogers, the legendary Air Force colonel who was a combat veteran of Korea and Vietnam and set the still-unbroken world's record for the fastest flight in a single-engine jet plane, died Saturday at his ranch in Healdsburg.





Col. Rogers, who was 81, died of congestive heart failure after a life that saw him turn his boyhood fascination with airplanes into a career in aviation studded with enough hair-raising and heroic feats that would make movies like "Top Gun" look tame.

He set the single-engine jet world's record on Dec. 15, 1959, in an F-106 Delta Dart over Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California: 1,525 miles per hour. The speed record was later broken by two-engine jets, but never by a jet with only one engine.

He also once had to bail out of an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane at 65,000 feet above Earth when the then-supersecret plane, traveling around 700 mph, started to disintegrate around him.

Col. Rogers was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio. His daughter, Georgia Carver, said her father "went to a county fair when he was about 14 and they had a barnstorming plane there. That was it. He completely fell in love with flying."

In May 1943, at age 19, the budding pilot joined the Army Air Forces and told his superiors he wanted to fly night missions in the Pacific, but Carver said the top brass thought "he was such a great pilot that they made him an instructor." He spent the rest of World War II teaching others to fly. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, then-Capt. Rogers saw battle.

That summer, he was awarded the Silver Star after he saved a regiment of British troops who were stranded on a hilltop, surrounded by enemy forces. Col. Rogers, whose assignment was close air support for ground forces, flew his fighter plane in toward the hill, strafed the enemy troops and used his machine gun to cut an escape path down the hill for the British soldiers.

Later that year, in his propeller-driven F-51 Mustang, he shot down a faster and more sophisticated Russian-built MiG-15 jet.

"This was unusual because of the speed differences between the two planes, " said Jim Cook, master crew chief at the Pacific Coast Air Museum in Santa Rosa and an old friend of Col. Rogers. "He was doing around 350 mph, and the jet was doing 450. There were four MiGs, and they were so much faster. They came over the top of Joe, and he took a lucky shot at them."

In Korea, Col. Rogers was known as Whistlin' Joe because of a device he put on his plane that made a whistling noise "when he came in low and fast," his son, Joe Rogers Jr., said.

After the war, Col. Rogers flew the famed F-86 Sabre jet and in the mid- 1950s enrolled in the Air Force test pilot school. By the end of the decade, when the Air Force decided to go after what was called the "absolute speed record, there was no question who would pilot the aircraft in this joint USAF/Convair (the aircraft builder) project, Maj. Joe Rogers," according to a biography of Col. Rogers posted on the www.f-106deltadart.com Web site.

In December 1959, Col. Rogers made his historic flight.

Four years later, Col. Rogers won the "William Tell" competition, an Air Force-wide competition similar to the Navy's "Top Gun" exercise. After commanding a fighter squadron for several years, he went back to Edwards to command the force of SR-71 Blackbird spy planes.

In December 1969, while flying one of the Blackbirds over the California desert at 65,000 feet, suddenly one of its two engines stalled and the plane started to yaw violently.

"They had an 'Oh, s -- ' moment," Cook said, "and Joe had just enough time to say, 'Let's go,' to his rear (seat) officer and they punched out of the airplane and did a free fall, in their space suits, down to 17,000 feet, and that's when the parachutes opened. They had a long time to think from 65, 000 feet. They landed in Death Valley and walked away."

A year later, Col. Rogers was in Vietnam, where he flew 100 missions. He retired from the Air Force in 1975, then went to work for Northrop Aerospace, selling the F-5 Tiger and F-20 Tigershark fighter jets in the Asian market.

He retired from Northrop in 1989 and became a familiar sight at the aircraft museum in Santa Rosa, where an F-106 Delta Dart like the one in which he set the speed record is on display.

In 2004, Col. Rogers was named to the Aerospace Walk of Honor in Lancaster, the Los Angeles County city about 30 miles from Edwards Air Force Base. The accolade is designed, the city's Web site says, to "pay tribute to distinguished Edwards AFB test pilots whose history of achievement in the field has been continuously outstanding."

Col. Rogers' wife, Charis, died in 2002. He is survived by his sons, Joe Rogers Jr. of Healdsburg and Garrett Rogers of Oakland; daughter, Georgia Carver of Rancho Cordova (Sacramento County), two grandchildren and two great- grandchildren. A memorial service is pending.

Link Posted: 8/14/2005 5:55:51 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KA3B:


He also once had to bail out of an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane at 65,000 feet above Earth when the then-supersecret plane, traveling around 700 mph, started to disintegrate around him.




Knew someone who was involved with the Blackbird, and the condition of pilots after breaking up (at speed) - that Col. Rogers survived getting out of one coming apart is quite something.

Link Posted: 8/14/2005 6:00:45 PM EDT
There is a Rogers Dry Lake bed at Edwards AFB, I bet this is the Rogers they named it after.
Link Posted: 8/14/2005 6:04:02 PM EDT

Originally Posted By warlord:
There is a Rogers Dry Lake bed at Edwards AFB, I bet this is the Rogers they named it after.



I'm still counting all the Rogers that I know.
Link Posted: 8/14/2005 6:18:39 PM EDT

Originally Posted By warlord:
There is a Rogers Dry Lake bed at Edwards AFB, I bet this is the Rogers they named it after.



You would lose that bet.

www.edwards.af.mil/history/docs_html/center/pre-military_history.html
Link Posted: 8/14/2005 6:31:03 PM EDT
Wow,so he was the pilot who flew that F-106! Godspeed!!!
Link Posted: 8/14/2005 6:32:41 PM EDT

Originally Posted By 2A373:

Originally Posted By warlord:
There is a Rogers Dry Lake bed at Edwards AFB, I bet this is the Rogers they named it after.



You would lose that bet.

www.edwards.af.mil/history/docs_html/center/pre-military_history.html


Thanks forgot about Google. Should've checked first. Well, it sure sounded good.
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