News>'End of an era'- 55 years of civil service in flight test at Edwards
Lt. Johnny Armstrong (left) stands with his B-58 crewmates Maj. Fitz Fulton, Maj. Cliff Garrington and Everett Dunlap in front of the aircraft in 1957. Armstrong flew in this test and support aircraft making him the first non-rated U.S. Air Force officer to fly at Mach 2. (Courtesy photo)
Johnny Armstrong gives a new golf club a swing during his retirement ceremony in Hangar 1414, Feb. 6. The “Tuesday Golf Club,” a group of friends Armstrong plays golf with, presented him a retirement present in anticipation of more frequent golf outings with the group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Aaron Lewis)
2/7/2012 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Bearing witness to over a half century of aerospace engineering and innovation is a testament to one's interest in flight test history. However, to actually participate in over 50 years of it is a testament to one's dedication and excellence in the field.
After 55 years of work for the Air Force Flight Test Center, Johnny G. Armstrong, 412th Test Engineering Group, chief engineer at the Hypersonic Combined Test Force, said goodbye to Edwards in a retirement ceremony in Hangar 1414, Feb. 6.
"Johnny, you have had a career that most of us can only dream of," said Brig. Gen. Robert C. Nolan, II, Air Force Flight Test Center commander. "Fifty-five years of dedicated service to the United States of America, we cannot thank you enough."
As a newly commissioned officer in 1956, 2nd Lt. Armstrong rolled onto Edwards and began duties as a flight test engineer working on projects such as the F11F-1F, YB-58A and the F-104 activity that set a new world altitude record of 103,395.5 feet.
His work and involvement in hypersonic programs evolved into managing projects including the X-15A-2, X-24A, HL-10, M2 and X-15. He was responsible for planning the flight and training the pilot for the X-15 flight that set the aircraft speed record of Mach 6.72.
"I think we've heard a number of people talk about end of eras, and in this case it's really true," said Col. Dawn Dunlop, 412th Test Wing commander. "He has seen transformation in our Air Force, our nation and our air power capability. You've put your fingerprints on everything that we've done in the past 50 years here at the [Air Force] Flight Test Center. Thank you so much for helping us protect our future and secure our freedoms."
Although Armstrong's retirement symbolizes the end of an era, he's done his part to groom young engineers, sharing his experiences for the next generation.
"Johnny has been an incredible mentor to several generations of engineers that have worked here at Edwards," said Gary Wagner, 412th TENG.
"On several occasions I briefed the young students of the engineering group with a briefing that I call, 'The right place at the right time,' and that's just about how it worked for me," said Armstrong.
But before he spoke about anything else, Armstrong spent the majority of his remarks recognizing and thanking his colleagues, past and present, for their support and comradeship during his extensive career.
"Just seeing all of you folks at one place at one time is just fantastic," he said.
During the retirement ceremony Armstrong was presented with letters of recognition and gratitude from General Nolan, as well as the Department of the Air Force's Outstanding Civilian Career Service Award for his service from Aug. 14, 1956 to Feb. 3, 2012.
Armstrong leaves a career that involved collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Space Division and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center concerning the Space Shuttle's re-entry and landing phase.
However, one thing is certain in Armstrong's mind.
"I'm going to retire from the Air Force Flight Test Center," he said. "And there's one thing that a general told me to do, and I'm going to do it symbolically right now. The general said, 'Johnny, I'm going to leave it up to you to cut out the lights.' There they go. So I'm going to say good-bye for now, 'Ad Inexplorata.'"
2/15/2012 3:29:26 PM ET Johnny needs to write another book. Wow 55 years working at the coolest job an aerospace engineer can have. I briefly had the honor of working for Mr. Armstrong when he was the Performance Branch Chief in the 90's. I remember his stories about working on the X-15. The X-15 was a major reason I got interested in military aircraft as a youngster. Scott Crossfield died in GA crash just South of where I work for the Army now in Huntsville AL. Please write another book Boy do I miss flight test. Heck I work for the Army I miss Mach numberJohn Pace U. S. ArmyAviation Engineering DirectorateRedstone Arsenal AL