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Paul F. Bikle Paul F. Bikle

Photo Number: E-4875
Photo Date: September 16, 1959

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Director Paul F. Bikle, seated at his desk at NASA's Flight Research Center (FRC) in 1959, the year of his appointment. The FRC became the Dryden Flight Research Center in 1976, after Paul's retirement.

Paul F. Bikle became Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Flight Research Center at Edwards, California, on September 15, 1959, retaining that title until April 27, 1971, when he requested to be placed in an advisory role until his retirement on May 31, 1971. He was formerly technical director of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards.

During his nearly 12 years with NASA he was responsible for several major aeronautical research programs, including those involving the highly successful rocket-powered X-15, the supersonic XB-70, the fleet of wingless lifting bodies that contributed to development of the Space Shuttles, and the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle that paved the way for successful landings by Apollo astronauts on the moon’s surface.

Paul earned a Bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Detroit in 1939. He first worked for Taylorcraft Aviation Corporation in Ohio before beginning his government service career in 1940 at Wright Field, Ohio. In his first 20 years of civilian service in aeronautical engineering, he was author of more than 40 technical publications.

Bikle was a veteran of 23 years of soaring. He established two world soaring records on February 25, 1961, achieving an altitude of 46,269 feet and a total-altitude-gained mark of 42,305 feet. Both marks were certified by the Soaring Society of America, National Aeronautic Association, and the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale. Bikle held those records for sailplanes for more than 20 years.

In July, 1962, Paul was awarded the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership. NASA cited him for his part in directing the successful X-15 flight operations and research activities. Paul was also a Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Bikle was born June 5, 1916, in Wilkensburg, Pennsylvania; he died January 19, 1991, in Salinas, California.

NASA Photo by: NASA photo

Keywords: Center Directors; Paul F. Bikle; National Aeronautics and Space Administration Flight Research Center; NASA; Edwards Air Force Base; California; Air Force Flight Test Center; X-15; XB-70; Lifting Bodies; Space Shuttle; Lunar Landing Research Vehicle; Apollo astronauts; University of Detroit; Taylorcraft Aviation Corporation; Wright Field; Ohio; Soaring Society of America; National Aeronautic Association; Fédération Aeronautique Internationale; International Aeronautic Federation

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