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Walter C. Williams Walter C. Williams

Photo Number: E49-0170
Photo Date: Oct. 1949

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Description: Walter C. Williams arrived from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, Hampton, Virginia, on September 30, 1946, at the Muroc Army Air Field. He had been named the engineer-in-charge of the small group of five that came with him to the Rogers Dry Lakebed to take part in research flights of a joint NACA-Army Air Forces program involving the rocket-powered Bell XS-1. This established the first permanent National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics presence at the Mojave Desert site in California.

This small group grew in numbers to 27 and received permanent status as the NACA Muroc Flight Test Unit from Hugh L. Dryden, NACA’s Director of Research, on September 27, 1947. Walt was named Head of the Unit. On November 14, 1949, the Unit along with the 100 employees became the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station with Walt Williams as Chief. Next came the move from the South Base site to the new headquarters, Bldg. 4800 on the north-west shore of the Rogers Dry lakebed on the Edwards Air Force Base complex. July 1, 1954 saw another name change to the NACA High-Speed Flight Station with Walt remaining the Chief to a complement of about 225 employees.

Williams had received a Bachelor of Science Degree in aeronautical engineering from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1939. After graduation, he was employed by the Glenn L. Martin Company of Baltimore, Maryland, and later that same year joined the staff of the NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, where he worked as an engineer in the Flight Division.

During the period from September 1946 to July 1954 Williams supervised the activities of several research projects. These included the first successful rocket-powered flight of the XS-1 made by Bell pilot Chalmers Goodlin on December 9, 1946; the record breaking flight of A.F. Captain Chuck Yeager on October 14, 1947, that exceeded the speed of sound; and the first flight of the jet-powered Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak by NACA pilot Howard C. Lilly on November 25, 1947. On March 10, 1948, Herbert Hoover was the first NACA pilot and the first civilian to fly supersonically (in the XS-1). Then came the testing of the tailless Northrop X-4 aircraft; the first flight of the variably swept wing Bell X-5 made by NACA pilot Joseph A. Walker; the first NACA flight of the Convair XF-92A, a delta wing configuration, on April 9, 1953; followed by the first Mach 2 flight on November 20, 1953, flown by NACA pilot Scott Crossfield in the rocket-powered Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket.

Walt continued to be in charge during the many name changes for the NACA-NASA organization, ending his stay as Chief of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Flight Research Center (todays NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center) in September 1959.

See DIRECTORS, E-1364 for further information on Walter C. Williams.

Keywords: Dryden Center Directors; Walter C. Williams; National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory; Muroc Army Air Field; Rogers Dry Lakebed; NACA; Army Air Forces; Mojave Desert; NACA Muroc Flight Test Unit; Hugh L. Dryden; NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station; Edwards Air Force Base; NACA High-Speed Flight Station; Louisiana State University; Glenn L. Martin Company; Bell XS-1; Chalmers Goodlin; A.F. Captain Chuck Yeager; Douglas D-558-I; Skystreak; Herbert Hoover; Howard C. Lilly; Northrop X-4; Bell X-5; Convair XF-92A; Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

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