Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lecture and Book Signing by Major General Fred J. Ascani, USAF Ret., and Lieutenant Colonel Sheryl Hutchinson, USAF Ret.

The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum is holding its fourth “Flight Test Tech Talk” program: a lecture and book signing by Fred Ascani and Sheryl Hutchison on Friday, October 2, 2009, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. They will present the new book Mentor Inbound: The Authorized Biography of Fred J. Ascani, Major General, USAF Retired: Holder of the 1951 World Speed Record.

The Rockford Register-Republic newspaper carried this headline in January 1945: “Aboard a Flying Fortress which appeared a flaming torch, spewing gasoline from its load of 15,000 gallons and trailing fire like a comet, a bomber crew which included Lt. Col. Fred J. Ascani, Rockford pilot, continued its run over a Ploesti oil field target and came through safely . . .” Fred Ascani flew 53 combat missions in command of the 816th Bombardment Squadron during World War II. The newspaper article about that ordeal over Ploesti is an early example of the extensive media coverage that the aviation exploits of Fred Ascani would generate throughout a legendary career.

Fred Ascani is one of the “Men of Mach 1,” and participated in the selection of Chuck Yeager as the pilot to surpass Mach 1 in the Bell X-1. Maj Gen Ascani’s contributions to airpower span over 40 years. Ascani began his association with flight test in 1944 at Wright Field, Ohio. He reported for duty at Edwards Air Force Base in 1950; as Director of Experimental Flight Test and Engineering, and as the first vice commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center, Ascani was an active test pilot, flying more than 50 research aircraft and experimental prototypes. At the 1951 National Air Races, Ascani established a new world speed record flying an F-86E Sabre: 635.686 miles per hour over a 100-kilometer closed course. General Ascani is considered by the USAF to be the “Father of Systems Engineering” and was also the System Program Director for the XB-70 Valkyrie Mach 3 bomber program, the spinoff technologies of which were vital to the development of the Space Shuttle. Ascani retired from the Air Force in 1973 with 6288 flight hours in a uniquely wide range of aircraft. He then taught systems engineering at the Pentagon to the next generation of acquisition professionals.

Author Sheryl Hutchison was on active duty with the USAF for more than 20 years, retiring as a Lt. Colonel in 2006. In July 2000, when then-Major Hutchison became a squadron commander at Edwards Air Force Base, California, she contacted Maj Gen Ascani to request his eyewitness account of how historic Edwards AFB sites looked in the 1940s. They developed an association that led to Mentor Inbound, the biographical account of Ascani’s career, written by Lt. Col. Hutchison in gratitude for his advice and to serve as inspirational history for future generations of airmen.

This event is free and open to the public. Though seating is not reserved, it is limited (standing room attendance is permitted): please RSVP to or 301-863-7418. Lecture and Q&A: 4:45 to 6:00 p.m. Maj Gen Ascani and Lt. Col. Hutchison will sign copies of Mentor Inbound from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. The book will be available for purchase at the Museum Store throughout the event.

The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum is one of 12 Official U.S. Navy Museums, and the only facility that preserves and presents the history of the research, development, test, and evaluation activities of U.S. Naval Aviation. Learn more about the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum via its website link on the Naval History and Heritage Command’s homepage:
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