Captain Iven Kincheloe was the original US Air Force project pilot for the X-15, chosen in September 1957. On July 26,1958, he took off from Edwards Air Force Base to act as chase pilot during the test flight of an F-104. The Engine on Kincheloe's F-104 flamed out during takeoff at 2,000 feet. He rolled the plane so that he could eject upward, the plane had almost inverted when it crashed, killing Kincheloe. He is buried in the Arlington National Cemetary.
On September 7, 1956, Kincheloe had piloted the X-2 rocket plane to a record altitude of 126,200 feet, becoming famous as the "America's first spaceman." In the next two years, while undergoing strenuous medical tests to prepare him for the X-15 flights, Kincheloe placed well ahead of his contemporaries, who included Neil Armstrong. Tom Wolfe, in The Right Stuff, described Kincheloe as "a test pilot from out of a dream, handsome, powerful, bright, supremely ambitious and yet popular with all who worked with him, including other pilots. There was no ceiling on his future in the Air Force." Many space officials consider him a shoo-in to be the first man on the moon, though his height of six feet one inch might have kept him out of the Apollo program , had he lived.
lven Carl Kincheloe, Jr., was born July 2, 1928, in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up on a farm in Cassopolis. He got interested in aviation as a teenager and took flying lessons, soloing at the age of fourteen. Following graduation from high school in Dowagiac, Michigan, he entered Purdue University, where he received a BS in aeronautical engineering in 1949.
An Air Force ROTC student, Kincheloe underwent pilot training in Texas, Arizona and Illinois. He flew almost 100 combat missions in Korea in F-86s, shooting down ten enemy aircraft to become a double ace. Returning to the US, he was a gunnery instructor at Nellis AFB, Nevada, then attended the British Empire Test Pilot School at Farnborough, England. Following graduation in December 1954, he was assigned to Edwards AFB as a test pilot.
He was survived by his wife, Dorothy (Heining), and two children, Bob and Jeanine.
A biography, First of the Spacemen by James J. Haggerty, Jr., was published in 1960, and a CDROM biography of "Kinch" was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in the summer of 1995.
The Society of Experimental Test Pilots named its yearly trophy after Kincheloe. Some astronauts that have won the Kincheloe award are Neil Armstrong and his fellow Apollo 11 astronauts, "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins. The first crew of The Enterprise. also received the Kincheloe Award.
In 1996, Kincheloe was inducted into the "Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame" in Kalamazoo, MI.
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