May 18

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May 18 in Clemson History

  • 1955: McDonnell Aircraft Corporation engineering test pilot Robert H. Strange is killed in the crash of an McDonnell F3H-1N Demon naval fighter, BuNo 133495, after the Westinghouse J40 engine flamed out. He had just completed a dive from 40,000 feet, above Mach, to test dynamic pressure in the radar compartment under these conditions. The engine died above 25,000 feet. The pilot tried repeated restarts with no luck until he had descended to 5,000 feet, at which point he radioed that he was abandoning the plane and attempted to eject. The McDonnell-designed seat failed and Strange was killed as the jet impacted in a cornfield near Carrollton, Illinois, about 55 miles NE of St. Louis, barely missing a farm home "as it plowed a 15-foot furrow in the earth. Strange's body was about 100 feet from the wreckage."Charleston, South Carolina, "Plane Crash Fatal To S.C. Test Pilot", The Charleston Evening Post, Thursday 19 May 1955, Volume 61, Number 197, page 7-B Strange was born in Sumter, South Carolina, in 1922. He joined the U.S. Navy as an aviation cadet in June 1942, and ended up flying with Marine air, 1943-1946. He was awarded the Air Medal, with two gold stars, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He graduated from Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1948, and did engineering work for the Curtiss-Wright Corporation and Frigidaire for three years. He then served with the United States Marine Corps again from 1951 to 1953. Strange joined the McDonnell Corporation as a design engineer in November 1953, becoming a test pilot in October 1954. He is survived by his wife Shirley, and four children, David, Douglas, Susan and Jeffrey.

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