Alvin S. “Al” White

Preferred Name: Al
Nickname/Call Sign: Al
Date of Birth: December 9, 1918
Headed West Date: April 29, 2006
Hometown: Oro Valley, AZ

Born on December 9, 1918, to Harold H. White Sr. (1888–1974) and Ruth A. Winkleman (1894–1975) in Berkeley, California. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the University of California at Davis in 1936 to study electrical engineering and transferred to the Berkeley campus two years later. He began his flying career in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, receiving his license in 1940.[2] During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet and graduated from training at Williams Field, Arizona, in 1942. He later flew bomber escorts and strafing missions over Europe in the P-51 Mustang with the 355th Fighter Group from D-Day through V-E Day.

After the war, White completed his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley in 1947, and went on to become an engineering test pilot for the U.S. Air Force and North American Aviation.[2] He participated in various flight test programs over his career, including the F-86 Sabre jet, the F-100 Super Sabre series, the YF-107, and the X-15.[1] In 1958, White was selected for the U.S. Air Force’s Man in Space Soonest manned spaceflight program. The program ended early due to financial and technical difficulties. In 1961, he was selected as chief test pilot for the flight test program of the XB-70 Valkyrie, the world’s largest supersonic aircraft, piloting the first flights of both XB-70s and taking the aircraft through the buildup programs to fly at Mach 3.[1] On June 8, 1966, he was the sole survivor of the mid-air collision that destroyed the XB-70 #2 prototype and killed his co-pilot, Major Carl Cross, USAF, and noted aviator Joe Walker.[2] White ejected from the XB-70, sustaining serious injuries, including one arm being crushed as it was caught in the clamshell-like escape capsule as it closed around him just before ejection from the aircraft.

White’s XB-70 was seen in flames shortly after the collision with Walker’s F-104 Starfighter.
Later, in 1966, White joined Trans World Airlines (TWA) as flight operations, research and development manager.[2] In 1969, he became a consultant in the field of aviation and aeronautics, working primarily as an expert witness in accident investigation litigation, requiring simulation of accident flight conditions in a comparable aircraft.

After 8,500 hours of flying time in over 125 different aircraft, he retired from the ranks of active pilots and settled in Tucson, Arizona. He died in Arizona in 2006.

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