Larson named to Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame

December 18, 2014

Glen G. Larson, a decorated Vietnam War fighter pilot who continued to serve his country in the Air Force and Air National Guard and worked as a test pilot and executive for McDonnell Douglas Corp., is the 2014 inductee into the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame.

The Rawlins native earned four Distinguished Flying Crosses and 19 Air Medals during his combat service in Vietnam in 1972-73, and later was awarded the Legion of Merit. As an aircraft commander and fast forward air controller in the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing “Wolf Pack,” he flew 221 missions totaling 422 combat hours over North Vietnam.

His aircraft on those missions was the F-4 Phantom, and after the war he served as an F-4 instructor pilot until 1975, when he was selected as one of the early instructors of the new McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz. He also served as a squadron and wing scheduling officer, safety officer and flight examiner, before he left active duty.

His experience flying McDonnell Douglas fighter aircraft led to a career as a production test pilot for the company in St. Louis beginning in 1979. He tested the airworthiness of aircraft before delivery, and as an engineering test pilot, he tested aircraft systems.

Larson then transitioned into the role of experimental test pilot, conducting high-performance flight tests on the F-15, and later serving as chief test pilot for the F-18 Hornet. Performance tests included high-speed flight to near Mach 2, high-altitude flight to near 50,000 feet, structural limit tests that consisted of high-g-force flight up to 9g, and aeroelastic testing for wing flutter.

His knowledge of fighter aircraft characteristics led to his producing numerous technical papers published on attack angles, stalls, spins and autorolls, dual engine restart procedures, wing fuel imbalance, fuel leaks, flying with conformal fuel tanks, and landing and rollout. In 1984, he was a finalist for the NASA astronaut program.

Larson transitioned out of the cockpit and into senior management with McDonnell Douglas in 1988, where he guided sales of the F-15, and managed the Peace Sun Program that involved the delivery of fighter aircraft to the Royal Saudi Air Force.

As director of operations, Larson managed contract negotiation, establishing aircraft maintenance programs and evaluated profit-loss performance on annual revenues. He retired from McDonnell Douglas in 1998, when he accepted the position of director of engineering for Goodrich Aerospace. He then became vice president of aircraft systems, where he remained until 2001.

While in St. Louis, Larson served as an F-4 and F-15 pilot for the Missouri Air National Guard from 1981 to 1998. After surpassing 5,000 flight hours, he retired from the Air Force Reserves in 2000, ending his 30-year military career as a colonel assigned to the Pentagon.

The beginning of his long career in aviation can be traced back to 1957, when he took his first flight with long-time Rawlins aviator John France.

Later he majored in mechanical engineering with an aerospace option at the University of Wyoming. While in Laramie, he earned his private pilot’s license at General Brees Field, and was active in the Air Force ROTC Detachment 940 on campus.

Upon graduation in 1970, Larson was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Air Force, and received his flight training in numerous aircraft including the F-4.

Although he remained in St. Louis after retirement, he has maintained a close connection to UW, where he served on the National Advisory Board of the College of Engineering.

The Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame was established in 1994 through the efforts of the late Red Kelso of Cheyenne. Acting under the auspices of the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission, the Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring Wyomingites who have made outstanding contributions to the establishment, development, and/or advancement of aeronautics.

For more information about the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame contact John Waggener in Laramie at 307-766-2563.

Photo: Glen Larson in the signature orange flight suit of an experimental test pilot climbing into the cockpit of a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.