Jesse Jacobs: US Air Force veteran and experimental test pilot

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In 2016, we received the sad news of the passing of another of our dear aviation test pilot friends. Retired Air Force Col. Jesse P. “Jake” Jacobs Jr. lived in Las Cruces, NM. He was born in 1923 and was 93 when he died.

My husband, Al, and I have attended many Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) Symposia and always looked forward to seeing our test pilot friends. So many names come to mind, wonderful guys like Dick Laywer, Bob Gilliland, Fitz Fulton, Bob Hoover, Bob Ettinger, Bill Dana, Joe Guthrie and Jesse Jacobs, who had attended every SETP Symposium since they started in 1957.

Jesse joined SETP in 1959 and held many board positions and was elected SETP President in 1969-1970. He made a video of his SETP memories which was shown at the 60th awards banquet.

Jesse was a messenger friend of mine and we love to send each other old newspaper clippings from the Ward and Sear catalogs. We laughed at the prices and the wide variety of items you could buy from the catalogs of the 1930s and 1940s.

An email Jesse sent me contained pictures from the 1934 neighborhood “Wish Book”. I wrote to him and said, “Can you believe these prices? It sounds so cheap, except it was so much money back then that most people couldn’t afford to buy it, so they just “wanted it!” “

“I love the ‘gasoline’ iron !! Also, love shoes and chicks! My mom ordered 500 chicks from Sears in 1948, we ate a lot of chicken !!

Jesse responded and said, “This is the year my daddy died. I was 10 at the time, I turned 11 in August after his death in February. He had been bedridden for about 3 years. My mother had absolutely no income. We lived off the produce of my grandfather’s farm. I didn’t know what a steak was until I got into the military. We ate mainly ham and vegetables. Maybe that’s why my bones are like “oak” according to the surgeon who replaced my left knee in 2007. ”He always signed with“ Hugs, Jesse. ”

Jesse decided to become a test pilot and military officer shortly after his first dollar flight in an open cockpit plane in 1935. As he was only 12 at the time, he had to wait for a time. World War II presented the means, although he almost went to war with the Field Artillery as a Private First Class with a 6th Class Specialist qualification. In 1944 he became a pilot and second lieutenant in the United States Army at Stockton Field, California. He requested and received B-17s.

From left to right: Harry Andonian, Bill Anthony, Dick Taylor, Bob Ettinger and Jesse Jacobs. (Courtesy photo)

Jesse flew over Europe from England with the 861st and 862nd Squadrons of the 493rd Bomb Group. Jacobs flew the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber over Europe during World War II and flew 121 combat missions during the Korean War.

After returning to the United States in 1951, he toured the Air Defense Command for a short time before leaving for the Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down, England in February 1953. He graduated from ETPS n ° 12 where he flew about 20 types of British planes.

He was then assigned to bomber tests at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, where he flew as a test pilot on B-47s, B-50s and B-52s (including the XB-52 with J-75 and J-57 engines in 6-engine configuration), B-57, B-26 and B-17. A year later, he was promoted to major to attend Command and Staff College, from which he graduated in 1960.

He was posted to the Air Force Missile Development Center, Holloman AFB, NM, in July 1960. After being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he spent two years as Director of Tests in the Improvement Program. interceptors. He flew the F-101B in this program and in the air-to-air missile development programs.

Jesse transferred to Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Calif., In July 1964 and became Director of Tests, Tri-Service V / STOL XC-142A Test Force. The objective was to develop a practical intra-theater transport capable of delivering cargo to forward combat positions. Sounds like the V-22 mission, doesn’t it? The Vought-Hiller-Ryan or, as it was later called, Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) designed and manufactured the XC-142A.

I remember Jesse explaining the XC-142A test program to my husband, Al: “The wing would tilt up to 98 degrees, more than up,” Jacobs said. “It had four T64-GE-1 turboprop engines and a top speed of over 400 mph.”

The engines were mounted in nacelles on the wings, and were all crosslinked to each other. Each drove a giant Hamilton-Standard fiberglass four-bladed propeller, with the ends of each virtually overlapping. The four engines also drove a fifth propeller, an eight-foot three-bladed tail rotor through a train of interconnected gears and shafts.

The wing tilt mechanism consisted of two screw jacks driven by a centrally located hydraulic motor. The square plane had a fuselage length of 58 feet, 1 inch and a wingspan of 67 feet, 6 inches.

According to historical records, the four-engine V / STOL transport was somewhat ahead of its time and never reached its full potential.

Cathy Hansen and Jesse Jacobs. (Courtesy photo)

The XC-142 Tilt-Wing V / STOL program has its roots in the recommendations of a government advisory group in 1959. The group recommended that a full-size aircraft be necessary, with specific requirements for the Navy and the Army. Beyond the obvious military applications of such a system, there were also many who believed that the aircraft could also have considerable civilian applications. (Bell Aircraft is now producing a civilian version of the V-22 tilt rotor.)

The first XC-142 was deployed in early 1964 with its first conventional flight in September 1964, its first hover three months later, and its first transition two months later. The Air Force has extensively tested the capabilities of the XC-142 with cargo, cargo and parachute flights, as well as desert, mountain, rescue and transport operations.

The program called for the construction of five prototypes, but cross-shaft issues, along with a few operator errors, resulted in a number of hard landings causing damage to the entire fleet. The only remaining XC-142 (# 2) is currently on display at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

It also performed a wide variety of tests on B-17, B-26, B-29, B-47, B-50, B-52 and B-57 aircraft, including a six-engine XB-52, which had four J-57 inboards and two J-75 afterburner engines.

Jacobs was awarded the Legion of Merit for meritorious service as director and test pilot on the C-5A test force. It was at the time one of the largest aircraft in the world. During his 46 years in the aerospace industry, Jacobs has logged more than 10,600 flight hours in more than 100 types, models and series of aircraft. He flew 28 combat missions over Germany aboard B-17s during World War II. He added 121 combat missions in F-80s in Korea. He was a test pilot for over 19 years at Edwards, Wright Patterson and Holloman Air Force bases.

There is a historical marker commemorating Jesse’s 46 years in aerospace in Lancaster, California on the Aerospace Walk of Honor, located at the corner of Lancaster Boulevard and the Sierra Highway.

We miss you, Jesse, and we will always remember your quick smile, your wonderful stories, your great accomplishments and your contributions to the aerospace community.


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