Annual Reunion of the National WWII Glider Pilots Association - Click here for information

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        Few realize that the United States has continued its glider program in a way no one could have envisioned during WWII.  The glider the United States now uses is the most technologically advanced aircraft ever built - the Space Shuttle.  After the Shuttle leaves orbit, it flies without power - it is a glider.  Much like the combat gliders of WWII, the Space Shuttle can gain little, if any, altitude as it flies from space to its landings.  The National WWII Glider Pilots Association has had the honor to induct as honorary members the pilots of the Space Shuttle missions in recognition of their continuing a proud tradition.

Link to NASA Homepage



Space Shuttle COLUMBIA (February 1, 2003), a proud working glider and the first shuttle in America's space fleet.  She and her crew met their ends serving America and working for the benefit of mankind.



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Crew from left:  David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, Ilan Ramon (Photo courtesy of NASA).


Link to NASA web page news release on COLUMBIA'S last mission - STS 107




Background Information on the COLUMBIA Space Shuttle Mission STS-107 (Copied from NASA website.  Full page may be accessed by clicking this link).

STS-107 Mission Summary
STS-107 Flight: January 16-February 1, 2003

Commander Rick D. Husband (second flight),
Pilot William C. McCool (first flight),
Payload Specialist Michael P. Anderson (second flight),
Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla (second flight),
Mission Specialist David M. Brown (first flight),
Mission Specialist Laurel B. Clark (first flight),
Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, Israel (first flight)

First flight of SPACEHAB Research Double Module; Fast Reaction Experiments Enabling Science, Technology, Applications and Research (FREESTAR); first Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) mission since STS-90. This 16-day mission was dedicated to research in physical, life, and space sciences, conducted in approximately 80 separate experiments, comprised of hundreds of samples and test points. The seven astronauts worked 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts.

First flight:
April 12-14, 1981 (Crew John W. Young and Robert Crippen)
28 flights 1981-2003.

Most recent flight:
STS-109, March 1-12, 2002 Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

Other notable missions:
STS 1 through 5, 1981-1982 first flight of European Space Agency built Spacelab. STS-50, June 25-July 9, 1992, first extended-duration Space Shuttle mission. STS-93, July 1999 placement in orbit of Chandra X-Ray Observatory




Space Shuttle CHALLENGER (January 28, 1986)


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Francis R. Scobee, Commander, Michael J. Smith, Pilot, Judith A. Resnik, Mission Specialist, Ellison S. Onizuka, Mission Specialist, Ronald E. McNair, Mission Specialist, Gregory B. Jarvis, Payload Specialist, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist (Photo Courtesy of NASA).


Space Shuttle COLUMBIA - STS-1 - Touching down at Edwards AFB after its first flight.  

A nostalgic and proud moment for WWII Glider Pilots as they watched Space Shuttle COLUMBIA, the latest United States working glider, conclude a successful flight carrying on a tradition they began in the difficult days of WWII.

(Photo Courtesy of NASA)





Robert L. Crippen and John W. Young

The first aircrew of the Space Shuttle Program.  They piloted Space Shuttle COLUMBIA on Mission STS-1 successfully to a perfect glider landing.  Both were inducted as honorary members of the National WWII Combat Glider Pilots Association.

(Photo courtesy of NASA)





        NASA, knowing that flying and landing this high-tech glider is difficult, even under the most ideal conditions, constructed a flight simulator at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  Shuttle pilots train extensively to land the unpowered shuttle using the same techniques as the American Combat Glider Pilots of WWII.  Veteran WWII Glider Pilots allowed to fly the Shuttle simulator drew praise from Shuttle pilots as they brought the massive "glider" to a safe landing within feet of the designated touchdown mark.



GPsShuttlePilots.jpg (36776 bytes)National World War II Glider Pilots Association inducts first Shuttle crews as honorary members.






Click on thumbnail for a 

larger photo.


News Release Describing the Induction Ceremony


"News Release                                                                                (For immediate release)

From:  The National World War II Glider Pilots Association - Dallas, Texas.

Houston, Tex. (Sp1) - Astronaut Donald "Deke" Slayton, an honorary member of the National World War II Glider Pilots Association, now has four other astronauts in the group to keep him company.  This came about in an event date-lined November 17, 1977 at the L.B. Johnson Space Center of NASA in Houston, Texas when the two two-men crews of the Shuttle Orbiter 101 ENTERPRISE were made honorary members of the WWII glider group.  These crews are the only two that are handling the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests (ALT).

        Astronauts C. Gordon Fullerton, pilot of the first crew; Fred W. Haise, Jr., commander of the first crew; Joe H. Engle, commander of the second crew; and, Richard H. Truly, pilot of the second crew were presented honorary membership plaques containing the official seal of the Glider Pilot Association and the wartime official glider pilot wings of the USAAF.  Presenting the plaques, suitably engraved, in the brief ceremony on behalf of the WWII Glider Pilots were George Brennan, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Glider Pilots National Representative, and Joe Cannella, of Dallas, Texas, past National Wing Commander of the Glider Pilot Association.  In addition to the membership plaques, the astronauts were presented individual official glider pilot wings.  These wings were pinned on Lt. Col. (USAF) Engle by William K. Horn, of Dallas, Texas, the National Treasurer; on NASA pilot Haise by Frank L. Kehr, also of Dallas, past National Commander; and on Commander (USN) Truly by Jack Riddle of Albuquerque, New Mexico who is the State Commander for the New Mexico area.

        The astronauts in turn presented to the Glider Pilot Association a large color picture of the ENTERPRISE in free flight, autographed by each one, and carrying the inscription "...At least where we landed, the natives were friendly!"  This photograph will be permanently displayed in the Glider Pilot Association's War Room museum along with photographs of each of the astronauts.

        The brief ceremony, held in the astronaut library at the Space Center, was concluded with the showing of a special film depicting some of the free flight landings made by the DC-9 size airplane-like Orbiter 101.  The glider pilot group was then given a back stage look and inspection tour of the life-sized simulator of the ENTERPRISE which was used by the astronauts to prepare for their free flight missions after disconnect from the Boeing 747 which carried the Orbiter aloft.

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