Born in Washington Pennsylvania; married, four children. Received BA degree in physics in 1942 from Washington and Jefferson College. Joined Army Air Force and flew P-38's in World War II. Joined NACA in March 1945 and served as project pilot on D-558, X-1, X-3, X-4, and X-5 before being assigned chief X-15 pilot for NASA. Obtained both USAF and FAI astronaut wings on record 108 km flight. After X-15 tested LLRV lunar module trainer. Killed when F-104 he was flying in formation with XB-70 number 2 became caught in a vortex, went out of control, colliding with the XB-70 and resulting in the destruction of both aircraft.
Joseph A. Walker was a Chief Research Pilot at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center during the mid-1960s. He joined the NACA in March 1945, and served as project pilot at the Edwards flight research facility on such pioneering research projects as the D-558-1, D-558-2, X-1, X-3, X-4, X-5, and the X-15. He also flew programs involving the F-100, F-101, F-102, F-104, and the B-47.
Walker made the first NASA X-15 flight on March 25, 1960. He flew the research aircraft 24 times and achieved its fastest speed and highest altitude. He attained a speed of 4,104 mph (Mach 5.92) during a flight on June 27, 1962, and reached an altitude of 354,300 feet on August 22, 1963 (his last X-15 flight).
He was the first man to pilot the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) that was used to develop piloting and operational techniques for lunar landings.
Walker was born February 20, 1921, in Washington, Pa. He lived there until graduating from Washington and Jefferson College in 1942, with a B.A. degree in Physics. During World War II he flew P-38 fighters for the Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Seven Oak Clusters.
Walker was the recipient of many awards during his 21 years as a research pilot. These include the 1961 Robert J. Collier Trophy, 1961 Harmon International Trophy for Aviators, the 1961 Kincheloe Award and 1961 Octave Chanute Award. He received an honorary Doctor of Aeronautical Sciences degree from his alma mater in June of 1962. Walker was named Pilot of the Year in 1963 by the National Pilots Association.
He was a charter member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and one of the first to be designated a Fellow. He was fatally injured on June 8, 1966, in a mid-air collision between an F-104 he was piloting and the XB-70.
NACA flight 52. Pilot familiarization. Reached mach 1.16 at 13420 m during four-cylinder run.
NACA flight 54. Engine cut out after two ignition attempts; propellants jettisoned and flight completed as glide flight. Plane subsequently grounded because of possibility of fatigue failure of nitrogen spheres.
NACA flight 1. Familiarization. Walker attained mach 1.45 at 13725 m. Noted severe aileron buzz at mach 0.90 to 0.92.
Planned at NACA flight 2. Shortly before launch from B-29, X-1A suffered low-order explosion, later traced to detonation of Ulmer leather gaskets. Walker exited into B-29 bomb bay.
NACA flight 1. Glide flight for pilot check-out and low speed evaluation.
NACA flight 2. First powered flight. Engine ran at excessive pressure, 4 overspeeds of turbopump and 2 automatic shutdowns. Power terminated by pilot.
NACA flight 3. Mach 0.85 at 9150 m. Damping characteristics good; number 1 cylinder failed to fire.
NACA flight 4. Turbopump did not start; no engine operation.
NACA flight 5. Wind-up turns to Clmas from mach 0.69 to 0.84; also control pulses.
NACA flight 6. Mach 1.55 at 13725 m. Longitudinal and lateral trim changes in transonic region found annoying to pilot.
NACA flight 7. Mach 1.74 at 18300 m. Damaged on landing.
NACA flight 8. Subsonic because cylinders 3 and 4 world not fire.
NACA flight 9. Mach 2.0 at 18300 m. Sideslips, pulses, rolls.
NACA flight 10. Mach 2.1 at 18910 m. Stabilizer, rudder, and aileron pulses.
NACA flight 11. Brief engine power only; flight aborted, unspecified engine malfunction.
NACA flight 12. Only 60-sec rocket operation; intermittent pump operation. Flight aborted, turbopump and engine replaced.
NACA flight 13. No engine operation, ignition failure due to lack of manifold pressure.
NACA flight 14. Mach 1.71 at 20435 m. Aileron and rudder pulses.
NACA flight 15. Mach 2.0 at 22,265 m. Aileron pulses and rolls, sideslips, and wind-up turns. Plane severely damaged upon landing.
NACA flight 16. Planned mach number not attained, loss of power during pushover from climb.
NACA flight 17. Mach 2.24.
NACA flight 18. First flight with ventral fins; longitudinal and lateral stability and control maneuvers. Engine airstart made at 21,350 m.
NACA flight 19. Flight aborted after only 1 cylinder of engine fired. Plane damaged on landing.
NACA flight 20. Stability and control investigation with ventral fins.
NACA flight 21. Stability and control with ventral fins and a new stabilizer bell crank permitting greater stabilizer travel.
Maximum Speed - 2124 kph. Maximum Altitude - 14822 m. Roll damper malfunctioned.
Maximum Speed - 2718 kph. Maximum Altitude - 18134 m.
Maximum Speed - 3397 kph. Maximum Altitude - 23738 m.
Maximum Speed - 3533 kph. Maximum Altitude - 23809 m. Unofficial world speed record. This topped Captain Apt's speed of 2,094 mph attained in the X-2 on September 27, 1956.
Maximum Speed - 3195 kph. Maximum Altitude - 23159 m.
Maximum Speed - 4441 kph. Maximum Altitude - 51700 m.
Maximum Speed - 5321 kph. Maximum Altitude - 32850 m.
Maximum Speed - 5821 kph. Maximum Altitude - 34840 m. Smoke in cockpit due to scorching paint.
Maximum Speed - 6275 kph. Maximum Altitude - 33100 m.
Maximum Speed - 6220 kph. Maximum Altitude - 46940 m.
Design altitude flight. Maximum Speed - 5614 kph. Maximum Altitude - 75190 m.
Maximum Speed - 5908 kph. Maximum Altitude - 31580 m.
Unofficial world speed record. Maximum Speed - 6603 kph. Maximum Altitude - 37700 m.
Maximum Speed - 5911 kph. Maximum Altitude - 32670 m.
Maximum Speed - 5532 kph. Maximum Altitude - 44040 m.
Maximum Speed - 6029 kph. Maximum Altitude - 59010 m. New reentry technique using pitch angle instrument instead of AOA.
Maximum Speed - 6103 kph. Maximum Altitude - 48900 m.
First civilian flight above 80 km. Maximum Speed - 5917 kph. Maximum Altitude - 82810 m. Second astronaut wings flight (USAF definition).
Nose landing gear failed. Maximum Speed - 6066 kph. Maximum Altitude - 28190 m.
Maximum Speed - 5612 kph. Maximum Altitude - 63820 m. Carried earth background radiation instrument in support of Midas reconnsat development.
Inner panel of left windshield cracked. Maximum Speed - 6208 kph. Maximum Altitude - 28040 m.
Maximum Speed - 6293 kph. Maximum Altitude - 34080 m.
Maximum Speed - 5842 kph. Maximum Altitude - 69010 m.
Maximum Speed - 5969 kph. Maximum Altitude - 106010 m. Astronaut wings flight. 80 cm diameter balloon dragged on 30 m line to measure air density. First X-15 astronaut flight (FAI definition); fourth astronaut wings flight (USAF definition).
Unofficial world altitude record. Maximum Speed - 6105 kph. Maximum Altitude - 107960 m. Second X-15 astronaut flight (FAI definition); fifth astronaut wings flight (USAF definition).