Jack Ridley was born in Garvin, Oklahoma, on 16 June 1915. In school he shoed an aptitude for mathematics and an interest in the way that machines worked. Following high school, he entered the ROTC. program at the University of Oklahoma where he received his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering in 1939. In July of 1941 Ridely received a commission in the US Army field artillery, but soon transferred to the Army Air Forces. Ridley earned his pilot wings in May 1942 at the Flying Training School at Kelly Army Air Base, Texas.
As a badly needed engineering-trained pilots Ridley was ordered to the Consolidated Vultee plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to conduct acceptance tests of four-engine B-24 Liberator bombers. Soon thereafter, he was made engineering liaison officer for the B-24, B-32, and B-36 programs.
In 1944 Ridley was sent to the Army Air Forces School of Engineering at Wright Field, then to the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, California. He received his Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from CalTech in July 1945. He then returned to Wright Field, assigned to the Air Materiel Commandís Flight Test Division. He was trained as a test pilot, graduating with Class 46A of the Air Materiel Command Flight Performance School in the spring of 1946.
In the spring of 1947, Col Albert Boyd, Chief of the Flight Test Division, had to select pilots for the X-1 supersonic rocketplane. From 125 candidates, he selected Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover as the primary and backup pilots, and Ridley as project engineer.
Ridleyís task was to analyse all of the technical data that was generated during the X-1ís flights as it explored the supersonic flight regime. It was Ridley who suggested the use of the X-1ís entire horizontal stabiliser for pitch control at transonic speeds, where tests showed the aircraft lost all elevator effectiveness.
Ridley left the X-1 project in May 1948, and went TDY to the Boeing plant in Washington on the XB-47 program. In 1949 he was permanently assigned to Muroc (Edwards) Air Force Base, to work on the new generation of jet aircraft: the delta-winged XF-92A, the F-84F, the B-52, and the X-1 through X-5 experimental aircraft. He rose from project engineer, to Chief of the Test Engineering Branch, then Chief, Flight Test Engineering Laboratory. His responsibilities grew to include the research and engineering phases of all of the experimental flight test programs assigned to Edwards. Under his leadership the basic flight test techniques still used today were developed, data acquisition methods were standardised, and a centralised Data Processing System was established.
Dr. Theodore Von Karman, Chairman of the NATO Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development (AGARD), selected Ridley to represent the United States on its Flight Test Techniques Panel. Ridley was promoted to full colonel in 1956 and became a member of the US Military Assistance Advisory Group. He was killed when the C-47 cargo aircraft he was aboard crashed into a mountainside north-west of Tokyo, Japan on 12 March 1957.
AF flight 40. Familiarization flight. Mach 1.23 at 10675 m. Small engine fire due to loose igniter.
AF flight 44. Accelerated stall check at transonic speeds. Mach 1.1 at 12200 m.
AF flight 57. Buffeting, wing and tail loads.
AF flight 58. Buffeting, wing and tail loads.
AF flight 1. Glide flight, because of turbopump over-speeding.
AF flight 2. Glide flight, aborted power flight because of evidence of high lox-tank pressure.