Joe Engle has logged over 14,000 hours in 180 different types of aircraft and aerospace vehicles! Engle was born in 1932 and grew up and went to school in Kansas. He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Kansas and received a commission through Air Force Reserve Officer Training. After pilot training he was sent to George AFB, California, where he was first assigned to fly the North American F-100 Super Sabre in the 474th Fighter Day Squadron and later in the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In 1960, Engle moved over to Edwards AFB and attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California.
He served as a fighter test pilot after graduation until his assignment to the North American X-15 program. Engle became the eighth pilot to fly the rocket plane, logging 16 fights from October 1963 to October 1965. He reached a maximum speed of Mach 5.7, and climbed to an altitude of over 50 miles. When he earned the rating of Air Force astronaut at age 32, he became the youngest pilot with these rare wings. In 1966, Engle was selected to join the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) in the fifth group of astronauts. He served on the Apollo 10 support crew and was backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 14. Engle then advanced to the space shuttle program in the 1970s.
He flew the Enterprise free-flight tests, and approach and landing tests in 1977. Engle commanded Columbia on STS-2, the second flight of an orbiter, in 1981. The mission was shortened from 5 to 2 days due to a failed fuel cell, but the crew met more than 90% of test objectives. They operated the 50-foot remote manipulator arm and conducted 29 flight maneuvers during the reentry profile. During much of 1982, Engle was Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight at NASA Headquarters, but in January 1983 returned to Houston to train again.
In August 1985, he commanded Discovery on STS-51I, the twentieth flight of the orbiters and the most successful shuttle mission to date. His crew deployed three communication satellites and after a spectacular rendezvous with an inoperative satellite, brought it onboard, repaired it, and then placed it back into orbit. After retiring from the Air Force, he joined the Kansas Air National Guard (ANG) and as a major general served as ANG assistant to commanders at US Space Command in Colorado. Now retired from the USAF and ANG, Engle works as an engineering consultant and technical advisor on space vehicle and space station projects. He serves as NASAs Deputy for Independent Review of Operations for joint programs involving Russia's Mir and for the international space station program.
In 1959, Lieutenant Joe Engle went from flight school to flying the Air Forces first fighter capable of sustained supersonic speed in level flight, the North American F-100 Super Sabre. The Hun was a hot jet and at George AFB, California, he quickly mastered it and honed his skills. When Engle was selected to attend USAF Test Pilot School, he was on his way to flying machines that would carry him into space and to speeds up to Mach 25. The Super Sabre was a first step for Engle and many pilots who advanced aerospace power well into the 1990s!