Test pilot Frank "Bud" Kelley, one of the first Americans to fly a jet plane, has died. He was 74.
Kelley, who suffered a stroke last week, died Wednesday, his family said.As a test pilot for Bell Aircraft Corp., Kelley flew an early jet, the XP-59, on Nov. 16, 1942, over Muroc Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert, according to Donald S. Lopez, deputy director of the National Air and Space Museum.
Kelley served in the Navy from 1935 to 1940. He took part in the search for missing aviator Amelia Earhart in the Pacific while he was a pilot flying from the aircraft carrier Lexington in 1937. Earhart and her plane were never found.
Kelley's son, Pete, recalled that his father once crash-landed in a Bell plane, electing not to bail out because he had ejected on an earlier flight of the same plane.
"He would have rather died than bail out a second time," Pete Kelley said.
Kelley also worked for Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft and Hughes Aircraft Co. He joined the Federal Aviation Administration in 1962 and worked in flight standards until his retirement in 1979.
He is survived by his wife of 30 years, June, four children and six grandchildren.