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Oral history interview with Robert Gilliland
Janssen, Volker, interviewer
Gilliland, Robert, interviewee
Date Created and/or Issued
Contributing Institution
Huntington Library
Rights Information
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Robert Gilliland was a test pilot for the Lockheed Skunk Works from 1962 to 1975.
This an edited transcript of an oral history interview of Robert Gilliland conducted by Volker Janssen.
Robert Gilliland was born on May 1, 1926, in Memphis, Tennessee.  He graduated from the Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee in 1944 and joined the Navy, and then was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated in 1949 with a degree in engineering and joined the Air Force as a pilot. After earning his wings in 1950 he was assigned to the 86th Fighter Wing at Neubiberg Air Base, West Germany, flying the F-84. He was then stationed with the 69th Fighter Squadron in Taegu, Korea, where he flew 20 combat missions in the F-84. After Korea he was a test pilot with the Air Force Research and Development Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He left active duty in 1954 and helped manage his father’s commercial property in Memphis while also flying the F-104 in the Tennessee National Guard. In 1959 he joined Lockheed in Burbank as a test pilot and instructor for the F-104. In 1962 he joined Lockheed’s Advanced Development Program, also known as the Skunk Works, and became its chief test pilot. He was the first pilot to fly the SR-71 Blackbird and he test flew every SR-71 that came off the production line, in the process accumulating more supersonic flight test time above Mach 2 and Mach 3 than any other pilot.  Gilliland retired from Lockheed in 1975.
[Object file name], Aerospace Oral History Project, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
1 transcript
mssHM 80611 (67)
Aerospace engineering – California, Southern – History
Aerospace engineers – California, Southern--History
Aerospace industries--California, Southern--History--20th century
Lockheed aircraft
SR-71 Blackbird (Jet reconnaissance plane)
Starfighter (Fighter plane)
Test pilots – United States – Biography
Oral histories. (aat)
Aerospace Oral History Project
Manuscripts, Huntington Digital Library

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