In Memoriam

Mr. Johnny Armstrong

2005 SFTE “Kelly” Johnson Award Winner

Mr. Armstrong tested crucial hypersonic and space vehicles throughout his 48-year career. A gifted flight test engineer, he planned and executed critical missions for the X-15 and several lifting body programs including the X-24A/B, M2-F3 and HL-10. The results from these efforts fed directly into the Space Shuttle’s design and concept of operations. He was handpicked by the AFFTC Commander as the Air Force lead for the Space Shuttle’s re-entry landing test program as well as the National Aerospace Plane program verifying crucial vehicle performance parameters. Recognized as having a strong foundation and leadership that contributed greatly to probability of success of experimental programs, Mr. Armstrong became a key player in numerous advanced technology demonstration efforts that included the X-33, X-34, X-37, X-38, X-40 and X-43 projects. 


Dr. Panagiotis Kefalas


SFTE Member and 2000 Empire TPS FTE graduate Dr. Panagiotis Kefalas was retrieved from the Gulf of Patras, Greece, on 19 January after ditching his airplane. The recently-retired Colonel from the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) and only one of two TPS FTE graduates from the HAF, was a Research Associate at the University of Patras, while the Sonerai airplane he was flying was also used as a test bed for various small research projects. In the photo below he is wearing his SFTE patch on his right arm. He was 47 years old and is survived by his wife and two children. Provided by Dr. Panos Vitsas



Wen Painter SM

Weneth “Wen” Dwane Painter passed away in Pleasanton, Calif., April 21, 2020, at the age of 84. Wen earned his private pilot’s license when he was 17 and shortly thereafter, in June 1953, he joined the U.S. Air Force just as the Korean War was drawing to a close. Painter served four years, and then attended Wichita State University, Kansas, receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. During his final year of studies, Painter met Dr. Don Kordes, who was recruiting engineers for the NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. He joined the center’s engineering staff in 1963. At NASA, he worked on the M2-F2, HL-10 and X-24A research vehicles, known as lifting bodies. His engineering focus was on the flight control systems in the lifting bodies. While at NASA, Painter worked on the F-100 Variable Stability Airplane, Lifting Bodies HL-10, X-24A, M2-F2, M2-F3, and STOL Airplanes. The F-8 Supercritical Wing Research Airplane, F-111 TACT (Transonic Aircraft Technology) Airplane, F-111 IPCS (Integrated Propulsion Control System) Airplane, B-57B Atmospheric Research Airplane, AD-1 Oblique Wing Research Aircraft, and the F-15 10-Degree Rotating Cone Experiment. He retired from NASA in 1986 after 23 years of service. Over the years, Wen was licensed in multiple fixed wing aircraft. Wen was also as licensed a Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor in gliders and single engine powered aircraft. He also obtained two Master’s Degrees, from the University of Southern California, as well as from Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo. He also taught Aeronautical Engineering at Cal-Poly. He trained well over a 100 students in both engine and glider certifications. After retirement from NASA, Painter was an Academic Instructor, Fixed Wing, at the National Test Pilot School at Mojave Airport.