In Memoriam

Mr. Dave Houle


 Mr. Dave Houle passed away June 23, 2020 after a brief illness. Dave served the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE) as President (1990-1992), Vice President (1988-1990), Director (1984-1988), SFTE Fellow (2000) and was the 2001 recipient of the Flight Test Safety Committee Tony Levier Award. Dave was one of the founding members of the Flight Test Safety Committee in 1994. Dave was always a strong proponent for flight test safety, a steady and reassuring mentor to younger flight testers. Dave was SFTE Member Number 444. Dave made numerous contributions to Flight Test Safety, sharing lessons learned around the world and frequently made safety calls that most certainly saved aircraft and crews. Dave’s encouragement (and admonitions) ensured flight test engineers and flight test pilots thoughtfully and thoroughly prepared for flight testing – especially hazardous flight testing. Dave made sure that “close calls” became teachable events and encouraged sharing of lessons learned, lessons reaffirmed. Dave was ever watchful of incidents and accidents, bringing them to the attention of his coworkers as well as the industry at large. Dave earned an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota and upon graduation began working for Boeing in Seattle. In 1970, with the end of the 747 program, Dave moved to McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, California, working in Flight Test there until his “retirement” from the merged Boeing-McDonnel Douglas company. Dave was a long time FAA Designated Engineering Representative (DER) and participated in numerous aircraft certification efforts including DC-9, DC-10, MD-80, MD-90, MD-11, 717 and foreign certification of numerous models. Dave continued providing consultant flight test services around the world until as recently as 2018. This included foreign products such as the Comac ARJ21. Dave was  passionate about aviation and flight test safety – his avocation was his vocation. Dave has passed much of his library to the Flight Test Safety Committee to continue the mission of sharing lessons learned in hopes that improved safety will be the result.


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.