Maj. Gen. Harold Collins
Born: Nov. 10, 1924 Died: Nov. 24, 2018
Major General Harold E. Collins began his flight career in the European Theater of Operations in World War II. In early 1950 he flew the first "Sonic Boom" demonstration for the world media. In 1951, during the Korean War, he headed an urgent secret project to extend the range of U.S. fighters, fighter-bombers, and reconnaissance aircraft. His work led to the successful development of inflight refueling under combat conditions.
Captain Collins also set a world speed record (707.889 mph), piloting a North American F-86-D Sabre Jet, and became the first American to fly a Russian-built MiG-15. In extremely adverse weather, with Russian-language cockpit labels, Captain Collins successfully tested the aircraft at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
He was also the first Air Force Pilot to fly in a Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" Mach 2 known as the "Missile with a man on it" (1954). Utilizing his engineering degree from Lamar Institute of Technology, he served as Chief of Fighter Test Division Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where he participated in the development of the F-101, F-102, F-104, F-105, and F-106. He also supervised the test operation for the rocket-powered X-15 and served as Chief of the Aeronautical Systems Division and Inspector General for the Air Force Systems Command at Andrews Air Force Base from 1970 – 1972. By the time he retired from active duty in September 1975, Major General Collins had logged more than 6,000 flying hours in over 140 different aircraft.
Among his many honors, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots awarded him the grade of "fellow," the highest reserved for test pilots. Other decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster. Major Harold Collins is enshrined in the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Notable People Hall of Fame.