Forty-Year Flying Veteran Counts 50 NASA Astronauts As Former Students
Jerry Gallagher, a longtime flight instructor who has trained many of the U.S. Navy top pilots and even veteran NASA astronauts, has attained one of aviation's most hallowed accomplishments. Gallagher, who trains pilots for Wyle at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent Naval Air Station, flew his 10,000th hour in late June. The milestone, achieved by a select group of pilots, took place during an hour-and-a-half flight in an NU-1B Otter, a single-engine training aircraft.
And much of his time has been in out of control flight, given the nature of his job.
"I've had the privilege to fly 136 different types of aircraft, from bush planes and helicopters to military fighters from all over the world," said Gallagher (pictured). "My logbooks include five swing-wing airplanes, three float planes, a spy plane, three century-series fighters, two MiGs, three Mirages and three Saab fighters. My specialty is out-of-control flight instruction. I've spun 39 different types, from gliders to the F/A-18 Hornet.
"I get to work with some of the brightest, most talented and motivated pilots in the world. In addition to the pick of the U.S. armed forces, I've taught pilots from 15 foreign countries. Test pilot school is the gateway to exciting and rewarding careers in military acquisition, NASA and industry."
Gallagher joined Wyle in 1980 and celebrated his 40th anniversary of flying Navy aircraft in October 2010. His primary job at Wyle has been to make the U.S. Navy's top pilots even better pilots. "Ten thousand flight hours is an extremely tough milestone, especially in the test and evaluation world where a flight is a nominal one and a half hours per hop," said Steve Wright, Wyle's chief pilot. "Very few pilots flying high performance military combat aircraft have ever reached this level. This is a testament to Jerry's dedication and passion for the science of flight, and his extraordinary longevity as an active test pilot."
Gallagher flew the A-7 Corsair II for three years in his early 20's, including 75 combat missions in Vietnam, before coming to the Naval Test Pilot School in 1975. He joined the staff in 1977 and has spent three decades as a contractor flight instructor since 1980, teaching more than 2,000 pilots of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and international forces.
There are 50 NASA astronauts among his students, each a Navy pilot selected for NASA's program, and many of whom flew into space. "Jerry's training made me a better pilot, which made me a better astronaut," said Chris Ferguson, a Navy captain and commander of the STS-135 Space Shuttle mission. "The high-end training from Jerry significantly impacted my career."
Known as the "Spin Doctor" and "Spin Meister," Gallagher is an internationally recognized expert in various flight disciplines including out-of-control flight. One of his standard techniques was to take a student pilot up to 30,000 ft in a two-seat aircraft such as a T-2, put the aircraft into a spin and then turn the controls over to the student with the usual instructions, "Get us out of this."
In 30 years, he hasn't lost a student.
Gallagher has been featured on television, including The Learning Channel. He has performed spin testing in 39 aircraft types and has more than 3,300 hours performing spin training in the T-2C Buckeye. He also trains the trainers, having taught more than 250 flight instructors during his time at the Navy's test pilot school. Today, he mainly flies unpressurized propeller airplanes, primarily the U-1 Otter and the U-6 Beaver.
"On a typical day at the Navy Test Pilot School, I might fly spin tests in a P-51 Mustang and later investigate supersonic dynamics in a T-38" said Gallagher. "The next day I might teach STOL takeoff and landing techniques in a de Havilland Otter and later fly a visiting TAV-8 Harrier. Going to work for me is an adventure. This is my dream job."
Wyle has one of the largest private, non-airline flight crews in the world consisting of more than four dozen pilots and flight crew, along with another 18 Naval flight officers . They fly a wide range of aircraft for Wyle as a contractor to the U.S. Navy, Army and other military branches.