Legendary "Maestro" Flew Northrop Wing, P-61
John W. Myers, businessman and renowned World War II test pilot
of extraordinary skill, has died. He was 96. Myers passed away in
his sleep Thursday at his home in Beverly Hills, reports the Los
"For us, he was a legend of legends," said hotel magnate and
pilot Baron Hilton. "He was truly a pioneer and inspired many test
pilots, who looked up to him as their idol."
General Chuck Yeager, Bell X-1 test pilot who met Myers in 1945,
agreed. "He was about ten years older and a role model for all of
us pilots," Yeager said. "We always looked up to him."
John Westcott Myers was born June 13, 1911. His father, Louis W.
Myers, became Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court and
partner in the law firm O'Melveny & Myers.
His passion for airplanes began in 1930 while still an
undergraduate at Stanford University. He was a quick study. After a
ground school course, he taught himself to fly, making both his
first flight and first solo flight in one hop.
Myers graduated from Stanford with a political science major in
1933 and from Harvard Law in 1936. He entered his father's law
practice, but was drawn away to become assistant general counsel at
Lockheed. He occasionally ferried airplanes to New Orleans and New
York for overseas delivery.
In 1941, he became chief engineering test pilot at Northrop,
testing the first flying wing prototypes. While testing the XP-56
(above) in September 1943, the airplane displayed reasonable
handling characteristics, but when a tire blew, it did backflips 75
feet in the air and crashed. Myers, in a polo helmet, was thrown
clear and only suffered minor injuries.
In 1944, Myers traveled to the South Pacific to demonstrate the
new P-61 "Black Widow" night fighter (below) for US Army Air Corps
pilots, who were apprehensive about flying a fighter the size of a
It was during that time that Myers' extraordinary skill as a
pilot earned him the nickname "Maestro." Charles Lindbergh flew
with Myers in the P-61, and later praised his quick actions in
saving them from a landing collision.
After the war, Myers was senior vice president and director for
In 1954, he became chairman and principal stockholder of Pacific
Airmotive Corporation, and in 1970, formed Airlite, an FBO at Long
Beach Airport which he later sold to Toyota.
In the course of his career, Myers flew an incredible number of
aircraft, and later purchased his own surplus P-61.
"He was such a gifted pilot, and would rather fly than anything
else," said his friend Bill Tilley. At 89, Myers took Tilley flying
in his Citation jet... and treated him to a barrel roll.
He flew the jet until he was 90, and his jet helicopter until he
Maestro Myers, we salute you.