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Louis Schalk Jr., 76; Original Test Pilot for Blackbird Spy Plane

August 21, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Louis Wellington Schalk Jr., 76, original chief test pilot for the A-12 Blackbird spy plane built by Lockheed's storied "Skunk Works" in 1962, died Friday in a hospice in Arlington, Va. The cause of death was complications of leukemia.

A native of Alden, Iowa, Schalk graduated from West Point and served with the 86th Fighter Bomber Wing in Germany. He later completed flight instructors school and taught at Laredo Air Force Base in Texas.

After graduating first in his class at the Air Force Experimental Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 1954, Schalk became an Air Force test pilot under Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, flying such aircraft as the F-104 Starfighter.

Schalk joined Lockheed in 1957 and two years later was chosen as Kelly Johnson's chief test pilot for the secretive "Skunk Works."

Schalk personally helped design the cockpit of the Blackbird and then on April 26, 1962, took the plane on its first test flight out of Area 51 at Groom Lake, Nev. After four more days of working out problems, Schalk took the Blackbird aloft again on April 30 for its first official flight. For many years, the Blackbird reigned as the fastest plane in the skies.

In 1999, Schalk's name was added to the Aerospace Walk of Honor in Lancaster.

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