Johnny Armstrong began his engineering career in 1953 while in between semisters at the University of Alabama.  He was selected to be a student aide at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville Alabama where Werner Von Brauns team of Germans that developed the WWII V-2 rockets were developing the USA Redstone Rocket.  He plotted telemetry data from the first flight of the Redstone Rocket.


Johnny retired after 55 1/2 years of government service with over 54 years at the Air Force Flight Test Center. He was with the AFFTC for 4 years as an Air Force officer/flight test engineer beginning in 1956 during which time he flew in 27 different aircraft to include: F-94C, F-104B, B-36, B-47, B-57, and the YB-58. Flying in the YB-58 he became the first non-rated USAF officer to fly to Mach 2.

In Dec 1959, he was the flight test engineer on the successful flight test to set a new altitude record with pilot Capt Joe Jordan to 103,395 feet.

Following his military service he was with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center as part of the Flight Evaluation team for the first launch of the Saturn vehicle.


He returned to Edwards as a civil servant in 1962 and was the Air Force flight planner on the X-15 program for 7 years and planned Pete Knight’s flight that set the maximum Mach number of 6.7.

X-15A-2 Launch

He was also the flight planner for the X-24A and X-24B lifting bodies. He served as AFFTC project manager for the X-24B, the DoD evaluation of the Space Shuttle, National Aerospace Plane X-30, X-33, and others.

Mr. Armstrong retired as the Chief Engineer of the AFFTC 412 Test Wing Hypersonic Combined Test Force on 2 Feb 2012. Recent projects included the X-37A and X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and the X-51A Scramjet demonstrator. He is credited for maintaining a capability at AFFTC for over 20 years to be leaders in flight test of hypersonic and access to space vehicles.

Author of over 20 technical reports and papers. Contributing editor of “Flight Testing at Edwards” book published by the Flight Test Historical Foundation.. He was the organizer of the Aerospace Vehicle Test Course taught for several years at the Test Pilot School.

Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Ca Civil Service
2004 – 2012 Chief Engineer, Hypersonic Flight Test Team X-37A, X-37B OTV, X-51A
2001- 2004 Chief Engineer, Access to Space Office X-38, X-40, X-37, X-43
1996- 2001 – Deputy Director, Access to Space Office X-33, X-38, X-40, X-37, X-43
1994-1996 – Chief, Fighter and Advanced Projects Performance Flight X-33, F-22, F-16, F-15
1986-1994 Project Manager for Hypersonic Projects (NASP/X-30) Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV)
1962-1986 X-15 Flight Planner X-24A Flight Planner X-24B Flight Planner/Project Manager
- X-24C Advocacy Committee- Space Shuttle Reentry Evaluation Project Manager

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; Huntsville, Al
1961-1962 – Saturn Flight Evaluation Committee Exec. Sec. – First Saturn Launch

Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Ca (USAF active duty, 1st Lt.)
1965 – 1960 Flight Test Engineer – F11F-1F, SA-16B, YB-58A, JF-104C F-104 World’s Altitude Record

1956 Convair; Fort Worth, Tx – Aerodynamics Engineer- Performance Predictions; B-36, B-58
1956 University of Alabama; B.S. Aeronautical Engineering Lab (wind tunnel and titanium fatigue tests)
1954 Convair; Fort Worth, Tx – Technical Analysis B-36
1953 Redstone Arsenal; Huntsville, Al- Summer Aide; First Redstone Launch

AFMC Nominee for the Smithsonian Award (2006)
Society of Flight Test Engineers Kelly Johnson Award (2005)
Rotary National Award for Space Accomplishments (2005)
USAF Meritorious Civilian Service Medal – 2003
Distinguished Engineering Fellow” University of Alabama – 1990
Outstanding Fellow” University of Alabama Engineering – 1988
Nominated for: University of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame – 1988
Air Force Flight Test Center Civilian of the Year – 1988
Air Force Flight Test Center General Manager of the Year – 1988
Sustained Superior Performance Awards: 1983 and 1982
Letter of Commendation from Maj Gen Tom Stafford: 1976

CLEARANCE - Top Secret, Special Access 2010

EDUCATION:- B.S Aeronautical Engineering, University of Alabama 1956

Air Force Association , Society of Flight Test Engineers,


SFTE Kelly Johnson Award in the Smithsonian Museum in DC


Kelly Johnson Award

The Society periodically presents awards for recognition of excellence in flight test engineering and significant contributions to the Society. The award for excellence in flight test engineering is a single annual award known as the Kelly Johnson Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Flight Test Engineering, with the initial award having been presented to Clarence J. “Kelly” Johnson at the 1973

Year Recipient Corporate Affiliation
1973 Clarence L. ‘Kelly’ Johnson Lockheed Skunk Works
1974 Ronald A. Magnuson Bell Helicopter
1975 Jack Strier US Air Force (Deceased)
1976 Harold Cheney McDonnell Douglas
1977 Richard Abrams Rockwell (Deceased)
1978 Robert D. Samuelson McDonnell Douglas
1979 Spirit ‘TM’ Flight Test Team Sikorsky
1980 Donald D. Archer Boeing
1981 XV-15 Flight Test Team Bell Helicopter
1982 Frederick W. Schaefer Grumman
1983 Frederick N. Stoliker US Air Force Flight Test Center
1984 James H. Lincoln Boeing
1985 Chester B. Payne Lockheed
1986 Charles E. ‘Pete’ Adolph US Air Force Flight Test Center
1987 William E. Jennings Bell Helicopter
1988 Eugene J. Zehr McDonnell Douglas (Deceased)
1989 Kenneth W. Iliff NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
1990 Roger C. Crane US Air Force Flight Test Center
1991 Joint STARS Test Team Grumman Melbourne Systems, USAF, US Army
1992 Donald R. ‘Sam’ Wyrick (Posthumously) Lockheed
1993 David E. Gibbings Westland Helicopters
1994 F-16 Multi-Axis Thrust Vectoring Test Team General Electric, Lockheed, US Air Force
1995 Joseph L. Dunn Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division
1996 Charles V. Van Norman US Air Force Flight Test Center
1997 Richard R. Hildebrand US Air Force Flight Test Center
1998 Anatoly G. Kruglov Aviation Register, Russia
1999 R. Dale Reed NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
2000 Frank W. Burcham NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
2001 Col. George Ka’iliwai III USAF Test Pilot School
2002 Charles E. ‘Chuck’ Webb Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division
2003 X-31 Vector Flight Test Team US Navy, Boeing, EADS, DLR, BWB, RJK Tech.
2004 Burt Rutan Scaled Composites
2005 Johnny Armstrong US Air Force Flight Test Center
2006 Gary L. Aldrich USAF Test Pilot School
2007 Robert G. “”Bob” Hoey US Air Force Flight Test Center
2008 Robert N. Burton BAE Systems @ LMA Ft Worth
2009 Prof. Ken Edwards QinetiQ
2010 John Minor Hill Air Force Base
2011 LtCol Timothy R. Jorris, Phd USAF
2012 David L. Vanhoy Edwards AFB, CA