One of aviation’s greatest test pilots, Tony LeVier took his first flying lesson in 1928 at the age of 15 and had his commercial license by 1932. In a flying career that spanned over fifty years he was also a flight instructor, charter pilot, barnstormer, and airline pilot. In 1936, he made the first flight in the Mendenhall Special. In 1938, he flew Flagship, the “world’s smallest racer,” and in 1939, the Schoenfeldt Firecracker, another racer.
LeVier’s association with Lockheed Aircraft began in 1941. He conducted extensive developmental test flights on the P-38. He made the first flights on most of the aircraft produced by the “Skunk Works” between 1944 and 1955, including the XP-80A, T-33, XF-90, F-94, XF-104 and the U-2. Other Lockheed products, for which he flew first flights included the Saturn, a light transport and the Constitution, the world’s largest transport at the time. Altogether he flew 24,000 flights in 240 aircraft. After ten years as
Chief Engineering Test Pilot, he was appointed Lockheed’s Director of Flying Operations.
His contributions to aviation are not limited to test flying. He invented the Master Caution Warning Light System, the Automatic Wing Stores Release System, the first practical Afterburner Ignition System, the “Hot Microphone” intercom and conceived the idea of placing the trim switch on the top of the control stick. Honored as an Eagle in 1993, he passed away in 1998.