1. Archive


Published Oct. 6, 2005

RETIRED AIR FORCE LT. GEN. LAURENCE C. "BILL" CRAIGIE, 92, America's first military jet pilot and a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, died Sunday at the March Air Force Base hospital in Riverside, Calif., said family friend Bradley Grose. Lt. Gen. Craigie, who was involved in developing many types of military aircraft in the 1930s and '40s, was one of the first two pilots to fly the Bell XP-59A Airacomet, developed in secrecy as the first U.S. jet airplane. On Oct. 2, 1942, then-Col. Craigie took the XP-59A up after two flights by Bell Aircraft civilian test pilot Bob Stanley. The 50th anniversary of the event was commemorated at Edwards Air Force Base in 1992 and Lt. Gen. Craigie was saluted with a flyby of an F-16 with Chuck Yeager at the controls. In March 1944, Craigie became Allied air commander on Corsica, from which the invasion of southern France was launched. He later returned to Wright Field as deputy chief of the engineering division and became the first military pilot to ride in an aircraft that took off, flew and landed under remote control. During the Korean War, he was vice commander and chief of staff for Far East air forces and was the Air Force delegate to the truce talks. During the 1950s, he was also the commander of NATO air forces in southern Europe. He retired in 1955 after suffering a heart attack.