April 10, 2014

Aviation Hall of Fame inductee Pete Reynolds dies

Pete Reynolds, a former test pilot and the retired head of flight test at Bombardier, died Thursday.

Pete Reynolds, a former test pilot and the retired head of flight test at Bombardier, died Thursday.

Mr. Reynolds, who will be inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame next week, was 69.

“You always felt tremendously confident things were going to be done right with Pete in charge,” said Dave Franson, Wichita Aero Club president.

The Aero Club and Kansas Aviation Museum last week announced Mr. Reynolds had been chosen for the hall of fame. A ceremony and reception were scheduled from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 15 at the museum, 3350 S. George Washington Blvd.

Franson said Thursday that Mr. Reynolds’ induction ceremony will be held as originally scheduled.

Franson knew Mr. Reynolds from his time working at Bombardier Learjet as its spokesman.

He said Mr. Reynolds had a precise attention to detail, was an exceptional pilot and was “an even better friend and co-worker.”

Mr. Reynolds joined Learjet in 1973 after serving as an Air Force pilot.

In his 29-year career at Learjet and Bombardier, he flew first flights of the Learjet 24E, Learjet 28, Learjet 40, Learjet 55c, Learjet 60 and Models 31 and 31A.

“I think Pete could fly anything that didn’t have a beak and feathers,” Franson said.

In the last eight years of his career at Bombardier, he was vice president of flight test, managing 500 employees and responsible for all flight testing conducted on Canadair, deHavilland and Learjet aircraft.

Mr. Reynolds set a number of world records as a test pilot, including with Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, in the Learjet 28-001 in 1979. They set records for time-to-climb, altitude and altitude in horizontal flight.

He had more than 12,000 flight hours and was the recipient of the 1992 Kansas Governor’s Aviation Honors award. In 1999, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots awarded Mr. Reynolds the J.H. Doolittle Award for outstanding achievements in aerospace engineering and technical management.

Dan Hinson, the society’s Central Section representative, said while he didn’t personally know Mr. Reynolds, he was “pretty legendary” in the test pilot community.

Doug May, director of experimental and flight test at Textron Aviation, worked for Mr. Reynolds at Learjet. In fact, May was hired by Mr. Reynolds.

“I grew up with Pete, basically,” May said of Reynolds, whom he had known about 25 years. “He was essentially the model for what a professional test pilot should be. He was technically competent, actually technically brilliant. He was a test pilot’s pilot.”

Services for Mr. Reynolds are pending. Downing & Lahey Mortuary West is handling the arrangements.

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