Aerospace pioneer, Walk of Honor star Riedenauer dies

first_imgPALMDALE – Robert Riedenauer, an inductee into Lancaster’s Aerospace Walk of Honor and the only pilot to fly the U-2, SR-71 and the F-117 aircraft, died Monday from cancer. He was 70. Riedenauer had a lifelong association with aviation, including serving as a combat pilot and a test pilot. Most recently, he was a member of Palmdale’s Aviation and Aerospace Commission. “He was a truly an aviation hero,” Mayor Jim Ledford said Tuesday. “He’d been involved in so much of the history of aerospace.” City officials had been aware of Riedenauer’s illness and had honored him at the City Council’s March 5 meeting. Riedenauer conducted performance and handling quality tests of the FB-111A, prototype development of the Pre-SCANA F-111 and various programs in the U-2. Riedenauer then flew developmental flight tests of the SR-71 at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale and later retired from the Air Force as chief of SR-71 flight test. At Lockheed Skunk Works, he was an engineering test pilot and later director of operations. He helped design, develop and test classified programs and served as one of Lockheed’s principal test pilots during the initial flight tests of the F-117A Stealth Fighter. Riedenauer flew the first production flight of the F-117. Riedenauer was nearly killed when the first production F-117 crashed during a flight test on April 20, 1982, an accident cause by wiring problems. The wreckage of that aircraft was later incorporated into a F-117 model mounted at the Lockheed Martin’s Palmdale plant. Riedenauer retired from Lockheed Martin in 1993 and served three years as the executive director of the Flight Test Historical Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the rich aerospace history of Edwards Air Force Base. In 2002, Riedenauer was honored by the city of Lancaster when he was among that year’s inductees into the Aerospace Walk of Honor. He was also appointed that year to the city’s aviation commission. He was elected chairman of that board in 2004 but recently resigned the top post because of health problems. Riedenauer is survived by his wife, Sharon; sons, Jeff Koontz of Palmdale and Scott Riedenauer of Bellflower; daughters, Cheryl Clayton of Palmdale and Kimberly Sweazy of Florida; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending. [email protected] (661) 267-5743 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Riedenauer was to have been honored today by the city with the naming of an F-104 aircraft after him at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at Air Force Plant 42. The city plans to hold a ceremony to honor Riedenauer at a later date. “He was a fine Air Force officer and a gentleman of the finest kind,” said Joe Davies, one of Riedenauer’s colleagues on the aviation commission. “He was a stellar leader. He did a terrific job for the city with the aerospace committee as chairman.” Born in Fresno, Riedenauer earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University in 1967. Riedenauer flew 120 combat missions in the F-105 in Southeast Asia in 1968 and was honored with the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with eleven oak leaf clusters and the Meritorious Service Medal. He graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1969. last_img read more

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