The Ejection Site
Remembering the Pioneers
This century has seen advancements in engineering that exceed the achievements of the past several centuries. Driving these advances have been extraordinary men who labored beyond the cutting edge, desperately trying to gain ground before it could catch up to them. Starting with the Wright Brothers, who had studied the greatest scientific minds before them and decided that they had to extend the science of aeronautics beyond where it had gone before, and continuing as far into the future as they could manage.

In Aviation and Aerospace there have been hundreds of men and women who have advanced the state of the art, and made flying safer for both pilots and their passengers. Some have made small advances that made uncomfortable things more palatable, others have brought about changes that have saved many lives. One of these men was Brigadier General Donald D. Flickinger, Ret. He was a Stanford trained doctor who while with the Army Air Corp during World War II would parajump to the site of air crashes in the area of the Burma-China Hump to tend the injured and help them to safety.

Later on in his career he assisted in the development of high altitude bailout aeromedical research. He was instrumental in developing ejection equipment that included oxygen bottles to prevent crewmen from blacking out in the thin upper atmosphere, a situation that would often prove fatal. A later development to his credit was in the barometric release mechanisms for parachutes that would ensure the chute did not deploy until it had reached a safe altitude.

Dr. Flickinger did research that led to the infamous Lovelace Clinic where the Mercury Astronauts went through the rigorous and incomprehensible (to us today) testing depicted in Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff". During the Mercury program Dr. Flickinger was the Assistant for Bioastronautics, ARDC Andrews Air Force Base. His expertise was developed over a long career and he retired in 1961. It is a solemn task to write this as it is both a tribute, and an obituary. Dr. Flickinger passed away on Feb. 23, 1997.

This tribute is also to all the other people who have been involved in the progression of Aeronautics over this century. All of them deserve our respect, from the designers and inventors who put ink to paper to 'Rosie the Riveter' and all the other laborers who assembled the myriad air and space craft, to the maintenance personnel who repair and pamper the systems to the men and women who strap the conglomeration of parts on and soar into the sky.

"Now, as the age of space exploration dawns, we see the need for the same state of progression of aerospace medicine, space biomedicine, or whatever this new area might be called. It needs to have its share of support, for the military or civilian or any other type of organizational structure; I am talking about the future of our country. The time has come when we must all realize, those of us who have been in aviation medicine and those who are now joining its ranks, that we have a tremendous job ahead of us. Let's all join hands, exhibit good old American courage, and get on with the job."
    Dr. Donald D. Flickinger
    Project Mercury: Biomedical Aspects
    Psychophysiological Aspects of Space Flight, 1961

Others who have passed on recently include Gino P. Santi, who at the Wright Air Development Center (WADC), ran the early USAF ejection seat testing programs.