William H. Dana
1930 – 2014
William H. Dana, NASA test pilot, died peacefully in Phoenix on May 6, 2014 at age 83.
William H. Dana began what would become his distinguished 40-year career at NASA, on Oct. 1, 1958, NASA’s first day of existence (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was its predecessor organization), making Dana, the agency’s first employee under its new name.
As a NASA test pilot, Dana was involved in some of the most significant aeronautical research programs carried out at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Research Center, flying more than sixty different aircraft. Most famously, Dana was a project pilot on the hypersonic X-15 research aircraft, flying the rocket-powered vehicle 16 times, reaching a top speed of 3,897 mph and a peak altitude of 307,000 feet (nearly 59 miles high). He was the pilot on the X-15’s final (199th) flight. He served as Chief Engineer at the Research Center at Edwards from 1993 until his retirement in 1998. Dana was awarded astronaut wings on Aug. 23, 2005, in recognition of two of his X-15 flights which exceeded 50 miles altitude. That honor came nearly 40 years after the flights themselves because at the time of the X-15 program, NASA did not confer astronaut wings on its pilots.
William H. Dana was born on Nov. 3, 1930 in Pasadena to Drexler Dana and the former Rose Jourdan. Dana graduated from Bakersfield High School in 1948 and the U.S. Military Academy in 1952, followed by a four-year tour as a U.S. Air Force pilot. He joined NASA after receiving his Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1958.
He married Judi Miller in September 1962. They have four children, Sidney Sparks, Matt Dana (Krista), Jan Sieving (Mark), and Leslie Kirby (Shawn) and seven grandchildren; Eric, Lisa, Nick, Jenna, Devon, Kayla and Andrew. Bill is also survived by a sister, Toni Dunrud, her husband Rich, and their five children. The Dana family resided in Lancaster before moving to Tehachapi where Bill and Judi lived for more than 35 years.
Funeral services will be held May 20 at 10 a.m. at the Lancaster United Methodist Church, 918 W. Ave J in Lancaster, CA. Donations can be made in his name to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation support.pdf.org.