(1924 - 2010)

Jim Penland was born on January 2, 1924 in Swannanoa, North Carolina.  He was a graduate of North Carolina State University and was a World War II veteran, having served in the Army Air Corps, where he participated as a Bomber Pilot in the Pacific theater of operations.   Later, he was a retired aerospace engineer at NASA and until his death was a Distinguished Research Associate working with the hypersonic aerodynamics  researchers as a member of the Hyper-X Program Office and Hypersonic Airbreathing Propulsion Branch.   

Jim Penland had been a research engineer in the hypersonic research area from the very beginning of it in the mid 1940s, and was a member of the  group that developed the X-15 that he tested in a 11" wind tunnel.  In his later years, when reconstructing the historical record of the hypersonic research that lead to the development of the X-15 rocket plane, Jim was questioned about it.  One member of the research team remembered the day he was in Jim's office at NASA Langley's Hypersonic Air Breathing Propulsion Branch and Jim reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a three inch model of the X-15.    He said, "we got a question about hypersonics, made the model the next day, tested it the day after that and wrote a report for NACA (National Aeronautics Advisory Committee) Headquarters the day after that." 

Over the years, about 50 different wind tunnels had been developed for testing of potential new aircraft.   One was a 11" tunnel that Jim had helped to develop a scheme using it to test for hypersonic flight.   A NASA official recently said that without Jim's operating the tunnel tests, "there wouldn't have been an X-15 rocket plane".   In 1967, the X-15 set a speed record flying at 4,519 mph!   Jim was working on the X-15 when the former Soviet Union's Sputnik flew that same year.   During the 50th year anniversary of Sputnik, Jim responded to a question about it by saying, "I was shocked to tell you the truth!   I thought that we were ahead of everybody in that regard.   There was a sort of bewilderment , really, as to why we were behind when we could have just as easily been ahead."

{Jim Penland passed away at his home on 14 August, 2010. He had been preceded in death by his wife Byrd Penland.     Jim was survived by his son, Alex L Penland; and his daughter, M. Andria Saylor and her husband Kenneth, and their daughter Morgan, and great grandson, Noah Saylor Savona. }