Peter W. Merlin has worked as an archivist and historian at NASA
Dryden Flight Research Center, under various contracts since 1997. He is the
author of Mach 3+: NASA/USAF YF-12 Flight Research, 1969-1979 and co-author of
Donald L. Mallick’s autobiography The Smell of Kerosene: A Test Pilot’s
Odyssey, both NASA publications. He has written From Archangel to Senior Crown
– Design and Development of the Blackbird for the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a technological case study
of the design evolution of the A-12 and SR-71. With Tony Moore, he wrote X-Plane
Crashes: Exploring Experimental, Rocket Plane and Spycraft Incidents, Accidents,
and Crash Sites, a collection of stories about aerospace archaeology published
by Specialty Press.
As a freelance writer, Merlin has published numerous articles on the Internet as well as in a variety of periodicals, including AIR&SPACE Smithsonian Magazine, covering subjects from aerospace history to nuclear weapons accidents. He has also appeared on such television programs as Man, Moment, Machine: Shot Down – The U-2 Spy Plane; Modern Marvels: Edwards Air Force Base; Inside Area 51; UFO: Down To Earth – Retrieval; Return to Area 51; Mystery Hunters; and Atomic Journeys: Welcome to Ground Zero. A founding member of the X-Hunters Aerospace Archeology Team, he specializes in recovering historic aircraft artifacts from crash sites in the southwestern United States.
Merlin was born in Hollywood, California. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Studies from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Merlin is a member of the Flight Test Historical Foundation and Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, as well as an associate member of Roadrunners Internationale.
Mach 3+: NASA/USAF YF-12
1969-1979, NASA SP-2001-4525
Peter W. Merlin
Describes the first major NASA project involving the Blackbirds. Conducted with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) as a partner, the NASA-USAF YF-12 research program lasted 10 years, and produced a wealth of data on materials, structures, loads, heating, aerodynamics, and performance for high-speed aircraft.
More than two decades after the program ended, no comprehensive history of the joint program had been written. This monograph is an attempt to rectify that deficiency. Until recently, security restrictions prevented the release of some information relative to the YF-12. Since then, numerous documents have been declassified, and program participants are free to speak about previously restricted aspects of the project. Unfortunately, some who contributed to the NASA/USAF YF-12 investigations have not outlived the blanket of security that covered their work. Those who have must reach back more than 20 years to retrieve anecdotes and historical details. In a sense, the oral history interviews in this monograph amount to a sort of salvage archeology into the fading memories of the remaining YF-12 participants.
Over the years, numerous books and articles
have been written about the Blackbirds, but few give more than a brief
description of the YF-12 and its role as a research
aircraft. In this monograph, Merlin briefly describes the origins of the
Blackbird family of aircraft and how NASA became involved with them. Each of the
following chapters then describes a facet of the NASA/USAF YF-12 research
program in detail. This monograph would not have been
possible without access to numerous technical reports (some recently
declassified), briefings, and other source material from the NASA Dryden
Historical Reference Collection, as well as the oral interviews that fleshed out
the story and provided an insider's view of the project. The book is the 25th
publication of the NASA Monographs in Aerospace History series. It is available
from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California.
The Smell of Kerosene
A Test Pilot’s Odyssey
By Donald L. Mallick
with Peter W. Merlin
NASA SP 2003-4108
Hardbound w/dust jacket, 252 pages, 70 B&W photos
The Smell of Kerosene tells the dramatic story of a NASA research pilot who logged over 11,000 flight hours in more than 125 types of aircraft. Donald Mallick gives the reader fascinating first-hand descriptions of his early naval flight training, carrier operations, and his research flying career with NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
Mallick joined the NACA as a research pilot at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory at Hampton, Virginia, where he flew modified helicopters and jets, and witnessed the NACA’s evolution into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
After transferring to the NASA Flight Research Center (now NASA Dryden Flight Research Center) at Edwards, California, he became involved with projects that further pushed the boundaries of aerospace technology. These included the giant delta-winged XB-70 supersonic research airplane, the wingless M2-F1 lifting body vehicle, and the triple-sonic YF-12 Blackbird. Mallick also test flew the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) and helped develop techniques used in training astronauts to land on the Moon.
Fans of the Lockheed Blackbirds will not want to miss Chapter 9, a 32-page inside look at YF-12A and SR-71 flight operations from the pilot’s seat.
Exploring Experimental, Rocket Plane and Spycraft Incidents, Accidents, and Crash Sites (Specialty Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-58007-121-5) Aerospace archeology combines sleuthing skills and hands-on fieldwork. This book tells the story of how aviation enthusiasts Peter Merlin and Tony Moore turned a unique hobby into a serious effort to preserve an important part of the history of flight research and development. Following an explanation of the nature of “X-Planes” and the origin of the X-Hunters Aerospace Archeology Team, the main body of the book has been divided into chapters that include stories about unusual aircraft and the brave men who flew them. Subjects include the fabled flying wings of Northrop, supersonic rocket planes from the era of The Right Stuff, the hypersonic X-15 that probed the edge of space in the earliest days of manned spaceflight, exotic fighter and bomber prototypes, Lockheed’s super-secret Blackbird spyplanes, and craft flown by such legendary test pilots as Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield, and Howard Hughes. Each story, illustrated by numerous rare historic photos, ends with a first-hand account of the team’s search for the crash site and what they discovered. The X-Hunters have located numerous crash sites of exotic aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base and the mysterious Area 51, and recovered relics for public display in several museums. Every expedition combined C.S.I. skills with X-Files persistence, and a dash of Indiana Jones-style adventure. The appendices include a comprehensive database of more than 600 aircraft accidents in the vicinities of Edwards and Area 51.
From Archangel to Senior Crown:
Peter Merlin has written
a technological case study and lessons learned analysis of the Lockheed
Blackbirds, for publication by the American Institute of Aeronautics
and Astronautics (AIAA). From Archangel to Senior Crown: Design and Development
of the Blackbird describes the design evolution of the Blackbird from the
ARCHANGEL study that culminated in the original A-12 model to the final and most
advanced version, the SR-71. Construction and materials challenges faced by the
prime contractor as well as the Blackbird’s performance characteristics and
capabilities are discussed in detail. The text is sufficiently technical in
nature to appeal to engineers but written on a level accessible to a general
readership as well. The book has potential value to program managers, project
engineers, historians, teachers, aeronautical engineering students and aviation
buffs. The book comes with a supplemental CD-ROM containing additional source
documents, technical reports, manuals, photographs, and videos, most of which
have never been published or have only seen limited distribution.
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