Colonel Joseph W. Rogers, USAF set a new official world absolute speed record at Edwards AFB in 1959 when he piloted a Convair F-106A Delta Dart to a speed of 1,525 mph. After 45 years, this was still the record for single engine airplanes.
Flying over Korea and Viet Nam, Rogers flew 300 combat missions in P-51 Mustangs, P-80 Shooting Stars and F-4 Phantoms. He attended the USAF Experimental Test Pilot School in 1956 and the Air War College in 1964.
He flew early development test flights of the F-86D Sabre and performed early testing on the F-102/F-106 weapons systems before joining the SR-71/YF-12 Test Force, where he flew the first Blackbird mission of the USAF/NASA YF-12/SR-71 USAF research program. He eventually became Test Director of the world’s highest and fastest airplane, the SR-71 at Edwards Air Force Base. In 1971, Rogers was already evaluating advanced fighter design concepts that wouldn’t appear until the 1990s.
Colonel Rogers was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Legion of Merit and the Air Medal with 16 Oak Leaf Clusters. A Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Rogers received the Thompson Trophy and the Federation Aeronautique Internationale De La Vaulx medal. During his career as a test pilot, Rogers logged 13,000 hours in more than 50 aircraft, including the F-86D, F-102, F-104, F-106, YF-12, SR-71 and F-4.
Established in 1990 by the Lancaster City Council, the Aerospace Walk of Honor celebrates test pilots who were associated with Edwards Air Force Base. Recognition is awarded for distinguished aviation careers marked by significant and obvious achievements beyond one specific accomplishment.
On November 8, 1950, the then Capt. Rogers achieved a rare MiG-15 jet kill while flying in his piston-engine F-51D Mustang named Buckeye Blitz VI. "This was unusual because of the speed differences between the two planes, " said Jim Cook, master crew chief at the Pacific Coast Air Museum in Santa Rosa and an old friend of Col. Rogers. "He was doing around 350 mph, and the jet was doing 450. There were four MiGs, and they were so much faster. They came over the top of Joe, and he took a lucky shot at them."