White, Robert Michael, 1924–2010, American aviator, b. New York City. A fighter pilot during World War II, he was shot down over Germany and held in a prisoner-of-war camp (Feb.–Apr, 1945); he was recalled to service during the Korean War. As the primary Air Force test pilot (1958–62) for the X-15, he made record-breaking flights exceeding Mach 4, 5, and 6 (the last in Nov., 1961) in the rocket plane. In July, 1962, he piloted the X-15 to more than 59 mi (95 km) above the earth, becoming the first person to fly a winged aircraft into space. White later flew combat missions during the Vietnam War, commanded (1970–72) the Air Force Test Flight Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and retired as a major general in 1981.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.