June 22, 1971: F-4 Testing Engineer Wins Air Medal

  • Published
  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Elbert L. “Burt” Rutan, a civilian flight test engineer, was awarded an Air Medal for his work in developing flight techniques that would allow F-4 Phantom II pilots to recover from out-of-control conditions. The rest of the test team was similarly rewarded, but Mr. Rutan was believed to be the first civilian to win an Air Medal.

The Air Medal is a military decoration of the United States Armed Forces. It was created in 1942 and is awarded for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.

The Air Medal may be awarded to recognize either single acts of merit or gallantry in combat or for meritorious service in a combat zone. Award of the Air Medal is primarily intended to recognize those personnel who are on current crew member or non-crew member flying status which requires them to participate in aerial flight on a regular and frequent basis in the performance of their primary duties. However, it may also be awarded to certain other individuals whose combat duties require regular and frequent flying in other than a passenger status, or individuals who perform a particularly noteworthy act while performing the function of a crew member but who are not on flying status. These individuals must make a discernible contribution to the operational land combat mission or to the mission of the aircraft in flight.

The Army may award the Air Medal for peacetime service, but approval authority is by general-grade officers at the group or brigade level or higher. The Air Force does not award the Air Medal for peacetime sustained operational activities and flights.  Non-combat meritorious service is instead awarded the Aerial Achievement Medal, instituted in 1988.

News Search