Paying Tribute to the People Who Took Aviation
from the Flight Deck of a Navy Carrier to Man's First Steps on the Moon
Born in 1930 Chuck Sewell attended the College of William and Mary, George Washington University, University of Maryland and New York Institute of Technology.
He spent twenty years in the United States Marine Corps first as a fighter pilot and then as a test pilot. Chuck flew 110 combat missions in Korea and was shot down once by enemy ground fire. He also spent four months with the First Marine Division as a forward air controller. After Korea he became an exchange pilot with No. 74 Squadron, Royal Air Force and spent two years as a Flight Commander.
Chuck also flew with the Red Arrows, England’s Premier Air Demonstration Team. Upon return to the US, Chuck attended the US Navy Test Pilot’s School and spent four years at the Naval Test Center in Patuxent River, Maryland. During the Vietnam War, he commanded a US Marine Corps squadron of F-4 Phantoms and flew 220 missions over North and South Vietnam as well as Laos. Chuck retired from the Marine Corps in 1969 as a Lt. Colonel with the following decorations: Legion of Merit with Combat "V", two Distinguished Flying Crosses, fifteen Air Medals, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.
Chuck joined the Grumman Corporation in 1969 as an Experimental Test Pilot based at the Calverton Flight Test Facility. In 1971 he was appointed to the position of Grumman’s Chief Test Pilot.
During his career with Grumman, Chuck flew almost every type of production aircraft including the A-6 Intruder series, EA-6B Prowler, EF-111A Raven and X-29 Forward swept wing aircraft, performing first flight at Edwards AFB in 1984. However, Chuck Sewell is probably best remembered for his association with the testing of the F-14 Tomcat. Many flight regimes were explored by Chuck, but one that deserves mentioning is the series of asymmetrical wing sweep tests on F-14 No. 3 from December 19, 1985 to February 28, 1986. By keeping one wing at full forward position and the other in various sweep modes he proved that the Tomcat could perform under these peculiar conditions. This aircraft is presently on display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Mitchel Field. On many occasions Grumman’s president, George Skurla could be found sitting back seat in F-14 #7 with Chuck at the controls. Chuck’s other accomplishments include being a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and former head of the SETP Flight Test Committee. He was a holder of the Ivan Kincheloe Award for Test Pilot of the Year from the SETP in 1973 and again in 1984. Chuck also won the Best Technical Paper of the Year Award from STEP in 1979, 1982 and 1983. In 1974 he was the winner of the Octave Chanute Award form the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and in 1983 was awarded the Lawrence B. Sperry Award from the US Air Force Association in 1981.
Chuck’s love of flying went beyond high-performance military jets. He had more than 10,000 hours in over 140 types of aircraft. Flying vintage World War Two aircraft was a favorite of Chuck’s. However tragedy struck when on August 4, 1986 Chuck was killed in a crash of a friend’s Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bomber while attempting to take off from Connecticut en route to Florida. Incompatible fuel was determined as the cause of the accident.
Chuck left behind a legacy at Grumman, as well as many of the employees who admired him and called him friend.