Bridges, Roy D. (1943-) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Roy Dunbard Bridges, Jr., was born on July 19, 1943 in Atlanta Georgia. The family later moved to Gainesville, Georgia where Bridges grew up and graduated from Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Georgia in 1961. He won a Congressional appointment to the United States Air Force Academy Class of 1965 and was a distinguished graduate. He won a competitive engineering graduate school scholarship from the United States Air Force and entered Purdue University immediately following graduation from the Academy. He was awarded a Master’s of Science from Purdue in 1966. He graduated from the United States Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training ay Williams AFB, Arizona, as a distinguished graduate in March 1967.
Assigned to Cannon AFB, New Mexico, for advanced pilot training in the F-100, he successfully completed the advanced course and was assigned to the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Phu Cat Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, in January 1968. He completed 226 combat missions prior to the end of his tour in December 1968. Included in this total are 72 missions that he flew over North Vietnam and Laos in the F-100F during a four month “Misty,” fast forward air control assignment. This unit was focused on discovering and destroying surface to air missiles in Route Package 1, interdicting supply routes, and suppressing enemy anti-aircraft artillery fire to aircrew rescues.
After his Vietnam tour, he taught flying training in the T-37 and was selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School (named the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School at the time.) In 1971, he graduated from the school with the Top Graduate Award and was assigned to Edwards AFB to test the next generation of close air support aircraft. He was one of five Air Force test pilots that participated in the competitive fly-off between the YA-9 and YA-10 and stayed on after the fly-off to test the upgrades to YA-10 that would be integrated into the production aircraft. He was also selected to complete the YA-10 Post Stall and Spin Test Program.
Following tours at Air Command and Staff College and the Pentagon, he returned to flight testing as part of the unit developing the F-117 stealth fighter. That tour was interrupted when he was chosen by NASA to be a Space Shuttle astronaut. He piloted the Challenger on the 19th Shuttle mission (STS 51-F) in July and August of 1985 for 126 orbits. He was selected for another flight on the Challenger that was scheduled for launch in May 1986.
After the Challenger accident in January 1986, his mission was canceled, and he was reassigned by the Air Force to command the Air Force’s largest test wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Following his command of the test wing, he commanded the Eastern Space and Missile Center, Patrick AFB, Florida, and the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, California. He also served in several key staff positions for the Air Force Systems Command and the Air Force Materiel Command. He retired from the Air Force after 31 years of service in July 1996 as a Major General. He was a Command Astronaut Pilot with over 4,460 flying hours in a variety of aircraft and spacecraft.
Following his career with the Air Force, he was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be the Center Director for the Kennedy Space Center, Florida and later as the Center Director for the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. He retired from the Senior Executive Service in December 2005 after over 40 years of public service to the nation following his graduation from the Academy. In 2006 He went on to become Director of Operations for Northrop Grumman Technical Services in Herndon, Virginia.
Throughout his career, Bridges received numerous awards and honors. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal; Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster; Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 oak leaf clusters; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal; NASA Space Flight Medal; NASA Certificate of Commendation; and the Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award, among many other awards.
Per Bridges’ biography highlights found among his papers.