Aviation History

Charles “Charlie” Bock, the First Man to Fly the B-1A, Passed Away

Charles “Charlie” Bock and his crew made the first flight of the B-1 on Dec. 23, 1974. He accumulated 600 flying hours in that airplane before retiring from Rockwell in 1981.

Retired Col. Charles “Charlie” Bock, who flew the B-1A on its maiden flight, has passed away on Aug. 21, 2019.

During his test flying career, Bock also flew the first B-58 Hustler from Fort Worth to Edwards Air Force Base.

Bock was born on Nov. 24, 1925, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

According to Iowa Aviation Museum, he graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering in 1949. Bock had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) as a bomber pilot, fighter pilot, test pilot, and a military astronaut designee. Col. Bock flew 51 combat missions with the 90th Bomb Squadron in Korea and 52 combat missions with the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing in Vietnam. Other assignments included two tours in Flight Test Operations at the Air Force Fight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. He participated in many of the flight test programs at the Center and brought the first B-58 to leave the factory to the Center for a year of testing. Col. Bock was a B-50 launch pilot for the X-2 and the B-52 launch pilot for all of the first captive and launch flights of the X-15. When the YF-12 arrived at the Center, a YF-12/SR-71 Test Force was formed with Charlie as the Operations Officer. The mission was to assist Lockheed in expanding the operating envelope of the SR-71.

Bock retired from the USAF in 1973 to accept a position with Rockwell International as a Chief Test Pilot on the B-1 program. He and his crew made the first flight of the B-1 on Dec. 23, 1974. He accumulated 600 flying hours in that airplane before retiring in 1981.

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Col. Bock was responsible for all aircrew training and had a major influence on the formulation of the B-1 flight test program priorities and objectives. He retired from Rockwell in 1981, and from 1982 to 1984 was a consultant to Northrop Corporation on the B-2 Stealth Bomber.

During his flying career, Charles “Charlie” Bock logged over 10,000 hours in more than 100 types of aircraft and received numerous awards including the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, six Air Medals, and the Society of Experimental Test Pilot’s Tenhoff Award and the Iven C. Kincheloe Award. He was named to the Aerospace Walk of Honor in 1994.

B-1A takes off for its first flight

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Iowa Aviation Museum

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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