James Stegman


James Joseph Stegman
Naval Aviator Wings

03 MAY& 2008: Mr. and Mrs. James Stegman at the dedication of A-4 Skyhawk BuNo 145067 located at the Joe Davies Heritage Air Park, Palmdale, CA.

“Surrounded by family and other well-wishers, retired Major James Stegman was honored Monday along with the aircraft that comprised the bulk of his test pilot career: the A-4 Skyhawk. The windy ceremony at the Palmdale Plant 42 Heritage Airpark marked his and his family's contribution to a particularly special addition to the airpark.... Stegman's name adorns the cockpit of the restored A-4 Skyhawk at the center of the airpark's collection, recognizing his contributions to the aircraft's success. From 1954 to 1979, Douglas Aircraft Co. produced more than 2,900 A-4s, the bulk of those at the company's Plant 42 facility, where production moved in 1958. A Douglas test pilot, Stegman flew almost every one of those aircraft, until his retirement from flight status in 1980 at 60. All told, he logged 3,300 hours in the A-4.”
Allison Gatlin of the “Valley Press.”
"I was born in Offerle Kansas on August 23, 1920. The family moved shortly after that to Plains, Kansas. There were eighteen of us all together, but two died at a younger age. That was in the time of the ‘dust bowl’. I don’t think we would have survived if we hadn’t been on a farm. We grew all of our vegetables and meat, and only bought items like sugar and flour in town. Gas, what little we used of it, was 11 cents a gallon at that time. My father was a carpenter, but the entire family worked the farm. I went to school in Plains and graduated from high school in 1938. I worked around the area for about two years, and then went to Granby Colorado to visit with my friend Jack and two of his sisters. His brother, Bob, was working in Colorado on the Green Mountain Dam Project. We both worked in Granby for two or three months, and I found employment on the Green Mountain Dam Project. I was everything from a laborer, to assistant carpenter, and joined the teamsters union. It started getting cold there, so we decided we better leave for warmer weather and went back to Kansas. After a visit to home, we then took off for the west coast.
After arriving in San Diego in 1940, we looked around for awhile and noticed large numbers of men in uniform. We checked them out and they were in the Marine Corp. We decided we would talk to the local Marine Recruiting Officer, and that resulted in the three of us deciding to sign-up. That evening we had a good time on the town, spending all our cash. The next day we put the car in a garage and took a bus back out to the San Diego recruiting depot and enlisted.
Our first Marine Corp paychecks were $21.00 a month, minus 20 cents which they deducted for insurance. I’d only been there for two weeks and my father died back in Kansas. I was granted an emergency leave out of boot camp and went back for dad’s funeral. On returning to San Diego I had to start all over again. I couldn’t advance with Bob and Jack because they put me back to the start. I finished boot camp, then radio school, and then was assigned to Marine Corp Aviation at North Island, California.
I was assigned to Marine air group North Island in communications. My boss was a Marine Gunner (warrant officer) who got his wings in 1927 as a PFC. He assigned me to operate the link trainer for officers of the group. I spent much of my free time in the trainer.
Later I was selected for flight training as a sergeant and trained preflight in Athens, Georgia; Georgia State University. I took my Primary Flight training at New Orleans in N2S and N3N (open cockpit) biplanes. I received my wings in Pensacola as a ‘Tech Sergeant’. I went onto Jacksonville for advanced training on the SB2U and SBD. Then I was off to El Toro with a stop in Golden Colorado to marry my wife of 65 years, Elinor Allison.
I spent a month of training at El Toro and then was off to the South Pacific, Solomon Islands, Numea, Efate, Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Villa Green Islands, and the Emaru Admiral Islands. During my combat tour I flew 33 missions in dive bombers and received my officer bars. Did two trips to Sidney Australia and then back home to air ground school.
Next was Quantico Engineering Officer School, Memphis and Cherry Point. Following that I transferred to El Toro as a maintenance officer. I then went off active duty in 1948. But in 1952 my unit (Denver Squadron) was activated flying F8F Bearcats for the Korea War. I was assigned to El Toro with family of five. Purchased home in Santa Ana before shipping overseas to Korea in 1953. Flew 87 missions in F9F Panthers and was awarded the Air Medal (3 stars) for gallantry-in-action. After my combat tour, I was assigned to maintenance squadrons in Japan and ferried many planes to Korea. Returned to US in 1954 to El Toro, then on to Corpus Christi as instructor in advanced training in F6F, TV-2, and F9F.
I was released from active duty in 1955 as a Major and hired on with Douglas Aircraft as production and delivery pilot. I did many test programs and flew most of the Douglas Aircraft planes; DC3, R4D, MD8O, F3D, A4D, F4D, DC-9, DC-10, A3D. I ferried DC9-40 to Rome via Kansas City, Greenland, Azores, Lisbon, and Rome. Did road commercial flight via Zurich, Copenhagen, Bergen, and polar route to Seattle and LAX.
The best part of this time was flying the A4D’s. I flew every model except the A-4S, which was modified by Lockheed for Singapore. I did special tests and structural demos on various planes and certified the ‘Buddy Store’.
Some of the other planes included many light planes and trainers; Cessna’s, Beechcraft, Curtis, F6F, F8F, F9F, A3D, F2H, F4U, TF102, TF86, SB2C, C47, R4D, DC9 DC10 (I had an air transport pilot rating) Aero Commander. All models of AD except AD4.
I retired from Douglas in 1982.
Total flight time approximately 8,500 hours.
A4D time 3,526 logged.
A4D flights approx. 3,700.

I believe I had the best job anyone could imagine. I loved going to work. We had a superb work force who took great pride in making sure they put out their best as a team. I loved going down to the assembly line and visiting with them. We delivered aircraft from El Segundo and from Palmdale.
I almost had everything imaginable happen during my flights; Flame-outs, Hydraulic failures, electric failures; fire warning,; rough engines, blown tires, etc. But never lost a plane!
I remember one occasion when I felt a solid bump when pulsing the elevator. It turned out to be a lack of bushings in the elevator shaft. An amusing event occurred when during a pre-flight check, I gave the tires a hard kick and surprisingly the wheel moved over an inch. NO BEARINGS!
We pilots invented a flight check called a ‘junk check’. We inverted the a/c and then bounced it up, down, around, and sideways. Sometimes we discovered some debris, but it was unusual. I once had an explosive decompression when a canopy panel on a TA-4 blew out at 25,000 feet. Quite a wake up that was!"

James Joseph Stegman
August 2008

"Don't bother me! This is serious stuff!"
Model First Flight by J.J. Stegman:
A-4G on 19 JUL 1967 - BuNo 152903
TA-4G on 07 AUG 1967 - BuNo 152911

Another A-4 transferred

On the cover of the "Edwards Flyer" - 1966

Celebrating # 2,000

"Does this man have the best job in the world?
A lot of people think so. He may not look like Smiling Jack and he many not suit the preferred image of a test pilot. But Jim Stegman is one. Behind the robust figure and cherubic countenance is a flyer whose log book credentials are abundant indeed. He's accumulated 7,000 hours, most of them in single engine aircraft. Earlier this year he logged his 3,200th A-4 hour.
A former enlisted pilot and Marine Aviator, he left the service in 1947, was recalled in 1952 and left again in 1955 to join Douglas. Except for peak periods during Vietnam when other pilots helped in testing production aircraft, Jim Stegman has flown most the Skyhawks which proliferate around the world today. Hi job? - wring out the production planes. All he does is fly. He checks every system in each aircraft and puts it through an exhausting series of maneuvers over the southern California desert. Usually two or three flights are required before Jim turns the plane over to a Navy pilot for acceptance flights. On a test hop Jim will drive the A-4 straight up and dive it straight down. He bombs with it, shoots rockets and guns with it, rolls it, loops it, hauls it through every parameter. He has long since memorized the check profile. “The test procedures haven't really changed that much over the years” he admits. “You pretty much know what's going to happen out there”. Nevertheless, Jim Stegman has learned to expect the unexpected. “I've never had to get out of one”, he states, “but I've had just about every kind of emergency there is”.
“Which model is your favorite,” he was asked one day. Without hesitation, he signaled with a head nod toward the A-4KU from which he had just alighted, “With that P0408A engine, she's really a rocket – a sweetheart.”
Jim Stegman exudes the youthful zest of a squadron nugget. With a job like his, he'll never get old. He is the butt of some gray-haired humor, though. Returning from a recent flight, ground crewman facetiously climbed the boarding ladder to help their aging test pilot down from the cockpit. Stegman waved them away with a chuckle as the bright as the desert sun.
“Sooner or later there won't be any more A-4s,” someone said to Jim Stegman. “What then?”
“I try not think about that,” was his simple and somewhat painful reply.
News Article
Jim Stegman spends 3,000 hours in home away from home: an A-4.
A total of 180,000 minutes... 3,000hours...125 days...17 weeks...or four months. List it any way you want, it's still a long time to spend in the cockpit of just one airplane, but that's how long Lancaster resident Jim Stegman has been sitting at the controls of McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks coming off the Palmdale's Plant 42.
Stegman, 56, is the chief production test pilot for McDonnell Douglas there, and has test flown nearly every one of the 2,523 Skyhawks turned out by local assemblers since the A-4 program was shifted to Antelope Valley from El Segundo in 1958.
The short husky pilot, veteran of aerial combat with the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II and in Korea, joined Douglas Aircraft Co. in 1955, just a year after the Skyhawk was first flown and a year before it went in production at El Segundo. Stegman has flown that first A-4 and test few many of those first 342 Skyhawks built at the El Segundo plant before ht and the entire A-4 program were shifted to Antelope Valley 18 years ago.
Engine Failure. “It's one hell-'uv-a-good airplane,” Stegman said after completing his 3,000th hour in A-4s this past week. “I've had just about everything happen to me in it that could happen these past 18 years – including engine failure... but it's always brought me back.”
Stegman's job is to test fly each A-4 for the company after it's built to make sure it's in perfect flying condition before being handed over to U.S. Navy pilots to be ferried away to Navy units, the Marine Corps,or the five foreign nations now flying the nimble, but rugged Skyhawks.
Stegman says his 3,000 hours of production test flying represents 3,180 A-4 flights. On each flight, usually about an hour long, every system aboard the aircraft is operated or checked. The aircraft is then turned over to ground crews again to recheck or repair any discrepancy, regardless of how minute. By the time an A-4 leaves Palmdale, he says, it has been flown at least four times and Stegman says he's made as many as three flights a day.
Stegman and his wife, Elinor, line in Lancaster and are the parents of five children; daughters Victoria Rasmussen, Lancaster, Peggy Boudreau, Oregon, Diane Gilligan, Big Bear, and Jean, of Lancaster, and son, John, also of Lancaster. The Stegmans also have seven grandchildren.
By Don Haley, VP Aerospace Writer

Korea F9F "TINS"

F9F Panther: James Stegman was on a mission in North Korea. His load of bombs would not drop due to an electrical problem. Due to the heavy load of bombs going back to base, he fuel consumption turned critical. He went out to sea to drop the bomb load by using his knee to hold in the release button, which finally worked for him. Then he was held in a traffic pattern until he could no longer wait due to his fuel state. He had to land immediately. A squadron was taking off just as he approached and he flew under them. The runway watch were setting off flares to let him know his landing gear was not down. Damage was minimal to the plane and Stegman was uninjured. This photo was taken of the cockpit to show the position of switches.

On Wed. July 15th at 9:20 AM we lost J.J. Stegman. This is the obituary from the "AV Press".
JAMES JOSEPH STEGMAN Was born Aug. 23, 1920, in Offerle, Kansas. His parents were Alexander and Frances Stegman. He was the 6th son of 18 children. In 1940, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a Private. As he worked up in rank to Sergeant, he also was sent to pilot school. He received his wings in 1943, and soon after that, married Elinor Allison in Golden, Colorado. A few months later, he was sent to the South Pacific for 14 months duty in World War II flying dive bombers. In 1951, he was recalled to active duty in Korea where he flew missions in jets for 10 months and attained the rank of Major. In 1955, he became a civilian and was hired by Douglas Aircraft. In 1958, they assigned him to Palmdale Plant 42 as Chief Production Test Pilot. He was there for 21 years until the last of the A4 Skyhawks was rolled out. He retired in 1982. He is preceded in death by his wife Elinor by only 3 months. He is survived by 3 of his brothers, Rev. Leonard Stegman, Dr. Carl Stegman and Harvey Stegman, 2 sisters Betty Quigley and Stellie Huelskamp. He is also survived by his son John Stegman (wife Barbara) and his daughters Vicki Wilson (husband Bill), Peggy Meyer, Diane Stegman and Jeanie Stegman, 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Elks Lodge #2516 local, Moose Lodge #1926, VFW #3000, American Legion #311 and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. His family is proud of his long accomplished life and will greatly miss him and Elinor and deeply appreciate the help of Hoffman Hospice. A visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., with a video at 6:30 p.m., Vigil Prayer Service starting at 7:15 p.m., Monday, July 20, 2009, at Halley- Olsen-Murphy, Lancaster. Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated 10 a.m., Tuesday, July 21, 2009, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Lancaster. Interment to follow at Good Shepherd Cemetery.

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