Dale Myers was pioneer in American aviation

DOWNEY – Dale Dehaven Myers died on Tuesday, May 19, at the age of 93 in La Costa, Calif.

Dale was born in Kansas City, Mo., on Jan. 8, 1922. His father was a physician and encouraged Dale to become a physician as well. However, Dale's boyhood hero was Charles Lindbergh, the aviator famous for crossing the Atlantic by aircraft.

At the age of 5, Dale's father pushed him through a crowd so he could shake Lindbergh's hand. His love of airplanes and aerodynamics was solidified and his fate was sealed. As he later recalled, "That did it. That did it."

Between 1939 and 1940, Dale attended Kansas City Junior College. He earned his way through the University of Washington by working at the wind tunnel and graduated in 1943 with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering. It was at the University of Washington that Dale met his sweetheart of 66 years, Marjorie Baker Williams. They were married in 1943 and moved to Southern California where he began a career in aerodynamics, space and leadership.

In the mid-1940's, he was involved in the development of various aircraft for Project Aerodynamicist, including the North American F-82 Twin Mustang. From 1946 until 1957, he worked in missile development, later being selected as vice-president and weapons systems manager.

He lost his eye in an automobile accident yet that did not stop him from being a car enthusiast, whether it was refurbishing a classic Ford Model A or owning an iconic '69 Porsche 911.

In 1963, Dale worked for what had become Rockwell International, and the following year he began to contract work for NASA's space program. From 1964, he was the Program Manager of the Apollo program's Command/ Service Module Program. After a fire destroyed Apollo 1 in 1967, much of the program's management was discharged; Dale, however, was retained.

Soon after he had been a key member of the team that successfully landed Apollo 11 on the moon, Dale joined the Space Shuttle program in 1969. Dale would always describe his work with Apollo as a highlight of his career.

In 1970, Dale was promoted to Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight at NASA. In this role, he had responsibility for the planning, direction, execution and evaluation of NASA's Manned Space Flight Program. He directed and had oversight of the Apollo Program of Lunar Exploration, the new Skylab Space Station Program, the new Space Shuttle Program, Cape Kennedy, Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Alabama, and Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas.

During his four-year tenure, NASA nearly lost and then rescued a stricken spacecraft, the mission profiled in Ron Howard's 1995 film, "Apollo 13." His teams also sent four more missions to the moon and launched Skylab, America's first space station. NASA also orchestrated the meeting of US and Russian astronauts in space with the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

During this time he earned three NASA Distinguished Service Medals, one in 1971 for his work on the Apollo program, one in 1974 for his work on Skylab and the Shuttle, and the third in 1974 for his work towards manned spaceflight. In 1970, he also received an honorary doctorate from Whitworth College. Dale was a former president of the National Academy of Engineering.

He returned to Rockwell, serving as its vice president; during this period he also served as president of North American Aircraft Group, during which time the company developed the Rockwell B-1 Lancer. Dale served as Under Secretary at the Department of Energy from 1977 - 1979. For five years, from 1979 to 1984, Dale served as president and COO of Jacobs Engineering Group.

After 1984, he became a private consultant, operating his own company known as Dale D. Myers & Associates Aerospace and Energy. On Oct 6, 1986, 11 months after the Challenger disaster, Dale was selected as Deputy Administrator of NASA. Dale was initially unwilling to accept the position, but a telephone call from the "persuasive" president Ronald Reagan proved convincing.

Dale was tasked with helping the agency recoup and continue the Space Shuttle program; in a Senate hearing, Dale argued that the agency had lost its "hands-on, loving care" and that the checks and balances system had "gone soft." He resigned effective May 13, 1989, having served as acting Administrator in place of James C. Fletcher for almost a month.

NASA historian Roger Launius has credited Dale with returning a sense of optimism to the agency following the disaster. After leaving NASA, Dale returned to private consulting and became a director and technical advisor for Kistler Aerospace, a venture to operate private cargo and passenger space flights.

As they moved throughout his career (Fullerton, Pasadena, Leucadia and Arlington, VA, to name a few), they met and befriended presidents, astronauts, cosmonauts, movie stars, and Supreme Court justices.

Dale and Marge retired in La Costa, Calif., near their two grown daughters. He continued to speak publicly about the space program, including testifying before Congress in 2003.

Dale is survived by daughter Janet and her husband Mike; daughter Barbara; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be scheduled for Aug. 23 at the Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the: Dale and Marjorie Myers Scholarship in Aeronautics & Astronautics at the University of Washington Foundation, Box 359505, Seattle, WA 98195 or at uw.edu/giving, or the San Diego Air and Space Museum.