The Rockford Register-Republic newspaper carried the headline in January 1945: "Aboard a Flying Fortress which appeared a flaming torch, spewing gasoline from its load of 15,000 gallons and trailing fire like a comet, a bomber crew which included LtCol Fred J. Ascani, Rockford pilot, continued its run over a Ploesti oil field target and came through safely. . . " This was only one of 53 WWII missions flown by the talented aviator and reported by American newspapers. Truth be told, Ascani's contributions to the development of airpower would be covered extensively by the media right up until he retired from the United States Air Force in 1973. History would remember MGen Ascani, not only as the 1951 World Speed Record Holder, but also as a tough and demanding task master, who recognized the dangers of emerging aviation technology. He was a devoted flyer who wanted to experience the thrill of every new engine and airframe designed to free man from the bonds of earth. He would contribute to the "Golden Age of Flight Test," develop the process by which the fledging USAF would turn experiments into combat system and then go on to direct the XB-70 program, technology later used to build the world's first reusable space craft: the space shuttle. By the time he retired from the USAF in 1973, he had logged some 6288 hours of flying time in an incredibly unique variety of aircraft. Mentor Inbound is his story as told to and recorded by Sheryl Hutchison.
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For more than 20 years, Sheryl Hutchison was surrounded by aviation history as she served on active duty with the USAF. When she became a squadron commander at Edwards AFB, California, in July 2000, then-Major Hutchison was given Fred Ascani's email address in the hope that he could provide her with eyewitness accounts of how base historic sites used to look in the 1940's. Over the course of months of electronic correspondence, Fred described his past as a retired USAF Major General and holder of the 1951 World Speed Record. Sheryl's friendly pen pal became a treasured living, breathing icon of aviation heritage who could answer questions about each sortie he flew over Germany during WWII. He could also explain why some weapon systems succeeded and were successfully fielded while others died as prototypes. MGen Ascani was also helpful in preparing Sheryl for the eventual transition into civilian employment when she retired from active duty. This authorized biography was written partly out of gratitude for MGen Ascani's sage advice and partly as a gift to future generations of airmen who deserve to hear the stuff legends are made of.
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