Don Lopez (1923-2008)

World War II ace, test pilot, engineer, historian, Deputy Director of the National Air and Space Museum—in his 84 years this legendary aviator did it all.

Captain Donald S. Lopez, jet pilot with the Far East Air Forces 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing in Korea, watches his Lockheed F-86 "Sabre" in the final stages of refueling and rearming in December 1950. (U.S. Air Force, courtesy National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

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Readers who would like to share their own thoughts or memories of Don Lopez can visit the  National Air and Space Museum tribute page.

Lopez wrote two books about his flying experiences: Into the Teeth of the Tiger (Bantam, 1986) and Fighter Pilot's Heaven: Flight Testing the Early Jets (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995).

He also wrote The National Air and Space Museum: A Visit in Pictures (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989) and a children's book about flying.

Associations and Awards
Lopez was a member of the American Fighter Aces Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. In 1995, the National Aeronautic Association named him an Elder Statesman of Aviation, and in 1999 he was presented the Federal Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Leadership Award.

Lopez seemed especially thrilled when the Air Force Association gave him the Gill Robb Wilson Award in 2007 for his work as a writer. The award, presented by the president of the AFA, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Chief of Staff, is given for accomplishments in arts and letters. "I never thought of myself as a writer, really," he said with typical modesty.

Lopez was also honored in 2007 as one of the living legends at the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends at Rickenbacker Field in Columbus, Ohio.

Military Honors
Silver Star
Distinguished Flying Cross with One Oak leaf Cluster
Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters
Soldier's Medal
Chinese Breast Order of Yun Hui

Aircraft Flown by Don Lopez
Beech C-45 (Twin Beech) Expeditor
Bell P-39 Airacobra
Bell P-63 Kingcobra
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Beech Bonanza
Curtiss C-46 Commando
Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Douglas A-24 (SBD) Dauntless
Douglas B-26/A-26 Invader
Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Fairchild PT-19
Grumman F8F Bearcat
Lockheed P-38 Lightning
Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star
Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star
Martin B-26 Marauder
North American B-25 Mitchell
North American F-86 Sabre
North American P-51C Mustang
North American P-51D Mustang
North American SNJ-6 Texan
Northrop T-38 Talon
Piper J-3 Cub
Piper PA-18 Super Cub
Pitts Special
Republic F-84 Thunderjet
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
Stearman PT-17
Vultee BT-13 Valiant

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