Who flew the T-38 “Missing Man” formation at the Challenger Memorial service at JSC, 31 January 1986?

Who flew the T-38 “Missing Man” formation at the Challenger Memorial service at JSC, 31 January 1986?

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President Ronald Reagan at Memorial Service for Challenger Crew.
Photo courtesy of NASA

On January 31, 1986 I attended the memorial service at Johnson Space Center for the STS-51-L Challenger crew. I vividly recall the moment when President Reagan ended his remarks and a formation of NASA T-38 Jets flew over the assembly, with one pilot pulling back on the stick at just the right moment to scream straight up out of sight to form the Missing Man formation. There is a catch in my throat now just recalling the memory of that powerfully emotional moment.

Question: Who piloted the T-38's that day? I know it was members of the Astronaut Corps, but who? At the time, I knew. But I have since forgotten, and I have been unable to identify the pilots so far, having searched the following sources:

  • Wiki Challenger Disaster article;
  • NY Times archived article on the memorial service, 1 Feb 1986;
  • NASA's Challenger STS 51-L Accident Resource Page;
  • Space Shuttle Memorial;

No luck so far. This may not have great historical significance for many. I understand that. For me, it's personal.

NASA T-38's performing Missing Man Formation.
Photo courtesy of NASA

This isn't an answer, but a proposed route to one.

Your linked article, NASA T38 Jets has a name at the bottom of it - Stephen Siceloff

When you dig into the "Contact NASA" pages, you run into an Employee lookup for the John F Kennedy Space Center and you can see that Mr Siceloff still works there:

JFK Space Center Directory Lookup

Which contains his contact information. He seems like a nice guy, so try here first.


Subsequent to following the suggested lead by Snow's Answer (@Snow deserves credit for this) I have been personally provided the following information by Colin A. Fries, archivist at NASA's HQ History Division…

The pilots of the T-38 missing man flyover for the January 31, 1986 memorial service for the STS-51-L Challenger crew were Johnson Space Center research pilots (located at Ellington Field, TX) as follows (crews listed as Pilot / Back Seat, by formation position, top-down):

(1) David L. Mumme / Charles Hayes;
(2) Kenneth J. Baker / Stephen J. Feaster;
(3) Joe Tanner / Pete Stanley (pulls up for MM);
(4) Charles R. Justiz / Al Gews

See archival document sent to me below:

Watch the video: President Bush Funeral 21 Airplane Missing Man Formation Flyover (July 2022).


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