Herbert R. Henderson

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NEWPORT NEWS - Herbert R. Henderson, 85, passed away Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at his home in Newport News. He was born on July 19, 1928 in Bryson City, North Carolina, the son of Edwin T. and Ollie L. Henderson. The family moved to Newport News, VA in 1943. He attended Newport News High School graduating in 1947 and joined NACA Langley Research Center and the U.S. Naval Reserves. He served as a seaman on the U.S.S. Missouri until 1947. He then accomplished two special events in his life, he married his high school sweetheart Callie Lou Royal and he joined the Air Force Reserves. Shortly after, he was called to active duty in 1951 during the Korean War and was assigned to Langley AFB as a radar landing control technician. He received an honorable discharge in 1953 and returned to NACA where he pursued his studies in electronics at the College of William and Mary Technical Institute and graduated in 1961. Since that time, he took numerous short courses and seminars in a variety of technical subjects concerning instrumentation, basic acoustics and noise control. Mr. Henderson was employed by NACA/NASA for 37 years with his beginnings in the Instrument Research Division, then as a researcher in the Noise Control Branch of the Acoustics Division and concluding his service in the Field Experimentation Branch of the Atmospheric Sciences Division. He specialized in instrumentation research, aircraft noise and sonic boom flight-testing and the development in state-of-the-art measurements, communications and program management associated with field tests and flight experiments on subsonic and supersonic aircraft and large spacecraft vehicles. During hisNACA/NASA career, he was recipient of five NASA Group Achievement Awards, a NASA Special Achievement Award, the Apollo Achievement Award and numerous Outstanding Achievement Awards. He authored and co-authored over 60 technical reports relating to CTOL and STOL aircraft, helicopter noise and sonic booms associated with aircraft, such as the B-58 Hustler, XB-70 Valyerie and SR-71 Blackbird and also space vehicles including Saturn-Apollo, Skylab and the Space Shuttle. Following his retirement from NACA/NASA in 1984, he was employed by the Bionetics Corporation of Hampton as their Sonic Boom Program Director on Shuttle missions. In 1988, he joined Eagle Engineering, Inc. as part of the Noise and Sonic Boom Measurement Team. He continued in this role with Eagle Aeronautics, Inc. of Hampton. During his distinguished career of over 60 years, Mr. Henderson was involved in essentially all the major aircraft NASA noise and sonic boom programs from the U.S. Supersonic Transport effort in the mid-1960's to the Saturn-Apollo, Skylab and concluding with the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. In all of the later Space vehicle programs, he served as Project Manager on sonic boom measurements during NASA's Lunar Landing Missions, on Apollo 15, 16 and 17, Skylab 1, 2 and 4 missions and on 26 Space Shuttle missions acquiring boom data during the launch-ascent and reentry to landing phases of flight. In all of these programs, sonic boom data acquisition was 100 percent successful. This was due, in large part, to Mr. Henderson's wealth of experience and expertise in obtaining this one-of-a-kind type of data under adverse operating conditions at sea and on land, in remote locations and with a limited budget and priority. Not so well recognized is his contribution to the two key areas of communication and measurement systems that permitted success in all of these field measurements programs. His first major contribution occurred during the U.S. SST sonic boom measurement activities of the 1960's. Because functional and dependable long-range ground-to-ground radio communications, critical to the success of the program, were not available, Mr. Henderson, working with the Motorola Corporation, developed a reliable, functional, dependable and low-cost FM system for use in theses field programs. Most of this technology made its way into today's cell phone industry. Mr. Henderson's second major contribution came during the early phases of sonic boom flight-testing in the 1960's. The existing measurement systems that could capture and fully define sonic boom signatures did not exist and usually required a dual system; one which for the low frequency and one for the high end. He led the effort to develop a measurement system that would faithfully capture boom signature working with the Photocon Research Corporation of Los Angeles, CA. The resulting analog system served as the national standard for boom measurements for almost a quarter of a century for all aircraft and spacecraft boom measurements and set the requirement for today's digital systems. Mr. Henderson enjoyed sports, especially target shooting and varmint hunting. He was a life member of the NRA and a charter member of the Lafayette Gun Club of Virginia, joining in 1950. He was also active in the development of firearms, rifles and ammunition with the likes of firearms legends including Roy Weatherby, William Ruger and Phillip B. Sharpe. He was very active in the Peninsula Boy Scouts of America, serving as Committee Chairman to Troop 14, Western District Commissioner along with other committees of the Peninsula Council for the Boy Scouts of America. He was a faithful, committed and active member of Hilton Baptist Church for over 35 years where he was a life deacon, member of the Tribble Bible Class and he chaired numerous committees. Mr. Henderson is preceded in death by his parents and wife Callie L. Henderson. He is survived by two sons, Herbert E. and Thomas and one daughter, Mary and her husband Eddie Lemon of Gloucester, Virginia, three grandchildren, Ryan Henderson of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Rachel Sweat and Joseph Martin of Gloucester, Virginia and four great-grandchildren, Kaleb and Khloe Sweat, Kailey Lochridge and Jemma Sweat-Washington, and many loved nieces and nephews. He will be greatly missed by his family and many friends. The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on Monday, December 30, 2013 at Parklawn-Wood Funeral Home. A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at Hilton Baptist Church with the Reverend Lynwood Wells officiating and assisted by Reverend Clarence Hilling. Interment will follow at Parklawn Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hilton Baptist Church building fund. Friends are encouraged to visit www.parklawn-woodfh.com to share memories and words of condolence with the family. Arrangements are under the care of Parklawn-Wood Funeral Home, 2551 N. Armistead Ave. in Hampton, 23666.
Published in Daily Press on Dec. 29, 2013
1958 Herbert Robinson Henderson
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