Alvin S. White, 87; Longtime Test Pilot

From Times Staff Reports

Alvin S. White, an experimental test pilot and World War II veteran, died after a brief illness Saturday at a hospital near his home in Oro Valley, Ariz., his daughter Leslie Hester said. He was 87.

White survived a midair collision June 8, 1966, while flying the XB-70, North American Aviation’s experimental supersonic bomber, during a publicity flight over the Mojave Desert. White ejected from the plane and suffered serious injuries, but the co-pilot, Air Force Maj. Carl Cross, died when his ejection seat malfunctioned. Also killed in the crash was NASA pilot Joseph A. Walker, who was flying an F-104N chase plane.

Born Dec. 9, 1918, in Berkeley, White began flying with the Civilian Pilot Training Program, earning his pilot’s license in 1940. During World War II he flew bomber escort missions over Europe.

White graduated from UC Berkeley in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and became a test pilot for the Air Force and then North American Aviation. He left North American in late 1966 for a position in research and development with TWA and became an independent consultant in 1969.


His survivors include his wife, Betty, of Tucson; son Stephen of Sacramento; daughters Cathie Deisher of Fleetwood, Pa., and Leslie Hester of North East, Md.; stepdaughters Karen Tomsett of Seattle and Kimberly Aurand of Spokane, Wash.; stepson Edward Tomsett of Tucson; four grandchildren; and a brother, Harold H. White Jr. of Auburn, Calif.