Robert L. Riedenauer, 70, a test pilot who flew top-secret aircraft that were later used in military missions, died Monday at his Palmdale home after a long battle with cancer, his wife, Sharon, told the Associated Press.
A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Riedenauer spent his lengthy military career flying aircraft that were under development, including the high-flying U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes.
After leaving the Air Force, he worked for Lockheed Martin's renowned "Skunk Works" design unit. Riedenauer was one of Lockheed's principal test pilots during the initial flight tests of the F-117 stealth fighter. In 1982, he crashed during the first flight of the first production F-117. The injuries he suffered in the crash ended his flying career. The plane's remains are displayed at Lockheed Martin's Palmdale facility.
Born in Fresno on Aug. 2, 1936, Riedenauer earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University in 1967, then joined the Air Force. He flew 120 combat missions over Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1969.