Thomas Byrdsong joined the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), NASA’s predecessor agency, in 1953 after graduating from the University of Michigan with degrees in aeronautical engineering and mathematics. Prior to earning his degree, Byrdsong served in World War II with the first group of black men admitted into the Marine Corps, the Montford Point Marines. He served from 1943 to 1946, attaining the rank of corporal.
Byrdsong’s experience at NASA was not limited to the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. He also worked in the Landing Loads Track. The LLT studies contributed critical information for beneficial applications within the general public such as tire performance, hydroplaning, and grooving for improved traction. Later he transitioned from the Landing Loads Track to the Drones for Aerodynamic and Structural Testing program where high-risk flight experiments were conducted using a ground-controlled, pilotless aircraft.
Thomas retired from NASA in 1992 with 39 years of service. He passed away on Oct. 3, 2014, in Newport News, Virginia.