William I. Scallion

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[top] In The News

Daily Press: April 10, 2006|By JIM HODGES, jhodges@dailypress.com l 247-4633

HAMPTON — Calling it quits is unlikely for this aeronautical pioneer, who's been at Langley for 57 years.

On April 4, Bill Scallion celebrated his 57th anniversary at NASA Langley Research Center by taking a break from work on the Mars Science Laboratory to reminisce... More.


NASA's 50 Year Men and Women: BILL SCALLION

By Kathy Barnstorff

Poker face: Bill Scallion’s poker games with Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton were a fun diversion from his work organizing Mercury spaceflight practice runs.

His resume spans six-and-a-half decades and reads like a chronicle of NASA research, but Bill Scallion refuses to dwell in the past. Instead he is working to make the 2009 Mars Science Lander mission a success. The Arkansas native who grew up in Mississippi began his career as a cross between an artist and an engineer. After graduating from high school in 1941, he worked in Panama as a draftsman/engineering aide for the Panama Canal-Panama Railroad Company.

World War II helped shape Scallion’s fascination with aviation. He served in the U.S Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1945, graduating from military flight school with single-engine and instrument flight ratings. At war's end, he went to Auburn University, Ala., on the G.I. Bill. With a degree in aeronautical engineering, he joined NACA’s Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1949.

At Langley, Scallion worked as a test engineer on helicopters in the facilities’ Full-Scale Tunnel. He also helped test models of high-speed submarines and generic airplane models, providing design data to manufacturers who were working out the challenges of breaking the sound barrier. With NASA’s formation, Scallion was assigned to the Space Task Group, Project Mercury, working on simulations and practice runs before the first human spaceflights. “We simulated worldwide orbital ground stations, simulated a four-orbit mission real-time. It takes four-and-a-half hours to do that,” said Scallion. “It’s like putting together a TV show. You’re producing something. You have to write scripts and send them out.”

The lead “actors” in those scripts were the original Mercury 7 astronauts. “I worked with all those seven astronauts, knew them all personally, played poker on the airplane with Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton,” reminisced Scallion. “The rest got into F-102s and flew down to the Cape, but they’d get on the airplane with us out here at base operations, because they knew we had a poker game going. It was fun playing with them. Wally Schirra was one of the most personable people I ever met.”

Working on the space side, Scallion collected data on everything from re-entry radiation heating to space shuttle wind tunnel tests. He is particularly proud of a space shuttle bailout study. “We had a big three percent model of the shuttle orbiter and put an exit door in it,” he said. “We modeled little men and scaled them in mass and inertias, so they came out and behaved just like the real ones would. During wind tunnel tests, we took more than 12,000 feet of film. I sat down for several months and read that film because I wanted to know how fast you had to come out of there to make it. You know that bar that comes out of the shuttle door that they can bail out on … that was developed based on what we did. I feel real good about that, that the shuttles are flying with that.”

Scallion returned to help the shuttle program after the Challenger and Columbia accidents. But most of his research efforts in recent decades have been spent on X-vehicles, such as the X-33, the X-37 and the X-43. “I like to work problems,” he said. “No doubt about that. It’s been very interesting.”

[top] Obituary

William I. Scallion, 89, died Friday, March 22, 2013. He was born in Arkansas and raised in Mississippi and was a longtime Hampton resident.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Wilma Smith. He is survived by his beloved wife of 68 years, Helen B. Scallion; brother, Henry M. Smith of Kansas; two sons and their spouses, Dan and Delia Scallion, Steve and Vickie Scallion and their two daughters, Kelly Hazelwood and her husband, Riley Hazelwood, Casey Scallion and her daughter, Annabelle Grace Dillon.

Bill began his career after high school as a draftsman for the Panama Canal-Panama Railroad Company. He served in the Army Air Force from 1943-1945, graduating from military flight school with single engine and instrument flight ratings. After the war, he received a degree in aeronautical engineering from Auburn University and in 1949 began work at NACA and later NASA as an engineer where he worked on many projects during a career that spanned over 50 years. Early in his career he was assigned to Space Task Group, Project Mercury where he met and worked with all of the original 7 Mercury astronauts (my dad in an interview) " I worked with all those seven astronauts, knew them personally, played poker on the airplane with Wally Shirra and Deke Slayton, the rest got into F-102's and flew down to the Cape, but they'd get on the airplane with us out here at base operations because they knew we had a poker game going. It was fun playing with them. Wally Shirra was one of the most personable people I ever met."

He was an unassuming man of honesty and integrity who could be counted on, and often was, he will be missed and thought of often.

A simple visitation will be held at the Mausoleum Chapel 11:00 AM on Saturday, March 30, 2013 in Parklawn Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers a memorial donation may be made to the Salvation Army.

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., Hampton, VA 23666.

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