enter image description here
President Ronald Reagan at Memorial Service for Challenger Crew.
Photo courtesy of NASA

On January 31, 1986 I attended the memorial service at Johnson Space Center for the STS-51-L Challenger crew. I vividly recall the moment when President Reagan ended his remarks and a formation of NASA T-38 Jets flew over the assembly, with one pilot pulling back on the stick at just the right moment to scream straight up out of sight to form the Missing Man formation. There is a catch in my throat now just recalling the memory of that powerfully emotional moment.

Question: Who piloted the T-38's that day? I know it was members of the Astronaut Corps, but who? At the time, I knew. But I have since forgotten, and I have been unable to identify the pilots so far, having searched the following sources:

No luck so far. This may not have great historical significance for many. I understand that. For me, it's personal.

enter image description here
NASA T-38's performing Missing Man Formation.
Photo courtesy of NASA

  • 1
    Nice question, and researched too. – Lars Bosteen Nov 8 '18 at 2:55

This isn't an answer, but a proposed route to one.

Your linked article, NASA T38 Jets has a name at the bottom of it - Stephen Siceloff

When you dig into the "Contact NASA" pages, you run into an Employee lookup for the John F Kennedy Space Center and you can see that Mr Siceloff still works there:

JFK Space Center Directory Lookup

Which contains his contact information. He seems like a nice guy, so try here first.

  • 1
    Fantastic info - I will do so! – Kerry L Nov 8 '18 at 15:28
  • 1
    @KerryL It does seem somewhat odd to have contact details so freely available, but you might get lucky. I hope that you get somewhere with this. – user22859 Nov 8 '18 at 15:38
  • Good news! Mr. Siceloff responded quickly and confirmed it was indeed a formation of NASA T-38's in the fly-over. He will try to help me identify the pilots. As such, I am going to accept this Answer - thanks again for the great find and suggestion. – Kerry L Nov 9 '18 at 16:43
  • 1
    @LangLangC - Yes, I will do so with an update to the Q or add my own brief Answer – Kerry L Nov 9 '18 at 16:52
  • 1
    @LangLangC - done! – Kerry L Nov 9 '18 at 19:11


Subsequent to following the suggested lead by Snow's Answer (@Snow deserves credit for this) I have been personally provided the following information by Colin A. Fries, archivist at NASA’s HQ History Division...

The pilots of the T-38 missing man flyover for the January 31, 1986 memorial service for the STS-51-L Challenger crew were Johnson Space Center research pilots (located at Ellington Field, TX) as follows (crews listed as Pilot / Back Seat, by formation position, top-down):

(1) David L. Mumme / Charles Hayes;
(2) Kenneth J. Baker / Stephen J. Feaster;
(3) Joe Tanner / Pete Stanley (pulls up for MM);
(4) Charles R. Justiz / Al Gews

See archival document sent to me below:

T-38 Pilots for Memorial Service

  • 6
    I'm really pleased that this lead came through with the right information for you. I'm doubly pleased to see how helpful NASA themselves have been! – user22859 Nov 9 '18 at 19:25
  • 3
    If you want to take this a step further and thank some of the pilots, you might find their contact details in the same directory search - there's a Pete Stanley listed there. Might not be the same one, but could be worth a shot – user22859 Nov 9 '18 at 19:35
  • 4
    I encourage you to accept your own answer here. This will help ensure that it is listed first for future readers. – Pieter Geerkens Nov 10 '18 at 10:00
  • 3
    @KerryL: He is receiving up-votes from others (and presumably you as well), to keep up with your post. – Pieter Geerkens Nov 10 '18 at 15:25
  • 2
    @KerryL Don’t worry about the technicalities here. I’m glad on a personal level that my advice helped you (although I’m sure you would have got there anyway). It’s rare to get this kind of personal satisfaction out of any answer, thank you for asking the question! – user22859 Nov 10 '18 at 19:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.