August 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 4 

Retiring pilot’s last Boeing hop was an important one

Charles Gebhardt standing in front of Australia’s Project Wedgetail 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraftWhen Boeing test pilot Charles Gebhardt took Australia’s Project Wedgetail 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft to the Puget Sound skies for the first time on May 20, it was his last flight—at least for Boeing—before he retired May 28.

Gebhardt, who has an engineering degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy, began his Boeing career in 1979 in Wichita, Kan., after 16 years in the Air Force.

“It’s always exciting to fly, because I get to see the sun, the open sky; and I feel so free,” said Gebhardt, who has flown the derivative airplanes C-40A, 737-700C, 757 special freighter, 767 AWACS, KC-135E and R, the 757 Flying Test Bed and Airborne Laser.

Gebhardt’s job has been to observe the handling characteristics of aircraft to make sure they fly the way the engineers say they should fly.

As a test pilot, he has taken copious notes, has compared the actual first flight experience with previous flight simulator experiences, and has discussed the details with the engineering team. He also has spent a lot of time working with the customer.

Gebhardt is now a designated engineering flight test pilot for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and will be working as a consultant. “But I enjoyed coming to work every day, and I loved flying for Boeing. So, having to retire was a bit of a disappointment to me.”

However, he joked, “My wife is happy, as she expects me to clean the house now.”

—Christine Lam


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