United States of America
1934 - 2015
Blake was born on September 9, 1934 and grew up in Queens, New York where he graduated from Stuyvesant High School. He received a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1956 and an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1957 where he studied under Prof. René Miller. Blake joined the Vertol Aircraft Company (soon acquired by Boeing) as a Dynamics Engineer in 1957. He rose through the ranks, serving as Chief of Flying Qualities, V-22 Technology Manager, and Director of Research and Technology.
Blake was involved in the development of nearly every Boeing rotorcraft developed before he retired in 1997, including the CH-46 Sea Knight, CH-47 Chinook, YUH-61A UTTAS, Bo 105/Executaire, V-22 Osprey, Model 360, and RAH-66 Comanche. He played major roles in several pioneering flight control programs including the CH-47B Tactical Aircraft Guidance System (1st helicopter to demonstrate digital fly-by-wire controls), the Model 347 HLH Demonstrator (1st fly-by-wire helicopter with no mechanical backup) and the JUH-60A Advanced Digital Optical Control System. After his retirement from Boeing, he remained active in the aerospace community, serving as a volunteer at the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center and as a member of the NASA-led V-22 Aeromechanics, Panel convened in 2001 by the Navy following the Osprey’s accident in 2000 at Marana, Arizona.
Blake had many wonderful stories of his time at Boeing. This one is his family’s favorite: Blake was the test engineer on board the July 1961 ground test of the YHC-1B (Chinook prototype) that was nearly destroyed after a rotor desynchronization. He credits test pilot Len LaVassar for saving his life by stopping the engines shortly after startup, when he noticed Blake was not wearing a crash helmet. After donning a helmet, the test resumed and during the de-synch the forward rotor penetrated the fuselage and struck him in the head, knocking him over. He was hospitalized but not seriously injured. The owner of the helmet complained that it was broken on its return.
Blake joined the Society in 1964 and became a lifetime member in 1994. He was a longtime member of the Handling Qualities Technical Committee and served on the Technical Council in the late 1990s. He was a member of the Boeing Simulation Lab team that won the Society's Grover Bell Award in 1983, was named a Technical Fellow in 1992, and was selected for the Alexander Nikolsky Honorary Lectureship in 1997 for his pioneering work in rotorcraft flight control. His Nikolsky lecture was "Flying Qualities and Flight Control." He was particularly fond of this last award since two of his mentors as a young engineer were prior recipients: Prof. Bob Loewy (1984) and Ken Grina (1993). Blake was also a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the AGARD Flight Mechanics Panel.
Bruce B. Blake passed away on June 15, 2015.
AHS Update: Vertiflite September/October 2015