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Gone West: Robert B. Robinson Jr.

Set World Absolute Speed Record In 1961

Aero-News has learned Lt. Col. Robert B. Robinson Jr., a retired Marine Corp pilot who in 1961 flew faster than anyone ever had before, passed away last week after a bout with cancer. He was 81.

Robinson graduated from Navy flight training in 1943, and he served in WWII and in Korea. According to the Associated Press, he was one of the first Marine pilots to be checked out on jet aircraft.

On November 22, 1961, Robinson established a new absolute speed record when he flew a McDonnell F4H-1 (file photo, above) to an average speed of 1,606.505 mph at Edwards AFB, CA. The F4H-1 was the predecessor to the F-4 Phantom II fighter-interceptor.

Robinson's aircraft was the first twin-engine jet to set the record, having broken the previous record of 1,525.93 mph set December 15, 1959 by Maj. Joe Rogers in a single-engine F-106A Delta Dart (file photo, below.)

The record stood for four years, before it was broken by Col. Robert L. Stephens and Lt. Col. Daniel Andrea in a Lockheed YF-12A, forerunner to the SR-71 Blackbird, in the first certified flight above 2,000 mph. The current record of 2,193.16 mph was set by a SR-71A Blackbird in July 1978.

Robinson retired from the Marines in 1963, afterwards becoming a test pilot for McDonnell Aircraft. He was involved in the development program of the F-4 Phantom II.

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