Who Was Charlie Bock?

An unsung combat and test pilot flies west.

Charlie Bock sitting in a jet
During his career he flew more than 100 types of airplanes and accumulated more than 10,000 flight hours.Iowa Aviation Museum

The aviation community has lost another exceptional aviator in Col. Charles C. “Charlie” Bock, who had a distinguished career as a combat pilot and flight test pilot, participating in the testing of several historically significant airplanes.

Born on November 24, 1925, Bock started down the aviation path through the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program in 1943. He trained in the P-38 and B-29 but never saw combat in World War II. However, he flew 51 combat missions in the Korean War and 52 missions in Vietnam.

B-1 Lancer
Charlie Bock was the first pilot to fly the extraordinary B-1 Lancer.U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman James Richardson

After his service in those wars, Bock graduated from Purdue University as an aeronautical engineer and became a test pilot for the United States Air Force. He flew the first B-58 Hustler, known as the first supersonic bomber, that Convair delivered from its factory in Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base in California. Other notable accomplishments include his participation as the launch pilot for the X-2 (the first airplane to exceed Mach 3) and X-15 (the fastest airplane ever recorded at Mach 6.7), flying the B-50 and B-52 respectively.

As the development of the SR-71 Blackbird begun with the YF-12, Bock became the Operational Officer for the YF-12/SR-71 Test Force at the Air Force Flight Test Center, a program designed to help Lockheed expand the operating envelope of the Blackbird. After retiring from the Air Force in the early 1970s, Bock moved on to become the chief pilot of Rockwell International’s B-1 Lancer project and he became the first to fly the bomber in 1974. He retired from Rockwell in the early 1980s and moved on to become a consultant during the development of Northrop Corporation’s B-2 Stealth Bomber.

During his distinguished career, Bock flew more than 100 different types of aircraft and logged more than 10,000 flight hours. He received several military awards, including the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and six Air Medals. He was inducted into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame in August 2016. Bock passed away on August 21, 2019.