George Holloman, Aviation Pioneer

George Holloman (center) poses with a plane he flight tested and two of the men who helped invent its revolutionary automatic landing system

On March 19, 1946, George Holloman, a pioneer in the field of aeronautical engineering and unmanned flight, died in a plane crash.

The Northampton County native developed a keen interest in radio early on. After graduating high school, Holloman went to work with the Marconi Company, later the Radio Corporation of America, developing radio designs. He returned to North Carolina and enrolled at what is now N.C. State University, earning a degree in electrical engineering. At State, Holloman joined the ROTC program, and after graduation her received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army and transferred to the Army Air Corps.

Holloman eventually became head of one of 11 Instrument and Navigation laboratories, overseeing the development of unmanned flight and automatic pilot and landing systems in that role. In 1937, he engineered and oversaw the first automatic landing of an airplane, flying in the machine as a passenger.

Four years later, with war clouds looming off in the distance, the Air Corps developed a new laboratory at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, called the Special Weapons Unit. Holloman was given command of the unit. At Special Weapons, he continued to oversee the development of automatic piloting systems, advanced bombsights and unmanned flying vehicles until his death.

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