On December 3rd, 2022, Ken Chilstrom passed away at the age of 101 at The Fairfax, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He will be remembered for his life of service, informed by his Christian faith, to his country, his beloved family, and his many devoted friends. From his boyhood home in Elmhurst, Illinois, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939 immediately upon finishing high school. Trained first as an airplane mechanic, his dream and passion for flying began to be fulfilled through the Aviation Cadet Training Program in 1942, which made him an officer and gave him his wings.
In 1943, Ken flew fighters over North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. On completing 80 combat missions, he returned to the states to become a test pilot at Wright Field, where he ultimately flew close to 200 different types and models of aircraft. In 1946, Ken became Chief of the Fighter Test Section and in 1949, Commandant of the USAF Test Pilot School. His aviation accomplishments included the first jet air races, first jet air mail, becoming the first USAF pilot to test the XP-86 Sabre jet, an exchange with the Navy flying from a carrier, and a test pilot exchange with the Royal Air Force.
At "Old Wright Field” he met and married the love of his life, Mary Ruth –a storybook marriage of 57 years until her death in 2006. Ken retired from the Air Force as a colonel with 25 years of service and then worked in the aviation and aerospace industry for as many more years. He is survived by his two sons, Glen and John Scott, daughter Carol, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.