Colonel Joseph William Kittinger, Jr. - US Air Force(Retired)- Altamonte Springs, FL

Education and Training:

  • The Bolles Schoo], Jacksonville, FL, 1943 – 1946 University of Florida, 1946-1948
  • USAF Aviation Cadet Program, 1949 – 1950 -Includes completion of USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (jet)
  • Associated training for flight crew personnel (e.g., Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), Water Survival, Physiology, etc.)
  • Military Parachutist Training
  • Undergraduate Training/ Replacement Training Unit/ Formal Training Unit syllabi for the following USAF aircraft (not all inclusive):
  1. T-6 Texan
  2. T-33 Shooting Star
  3. F-51 Mustang
  4. F-84 Thunderjet
  5. F-84 Thunderstreak
  6. F-86 Sabre
  7. F-100 Super Sabre
  8. F-101 Voodoo
  9. F-102 Delta Dagger
  10. F-104 Starfighter
  11. F-106 Delta Dari
  12. T-28 Trojan
  13. A-26 Invader/B-26K Counter-Invader
  14. T-38 Talon
  15. F-4 Phantom II
  • Pre-USAF Squadron Command Track Training, 1970¬†
  • Tulane University, 1973 – 1974
  • Completed BS degree concurrent with attendance at USAF Air War College
  • USAF Air War College, 1973 – 1974
  • Aviation Cadet, U.S. Air Force, 1949 – 1950

  • Undergraduate Student, University of Florida, 1946 – 1948

Professional Employment History:

Commissioned Officer/ Fighter Pilot, U.S. Air Force, 1950 -1978 

  • Multiple duty stations in the United States, Europe, and Asia
  • Combat flying unit assignments in fighter and special operations / attack aircraft, peacetime and wartime
  • Three (3) combat flying assignments, based in Vietnam and Thailand
  • 7,679 military flight hours; 948 combat flight hours/ 483 combat missions
  • Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) flight assignments
  • Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) flight assignments
  • Aircraft Commander and Mission Pilot,  1st Air Commando Wing / 1st Special Operations Wing as a Major
    • combat deployments, Southeast Asia
  • Commander, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron as a Lieutenant Colonel
    • combat deployment, Southeast Asia
    • aerial victory versus a Vietnam People’s Air Force MiG-21
    • shot down; taken as a Prisoner of War
    • Prisoner of War, H0a LO Prison, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1972 – 197
    • Repatriated 1973
    • Graduate, USAF Air War College
    • Vice Commander, 48th Tactical Fighter Wing as a Colonel
    • Retired in the rank of Colonel (0-6)
    • Aeronautical Rating of Command Pilot
    • Additional qualification as Master Parachutist

Systems Engineer, Martin Marietta Corporation, Orlando, FL, 1978 -1983

  • Predecessor company to present day Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control of Lockheed Martin Corporation

Vice President of Flight Operations, Rosie O’Grady’s Flying Circus, 1979 – 2000

  • Rosie O’Grady’s Church Street Station entertainment complex, Orlando, FL o Part time, 1979 – 1983; full time 1983 – 2000

Aviation and Aerospace Consultant, Orlando and Altamonte Springs, FL, 1978 – 2022

  • Includes Senior Technical Advisor and Capsule Communicator, Red Bull Stratos project, 2007 – 2012

Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:

Tireless advocacy in support of all military veterans, but especially those of the Vietnam War. Specific examples include:

  • Member/Founder, Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association e’River Rats”) – In coordination with its Air Warrior Courage Foundation (AWCF), the River Rats routinely establish IRS 529 College Savings Plans for surviving children of any U.S. military aircrew member killed in a military aircraft mishap or combat loss
  • Each plan seeded with $2,000 per child
  • Member/Founder, Air Commando Association- Via its Air Commando Foundation, provides immediate/critical support and financial assistance to wounded USAF Special Operators and their families
  • Principal for the establishment of Orlando Veterans Memorial Park at Lake Baldwin, adjacent to the VA Outpatient Clinic (former Naval Hospital Orlando)
  • Principal and advocate for the establishment of the Orlando VA Medical Center at

La.ke Nona (VAMC Lake Nona)

  • Board Member, Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation at Lake Nona – Park established November 2013
  • Principal and primary advocate for 2014 modifications to City of Orlando-owned namesake park (Colonel Joe Kittinger Park) at Orlando Executive Airport – Park originally  established   in  1992  to  honor  Col  Kittinger’s  aerospace achievements, especially his 1984 solo balloon flight across the Atlantic Ocean; modifications made at his request to specifically honor all Vietnam Veterans

Civic Activities and Contributions:

  • Ambassador and Benefactor, Kittinger Cup
    • Civil Air Patrol’s first national STEM challenge for CAP cadets with a $5,000 prize for the winning CAP cadet team
  • Mentor and supporter to teachers and students interested in aviation and science
    • 2022 – Nominated Ohio school teacher Jill Weaver for the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s A. Scott Crossfield National Teacher of the Year Award
      • Weaver was the selected recipient
    • 2022 – Nominated Alabama school teacher Susan Mallett for National Aeronautic Association’s Frank G. Brewer Trophy for excellence in Aerospace Education
      • Mallett was the selected recipient
    • Guest Speaker/Lecturer, University of Florida
      • Routinely spoke to over 400 students and faculty about his role in the Red Bull

Stratos project and the USAF Excelsior III project during UF Engineers Week.

  • Mentorship to cadets of Air Force ROTC Detachment 150 at UF, the UF College of Engineering, and the UF chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Supporter and advocate, Central Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America

Awards and Honors:

  • USAF Command Pilot
  • USAF Master Parachutist
  • Silver Star (2 awards)
  • Legion of Merit (2 awards)
  • Distinguished Flying Cross (6 awards)
  • Brome Star Medal (3 awards with Valor device)
  • Purple Heart (2 awards)
  • Meritorious Service Medal
  • Air Medal (24 awards)
  • Air Force Commendation Medal
  • Presidential Unit Citation
  • Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
  • Prisoner of War Medal (established 1985; retroactive following USAF retirement)
  • Army of Occupation Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal (2 awards)
  • Vietnam Service Medal (8 awards)
  • Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon (7 awards)
  • USAF Marksmanship Ribbon
  • Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • USAF Commander’s Insignia (established 2002; retroactive following USAF retirement)
  • Hannon International Trophy (Aeronaut)
  • Aeronaut Leo Stevens Parachute Medal
  • Fellow, Society of Experimental Test Pilots
  • National Aviation Hall of Fame
  • National Air and Space Museum Trophy Lifetime Achievement in Aviation Award
  • Honorary Fellow, Royal Aeronautical Society
  • Air Commando Association Hall of Fame
  • Wright Brothers Memorial Hall of Fame
  • Florida Aviation Hall of Fame
  • National Ballooning Hall of Fame
  • National Skydiving Hall of Fame
  • International Space Hall of Fame
  • Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) world record, longest gas balloon flight o AA-10 size category, solo flight
  • FAI Montgolfier Diploma
  • Colonel Joe Kittinger Par Orlando Executive Airport, Orlando, Florida
  • Distinguished Recipient, The Explorers Club Medal
  • John Jeffries Award for Outstanding Contributions to Aerospace Medicine
  • Aerospace Primus Club Award
  • Randolph Lovelace Award of the Society of NASA Flight Surgeons
  • National Aeronautics Association Elder Statesman of Aviation Award
  • Order of Daedalians Distinguished Achievement Award
  • Santos Dumont Medal of the French Aero Club
  • City of Paris Le Grande Medaille
  • Chateau de Balleroy Award
  • Italian Legion of Merit
  • Aero Club of New England Godfrey Cabot Award
  • Gordon Bennett Balloon Race Trophy (Pt place)- 1982, 1984, 1985, 1988
    • Retired trophy; now on display at Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
  • Barnstormer of the Year, International Society of Aviation Barnstorming Historians
  • Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Award
  • Quiet Birdmen
  • Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary International (two awards)
  • Namesake, Civil Air Patrol Joseph Kittinger Phantom Squadron {Texas Wing, CAP) at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
    • Airport is former Bergstrom AFB from which Col Kittinger retired
  • Greater Orlando    Aviation    Authority    (GOAA)   /    Orlando    International Airport Veteran’s Service Award
    • Award subsequently renamed as the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Colonel Joe Kittinger Veterans Service Award
  • John Young History Maker Award
  • City of Orlando Heroic Achievement Award
  • Orange County, Florida Board of County Commissioners, Joe Kittinger Medal of Achievement
  • National Training & Simulation Association 2019 Lifetime of Service Recognition
  • Living Legends of Aviation – 2019
  • Honorary Medal of Merit (Bronze)-Royal Netherlands Air Force
  • 2020 Seminole County, Florida Veteran of the Year
  • 2022 Frank Brewer, Sr. Civil Air Patrol Memorial Aerospace Award o Individual Category
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs “Veteran of the Day,” 30 August 2022

… and numerous other awards and recognitions

Nomination Narrative:

The accomplishments and lifetime contributions of Colonel Joseph W. Kittinger Jr., USAF (Ret) readily exceed what can be condensed into this narrative, the ten pages of this nomination, or even that of several books (to include his own published biography). But beyond all the military, national, and international awards and accolades is a man of extreme humility who dedicated himself to a life of service and inspiring those who would be motivated to follow in his footsteps.

The military achievements, courage, heroism and leadership of Colonel Joe Kittinger during his Air Force career are a matter of historical record, ranging from a world-record freefall parachute jump done in the name of aerospace research, to his combat flying missions and leading a fighter squadron during the Vietnam War, and his subsequent shootdown, capture, imprisonment and torture as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. So, too, are the other benchmarks he has set in aviation and aerospace, both military and civilian. But an often-overlooked side of Joe Kittinger has been his contributions in the civic realm that have reflected positively not only on himself as an individual but have also brought great credit to the State of Florida at large.

Few individuals have been as tireless an advocate for military veterans as Joe Kittinger. through personal engagement with appointed and elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, he was instrumental in the site selection and establishment of the Orlando Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Lake Nona, a 1.2 million square foot facility serving the needs of over 400,000 veterans in Central Florida. At the same time, he also served on the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, which also established a memorial park to U.S. military veterans of all conflicts on the Orlando VAMC grounds.

An enthusiastic supporter of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education and aerospace education, he continuously sought to inspire the next generation in aviation and aerospace. He has been a frequent speaker at numerous STEM-focused educational institutions, college and university Air Force ROTC units, and noted for recommending teachers for awards through various aeronautical associations and non-profits. Active with the Rotary Club, he has also been presented with two Paul Harris Fellow Awards. He has also supported the Orlando Youth Aviation Center and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), having been heavily engaged with both the annual Sun ‘n Fun aviation exposition in Lakeland, one of Florida’s most notable annual events, as well as the annual EAA AirVenture exposition in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

These statements alone cannot do justice to the numerous reasons as to why Joe Kittinger should be admitted to the FVHOF. Years ago, as a senior aviator, I would occasionally sit on Navy promotion boards. The flag officers chairing those boards would often say to the rest of us, “Vote the record!” In this case, the record speaks for itself. In short, Colonel Kittinger carries my strongest possible recommendation and endorsement for selection by the FVHOF Council for inclusion in the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame and I would ask that you, the council, concur.

Very respectfully,
J.B. PHILPITT, Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret)