My friend Brien Wygle passed away a few days ago - Sept. 15, 2020.  We had known each other for about 55 years, and had become very close.  Close enough that I considered him to be my “second Father”, and went to see him when challenges arose in my life - challenges that had nothing to do with our aviation or professional lives..

Our friendship began in 1965, when we were both working on development of the then new Boeing twin-jet airliner, the 737.  Brien was the Project Pilot, and made the first flight in April, 1967.  I was a lowly Paycode 4 engineer - just starting my Boeing career.  But, at least in those days, the higher-ups and the lower-downs often mingled in meetings etc and became friends.

This little photo album is pretty much about me and Brien personally, since it was as a personal friend that I think of him.  So you won’t find a bunch of stuff that records some of his many adventures and experiences.  And nothing about his Boeing non-flying jobs, Director of This or VP of That.  No pix of him on the farm or in 6th grade. Or family birthdays or vacations.  But, there are some.  I did a get a few items from mutual friends that I’ll try and insert, but consider this anything but a comprehensive Brien Wygle life story.  Some of that stuff is covered in the news articles and obits at the bottom.

Brien was a Canadian.  Or was he?  From Boeing Wichita?  Or was it Seattle?  Brien’s history was a bit convoluted with regard to these areas, and for good reason.  He grew up in Alberta, served in the RCAF, and graduated from University of British Columbia. Definitely a Canadian.  He went to work for Boeing in 1951 in Wichita, flying B-47s and later B-52s, so maybe he could be considered a Boeing Kansas-type guy transplanted, like many, to Seattle.  But - actually - Brien was born in the U.S. - and in Seattle, no less.  So you could say he made the complete round trip, with prolonged stops along the way.

.... a life of flying

Flying for the RCAF

In WW II, Brien flew transports, primarily C-47s, over the “Hump” ferrying supplies from India and Burma into China.  He also delivered supplies and personnel to Allied troops fighting in the jungles of Burma.  An extremely demanding and dangerous operation due to the requirement for both extreme high altitude flying in unpressurized aircraft, combined with tree top level flying over the jungle, terrible weather with little in the way of reports or forecasts, and both Japanese fighters to contend with and anti-aircraft ground fire (Brien reported 3 C-47s were shot down in one day.)  Wikipedia reports  776,000 tons were flown into China, about 80,000 passengers, and 1.5 million hours flown.  The cost was very high - 594 aircraft were lost, with 81 still missing. 1314 men were KIA and 345 are still MIA.


Here are Brien's dog tags and some of his medals and uniform emblems.


And here is the Distinguished Flying Cross he received for his service in the A-B-C Theater
(Assam- Burma - China) [also called the C-B-I for China-Burma-India Theater.] 
(See details below)

After the Japanese surrender, he carried some of the 47,000 Allied personnel airlifted out of China.  Here are his logbook pages  documenting the flight from Rampee, Burma to the UK; it required 54 hours 55 minutes flying time and took place from Aug 30 to Sept 8, 1945.  They didn't waste much time heading home after the Japanese surrender!

Brien was 19 years old when he showed up with his airplane and crew in the combat zone.
When he turned 20, he had already flown more than 200 combat missions.
It was a long ways from the farm in Alberta......

The Greatest Generation --- Indeed

Israeli Air Force

This excitement apparently wasn’t quite enough, I guess, for in 1948, he volunteered for the fledgling Israeli Air Force, and served in 103 Squadron during Israel’s War of Independence.  The service of these “Machal” was critical to the ultimate victory - quoting one source on the history of the period:

It may well be, therefore, that the participation of Machal (foreign volunteers) in the IAF is what tipped the scales in Israel's favor in the War of Independence, whose outcome often hung precariously in the balance. In the words of Major General Herzle Bodinger, commander of the IAF from 1992 to 1996, “The non-Israeli aircrews played a decisive role, both in achieving Air Force objectives and in laying its organizational foundation. The legacy of their special contribution accompanies us to this day.”

Racing Hydro's

Once settled down into “a boring steady job”, as a test pilot for Boeing, and having moved from Wichita to Seattle (“Home Again!”), Brien decided to pump some adrenalin into his life and attack the world of hydro racing.  Here are a few pix I obtained from mutual friend Ward Buringrud, whose dad Moe, was Crew Chief on some of the boats.  They show Brien during this period of his life’s adventures,  when he became the driver for the Thriftway Too.

  Apple Cup 1957


  Apple Cup 1958

As a reminder about the thrills - and dangers of hydro racing at the time -  some headlines:

    -- Two killed as Quicksilver crashes at first Seattle Gold Cup

    --  Cantrell rides Gale IV into front yard on Lake Washington shore

    --  Muncey sinks Coast Guard vessel:
            The 1958 Gold Cup was historic for several reasons. The estimated crowd of 500,000 was the largest  single U.S. gathering for any event to that point (broken by the Woodstock concert a decade later). But  what the crowd saw was even more amazing. Driving the popular Seattle boat Miss Thriftway, Bill Muncey lost control and slammed into a Coast Guard patrol boat, sending it to the bottom of the lake. It was the  only time in history that a U.S. Coast Guard vessel has been sunk. Muncey jumped out of the Thriftway  moments before the collision.
            Bill Muncey had been pronounced “dead” at the scene when rescuers could find no pulse. But Bill revived to race--and win--again another day.

    -- Jerry Bangs killed in Squire Shop mishap

    -- June 19,1966, "Black Sunday," when three of racing's finest were lost in two separate accidents at the  President's Cup Regatta in Washington, D.C.  Stricken from the list of the living on that fateful day were  Ron Musson of Miss Bardahl, Rex Manchester of Notre Dame, and Don Wilson of Miss Budweiser.


Brien played with the hydros for 2-3 years - 1957 - 1958, which was before our time together.  Here’s a nice description of a fateful collision from Mike Flynn:

        His career as a hydroplane driver had been for a brief two years in 1957 to 1958, although his races on the circuit, driving the Thriftway Too and Hawaii Kai III, included the major ones like the Gold Cup, Diamond  Cup, and Sierra Cup.

        Regarding the Muncey incident that made Wygle decide to stick to the challenges of the skies, he recalled he was leading Muncey and as they came out of the turn, he “heard the roar of Muncey’s boat overtaking me and suddenly there he was roaring over the side of my boat.”

        “The damn guy didn’t care if he killed me or not as long as he got past me,” Wygle recalled. “I figured the next time might not be one I survived, so I packed it in.”

Yikes!!!  Time to tone down the adrenalin.....

Boeing 737 - First Flight

Myself - I began working on the Boeing 737 in 1965, and continued working on it - well, until today!  After helping during its assembly at Boeing Field, I went on to work on it during flight test - it’s first flight was 9 April 1967.

When the 737 made its first flight, I, of course,  took a lot of pictures at Boeing Field and Paine Field (where it landed), but I also made a tape recording of the air-to-air radio communications during the entire flight.  I hung on to those two (reel-to-reel) tapes for decades, and when Brien retired, I gave a little talk at his retirement party and played snippets from those tapes.  They were the (honest - not a press conference) first descriptions of what it was like flying the new jetliner (“this airplane is a delight to fly.”)  I then gave him copies of the tape (as well as a set to the Boeing Archives.)

Here they are - Brien and Lew Wallick - before the flight, and the first take-off from Boeing Field.

  April 9, 1967

This picture I took myself - it’s not great, but it is posted on my website.  I’ve noticed since posting it's been used in various publications (all without request or authorization - of course!)

Here’s a much better picture - Boeing’s picture (likewise without request or authorization.)

And, again my picture - after landing, at Paine Field --------

Bill Allen - grey suit, back to camera on the right


lotsa smiles!

and - at a press conference with Boeing Prez Bill Allen (on the right) and 737 Division GM Ben Wheat (on the left) - Ben’s only known photo —  smiling….

Boeing 747 Jumbo - First Flight

1969 and it was time for a new adventure - flying the world’s first Jumbo Jet - the 747.  Brien was Right Seat (Co-pilot) on that momentous day.

Here he is with Capt. Jack Waddell (center) and Flight Engineer Jess Wallick prior to boarding - 9 Feb 1969.

Brien's Logbook pages marking this momentous occasion

Boeing 757 World Tour

In 1982, we took the then new 757 (NA006 - N505EA), on a World Tour.  I was the Tour Director for the portions that covered Asia, and Brien was one of the pilots (along with Buzz Nelson and John Cashman.)


I remember clearly sitting cross-legged on the cockpit floor in the dark behind the aisle stand on our last leg home - non-stop from Tokyo to Boeing Field.  Didn’t really think about it much at the time, but - being a Twin - this was probably the first non-stop ETOPS flight across the Pacific.

Museum of Flight

Later, in our mutual retirements, we were both very active in the Museum of Flight, and especially the Collections Committee, where I worked closely with Brien pursuing some of my “dream acquisitions” - like the 727, 737, and 747 Prototypes, Concorde, Connie, Electra etc - acquisitions that not everybody thought were quite so “wonderful" at the time.  But — we convinced them and  - importantly, got 'er done!


Two of my favorite acquisitions - Concorde G-BOAG and Super Connie CF-TGE

Also in our later years, being very close personally - when he was cleaning out some of his memorabilia, I became the recipient (just what I needed!!!.)  Some of his models and a control wheel.



OK, you sharp-eyed devils - I know you're out there - Yes, I know - that's a 737 wheel and not a 747 wheel.  Believe me, it didn't happen on my watch.....

In January 2013, Brien retired off the Collections Committee, where he had been Chairman for many years.

Dan Hagedorn - Museum Curator - presented him with a framed 747 picture on the occasion.

Brien also came to stay with us at our place in Hansville; he was an avid reader - and I have a (very) large library - he enjoyed sitting in a rocker overlooking the ships going by on Admiralty Inlet, while working his way through some of my most interesting books.  My wife Dot and me with Brien during a visit.


In May 2011, he came to the party I threw celebrating my wife Dot’s 75th Birthday.

Here he is with Linda Longridge, and with Chris and Linda Longridge and Jim Johnson.

Dan Dornseif, a good friend, is a 737 Captain with Southwest Airlines, living in Florida.  He’s written two fabulous books - one on the 737 history, and another just released, on the 727.  He’s got a third - on the 757 - nearing completion, and here’s Dan - at the 737 50th Birthday Bash, and visiting with Brien in his retirement home in Bellevue.


Brien could always be counted on to be a major participant in the assorted anniversary events at the Museum of Flight. And, of course, rightfully so, since he was there!  As the years went by, more and more he became a living connection with our Past, and being around him and listening to his stories became a wonderful treat.  I’ve said it so many times, so what’s one more time - but I’ve been blessed to know so many great people - true icons of aviation history and not some figures out of a dry history book. And, more than that, I’ve been able to call them friends - true friends.  Those days will not come around again…..

Boeing B-47

8 December 2007 saw MOF celebrating the Matriarch of all Boeing jets - the B-47.


Click here for more on the Museum's B-47

Boeing 707

A year later, in October 2008, the Museum staged a show-and-tell celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 707.  Of course, Brien was in his familiar spot up on the dais. The 707 Story here.


Joe Sutter, Brien Wygle, Peter Morton

Boeing 737 Prototype

From 1997 to 2003, I was the caretaker and restorer for the Number One 737 which had been donated to the Museum by NASA and was stored at Moses Lake.   [PA099, NASA 515, N515NA]  The very same airplane I had helped assemble at Plant II and the Thompson Site, and then flight test from Boeing Field.

During that six year period, I recruited a number of “helpers” to come with me during about 160 trips, to maintain the airplane and then run it around the airfield.  Lew Wallick was one of my helpers, and so was Brien, who came on one of those trips. As we did a high speed down the main runway, I felt a lump in my throat - since he was sitting in the Right Seat, and here I was, sitting in the Left Seat - his seat!  On his airplane!  Something - back in 1967 - I would never have dreamed would ever come to pass.  Feeling more than a little guilty, I did offer him the Left Seat, but he declined.


April 9, 1967 after first flight at Paine Field    35 years later - at Moses Lake.  What happened???

(Yikes, Bob, you didn't really put that in here - well did you?)

Last Flight

After six years (and one day!) commuting to Moses Lake to look after that wonderful airplane, the big day arrived and we flew it for the last time to Boeing Field.  (21 Sept 2003 - Story Here.) 

It was September 2003, when we were finally ready to bring the airplane “Home”, back to Boeing Field, where she had been built (yes - not in Renton), and made her first flight.  I just knew that Brien had to be part of the last flight, and although it took quite a bit of arm-twisting at NASA,  I finally got their OK and we made it happen.

L-R  Mark Ranz Co-Pilot, Dale Ranz Capt., Bob Bogash Crew Chief, Brien Wygle

Here we are prior to boarding for that historic occasion ......

......and here we are on short Final at Boeing Field after a 33 minute uneventful flight from Moses Lake.  On board for the First Flight; on board for the Last Flight.  It needed to happen - Brien being there - and I'm so very happy that it did.

737 Number One returns home - 36 years after her first flight.

In February 2004, the Museum threw a Dinner celebrating the Last Flight - and here we are

L-R  Clayton Scott, Bob Bogash, Brien Wygle and Dick Taylor

737 is 40

In April 2007, I put Brien on the stage once more, for the 40th Anniversary of the first flight of the 737.

L-R Dick Taylor, Brien Wygle, Peter Morton, Bob Bogash and 2 airline pilots.


and again -  Brien Wygle, Peter Morton, Bob Bogash

The airplane spent most of its life at NASA Langley and here is Brien with Luci Crittenden from NASA.

Boeing B-52

In February 2009, the museum staged a B-52 show with three of her test pilots.

The participants - three B-52 test pilots - L-R:  Guy Townsend (USAF), Brien Wygle, Dick Taylor

The three, in their younger days.  This "getting old" ain't no fun.....

According to the Thriftway Too P.R. handbook, Brien was the first pilot to reach 500 hours in the B-52, and also the first to reach 1000 hours.

Guy Townsend (L) was a USAF Test Pilot, Lead USAF Test Pilot on the B-47 and first military pilot to fly that airplane. He was the Co-pilot on the first flight of the B-52.  He was also the first military pilot to fly the B-50 and the Prototype of the KC-135 Tanker. 
He retired from USAF as a Brigadier General and passed away in March 2011 at age 90.  Bio here.
Dick Taylor passed at 93 (see here), and now Brien at 96.
Who said being a Test Pilot was dangerous?

Three years later, in 2012, I staged a really big 3-day B-52 shindig to mark the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the B-52, and the 50th anniversary of the delivery of the last (of 744) airplanes.  (It was also the 40th anniversary of the Operation Linebacker II that ended the Viet Nam war.)  The driving force behind this shindig was the reunion of the six crew-members from our very airplane.  See my webpage here.

I arranged for an all-day Oral History session which was performed by USAF to mark the occasion.

Here are the participants - B-52 Test Pilots from Boeing, and B-52 combat pilots from USAF

L-R Brien Wygle, Al Jones, Dick Taylor (B-52 Boeing Test Pilots); Dave Wellman (flew the very first  B-52 combat mission and Museum docent); Jim Farmer (B-52 pilot who was shot down over North Viet Nam and Museum Trustee); Bob Bogash.

Here are three of us - Al Jones, Brien, and myself, Bob Bogash

Al is another Canadian - and is still alive at over 100.
Must be something in the air up there......

My full B-52 story - click here.

My Vans RV-12

In 2014, Brien came to Paine Field to see my airplane - a Vans RV-12 that I built in Bremerton and which made its first flight on April 3, 2013.  Brien understood well the challenges and excitement of building and flying your own airplane - as he had built one of his own - a Glasair, with Thurman Jones and Ken Higgins.  Of course, my Tail Number is N737G.  Of course...... (Story here)

Never did go for a ride...... think he was scared of flying? ....... well maybe just with me......

An Historic Shot

It’s 2015, and the Museum is breaking ground on building their new Pavilion - to house most of their big airplanes (finally) under cover.  To prepare for the construction, the airplanes in the Air Park were relocated.  The Number One 737 and 747 wound up getting parked next to each other in the parking lot of the Raisbeck Aviation High School.  It was there that I snapped this picture.  One of my favorites!  The Matriarchs of two of the greatest lines of airplanes ever built - oh! how they changed the World!  And Boeing!  And all of our lives!  And our man Brien was aboard for the first flights of both of those magnificent flying machines. 

Bravo Zulu, Brien!

Last Flight of the 727 Prototype

March 2, 2016 we made the Last Flight of the 727 Prototype - from Paine Field in Everett to Boeing Field.  The airplane had sat for 25 years at Paine Field and required a major restoration to fly it one last time.  Of course, Brien was there for our arrival.  (Story here)


The 737 is Fifty!

On April 9, 2017, as the (self-appointed) keeper of the 737 flame, I organized another really big shindig marking the 737’s 50th Anniversary.  We had the usual Museum Theater talk, followed by a celebration at the airplane - complete with Birthday Cake and the singing of Happy Birthday.  The 737 became Boeing’s “Little Engine that Could…”  (Details Here)

L-R Boeing Historian Mike Lombardi, Peter Morton, Brien Wygle, Bob Bogash



Here’s Brien with one of his four daughters - Patsy - and here we are both waving at the crowd.

  What an Honor and what a great day!

747 is Fifty

April 2019 - here’s Brien marking the 50th Anniversary of the 747’s first flight - this time with Ed Renouard (one time GM of the 747 Division).

Out at the airplane with Museum Aircraft Custodian Extraordinaire - Evan Elliott.


Brien turns 90.....

In 2014, Brien’s family threw him a nice party at the Museum, celebrating his 90th Birthday.  Peter Morton and I gave a nice little Dog & Pony routine for the occasion - but I can't remember if he sang and I danced, or vice versa - unfortunately, (or fortunately) I'm unable to locate a picture of that event - but

....and then, in a flash, he was 95

...... in September 2019, there was another party - this time marking his 95th.  My wife Dot and I were happy - but more than that - we were Proud - to have been invitees at those two celebrations.  Age 95 was a small gathering and it meant a lot to us to have Brien - who controlled the invitation list - think of us as being close enough to join him and his family on those very special days.


And so, a full life lived has had its last chapter closed.  But that doesn’t make it any easier.  I shall miss Brien - a lot - we all will…..  A living legend and a true gentleman.  I'm so very proud to have called him.... friend.  A man I worked with used to always say "Business people have business 'friends'".  His meaning was clear.  Your friends at work were friends in name only, and only as long as you were of use to them in their corporate ladder climbing.  Quit, die, transfer, retire - and they're tail lights in one big hurry.  He was probably right - but not for me.

When Dick Taylor passed, I wrote the following.  I think it still applies.

As I find myself, like the Frank Sinatra song says,  "in the Autumn of my years", I often think about my career, the things I've done, the places I've been.  But, especially, about the people I've known.  I've traveled so much in my career, I could never go back to all the places I've been.  And, likewise, I could never meet and work with the people I've been privileged to know over my career.  To not only know them, but to call them friends.  True pioneers and patriarchs in my chosen field of aviation.   And, indeed, world history.   People who truly have been there and done that They had The Right Stuff.

And, while others could, perhaps, retrace my journey's and re-visit those far-away places, no one will be able to visit again with those colleagues who have gone from our midst, with their knowledge and wisdom and incredible experiences.  People I could actually say were ....
my friends.

Bob Bogash

Details from Brien's RCAF war service

DFC Description:

Flying Officer Wygle joined his present squadron at the time of its formation.  He has served with great distinction as a pilot and captain throughout a tour of operational duty.  He has been repeatedly called upon to fly on missions involving great hazards in delivering vital supplies to advance elements of the 14th Army.  Despite enemy opposition and extremely adverse weather he has never failed to deliver his load.  By his splendid example, ability and outstanding devotion to duty, Flying Officer Wygle has made a valuable contribution to the success of his squadron in giving close support to the Army in Burma.

Service Record:

WYGLE, F/O Brian Singleton (J36252) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.436 Squadron - Award effective 15 January 1946 as per London Gazette dated 29 January 1946 and AFRO 322/46 dated 29 March 1946.  Born 23 August 1924.  Home in Crossfield, Alberta; enlisted in Calgary, 5 October 1942. To No.3 Manning Depot, 22 October 1942. To No.15 SFTS (guard), 28 October 1942.  To  No.4 ITS, 6 February 1943; graduated and promoted LAC, 16 April 1943; posted next day to No.5 EFTS; graduated 12 June 1943 when posted to No.12 SFTS; graduated and commissioned, 1 October 1943.  To No.1 GRS, 8 October 1943.  To No.31 OTU, 14 January 1944. Promoted Flying Officer, 1 April 1944.  To “Y” Depot, 22 April 1944.  To RAF overseas, 29 April 1944.  Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 1 January 1946.  Repatriated 2 April 1946. To No.5 Release Centre, 13 May 1946.  Retired 18 June 1946.  Rejoined 18 January 1947 (120180) as Flying Officer with No.442 (Auxiliary) Squadron.  Resigned 15 September 1948.  Re-engaged with No.442 Squadron, 23 October 1949.  Resigned 17 May 1951.  Award presented in Vancouver, 22 October 1949.

 Info researched by Hugh A. Halliday in Ottawa; provided via my good friend and aviation historian Larry Milberry in Toronto.    See his books here.)

Article from Seattle Times

Brien Wygle, an unassuming icon among Boeing test pilots, led an intrepid aviator life

Sep. 17, 2020 at 7:00 pm Updated Sep. 18, 2020 at 3:19 pm
 By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Brien Wygle’s adventurous life was packed full of bold action and heroism. Fresh out of high school, he flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, then flew for the Israelis in their 1948 war of independence.

He joined Boeing as a test pilot, flew the first 737 flight in 1967 and co-piloted the first 747 jumbo jet flight in 1969.

He raced hydroplanes in the 1950s. He taught Howard Hughes how to fly jets. He scuba dived with his four daughters. Surrounded by his daughters, Wygle died Tuesday in Bellevue at 96, after contracting pneumonia last month.

Far from the Hollywood stereotype of a macho test pilot, though, Wygle had a quiet, gentlemanly presence and offered his time freely as a mentor to anyone passionate about aviation.

He sponsored engineering students of color at the University of Washington. He was an early champion of advancing women in previously all-male areas at Boeing.

“A bit of a paradox, Brien was a test pilot and unlimited hydroplane driver with an unassuming nature … with a kind yet extraordinary soul,” wrote Matt Hayes, chief executive at Seattle’s Museum of Flight

“He personified the old Boeing,” said his longtime friend and colleague Bob Bogash.

“He was amazing,” said Suzanna Darcy, whom he recruited in 1985 as the first woman test pilot at Boeing.

Wygle contracted pneumonia in mid-August and, surrounded by his daughters, died Tuesday in Bellevue at 96.

Flying to war

Brien Singleton Wygle was born in Seattle in 1924. His family moved to Canada three years later and he grew up during the Depression on a farm near Calgary, Alberta.

He saw his first plane at age 11 when a Tiger Moth biplane made an emergency landing near his home. “My brother and I peered in and it was marvelous. Astonishing,” he recalled for a 2014 story in Aloft, the magazine of the Museum of Flight.

In 1942, he graduated high school and at 18 enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He trained in England to fly C-47s, a military transport version of the iconic DC-3 passenger plane.

Deployed to South Asia, he ferried supplies of food, ammunition, fuel and troops between India, China and Burma for the fight against Japanese forces.

Wygle “flew the hump” in difficult missions over the Himalayas that were no less dangerous at their destination.

“We were camouflaged, flying at treetop level to avoid Japanese fighters, often through monsoons, dropping into primitive airfields with no beacons or navigation,” Wygle recalled in Aloft. “Nothing is more vulnerable than a C-47 with its flaps down. We lost three one day.”

By the time he turned 20, Wygle had flown more than 200 missions. Across the world, his older brother Hugh, flying as an observer on a Royal Canadian Air Force bombing mission into Germany, was shot down over the English Channel and killed.

In 1945, Brien Wygle was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valor. He left the Air Force and in 1947 married Norma Renton of Vancouver, B.C., the sister of his wartime C-47 navigator.

Using the Canadian GI Bill, he earned a mechanical engineering degree with aeronautics at the University of British Columbia in 1951.

While at college, he kept flying with the Air Force reserves and with Queen Charlotte Airlines. And in 1948, he flew bombing missions for Israel in the war that broke out when the Jewish state was formed and attacked by its Arab neighbors.

According to his daughter Kathleen, he volunteered for that war in part to earn money for his young family, in part to support the cause. A history buff all his life, he would often talk his children through intricate historical events, such as the genesis of the state of Israel.

After graduating college, Wygle joined Boeing in 1951 and spent 39 years at the company, including 28 as an active test pilot.

He later held management positions, including director of customer support and vice president of flight operations, but he gained fame as a test pilot in the days before computerized simulators reduced much of the risk.

Wygle first flew test flights on the B-47 bomber. “It was huge, stunning, intimidating, and made me anxious to fly it,” he told Aloft.

In 1953, Boeing sent him to train at the U.S. Air Force test pilot school at Edwards Air Force base. Later, he flew test flights of the KC-135 tanker and various versions of the 707 and 727 passenger jets.

When Boeing was wooing 707 orders from TWA, he was assigned to teach TWA’s owner and legendary aviator, Howard Hughes, how to fly the jet.

Wygle took up unlimited hydroplane racing from 1957 to 1959, a time when the sport drew huge crowds to Lake Washington in the summer and was much riskier than it is today.

Bogash said Wygle told him Boeing wasn’t happy about the risk “and tried to get him to knock it off.”

After three years, he did. “I enjoyed it, but I’m glad I quit when I did,” he told Aloft. “I had a young family and it was very dangerous.”

In the 1960s, Wygle began test flying airliners that are still around today, from the 737 to the 767.

Two years after the 1967 first flight of the 737, Wygle flew the debut of the 747 and heard “a loud bang and a shudder” when the crew raised the jumbo jet’s flaps about an hour into the flight.

“We weren’t alarmed,” Wygle recalled in a 2009 interview. Still, he and pilot Jack Waddell cut short the flight.

“He was the last of the old test pilot corps that created the jet age,” said Bogash. “He survived to become the mentor of all the later test pilots.”

In 2003, after Bogash led restoration of the first 737 and donated it to the Museum of Flight, Wygle flew with him on its final flight from Moses Lake to Boeing Field.

A father and a mentor

From 1965, when Bogash worked directly with Wygle in designing and building the first 737, the two developed a lifelong friendship that went beyond flying.

“He was a real gentleman. When I had problems in my life, nothing to do with aviation, I’d go see him,” said Bogash. “He was like a second father.”

Wygle’s daughter Kathleen said her father gave his children a terrific work ethic. His job took him away traveling a lot when they were growing up, so he made sure to spend individual time with each of his four daughters, taking each one separately on special vacation trips.

Wygle retired from Boeing in 1990. In retirement, he worked on the board of the Museum of Flight. Hayes, the Museum CEO, called Wygle’s passing “an enormous loss for not only the Museum, but the aviation community as well.”

He also built a kit aerobatic plane, a Glasair II – RG, and used it to fly various adventurous trips. He flew from his home in Medina to the north coast of Alaska and to visit family in Calgary. He flew the plane regularly to visit his daughters, who had all settled in Sun Valley, Idaho.

He stopped flying at the age of 84.

Kathleen said her father nursed their mother through Alzheimer’s, keeping her at home until she died in 2003. “He was a wonderful husband and father,” she said.

Some years after Norma died, Wygle had a ten-year friendship with Nancy Colbert, until she too died in 2015. “We loved Nancy. She was wonderful for dad,” said Kathleen.

Wygle is survived by his four daughters, Kathleen (Barry Irwin), Janet (Barry Luboviski), Patsy (Keith Moore, deceased), and Gail, and one grandson, James Moore Wygle, of New York City.

A graveside service is set for 10:30 am Friday, at Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Bellevue.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or; on Twitter: @dominicgates.

Family Obit

Brien Singleton Wygle

August 23, 1924-September 15, 2020

Born August 23, 1924, in Seattle, Brien Singleton Wygle moved to Canada with his family in 1927 and grew up on a farm near Calgary, Alberta, with his two brothers, Hugh and Monte, with whom he was close. Hugh was killed in WWII. Brien graduated from Kathryn H.S., Canada in 1942. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 and served as a pilot in Europe, India and Burma, where he "flew the hump". After completing his service in 1946, he attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, graduating in 1951 with a B.S.M.E. degree with an aeronautics option in 1951. That same year, he joined the Boeing Airplane Company in Wichita as a Flight Test Pilot. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School in 1953 and was transferred to Seattle. He worked for Boeing for 39 years, retiring as Vice President of Flight Operations in 1990.

During his 28 years as an active test pilot he test flew all Boeing airplanes from the B-47 through the 757 and 767. He piloted the maiden flight on the 737, the most successful Boeing airplane ever made, and served as co-pilot on the first flight of the 747. He was elected a Fellow of both the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Later, as Boeing's head of Flight Test, Brien was an early champion of women in aviation, giving them opportunities to excel in a previously all-male field.

In May, 1947, he married his wartime navigator's sister, Norma Renton, of Vancouver, Canada. Brien and Norma travelled the world together. They had four daughters: Kathleen (Barry Irwin), Janet (Barry Luboviski), Patsy (Keith Moore, deceased), and Gail, all of Blaine County, Idaho, and one grandson, James Moore Wygle, of New York City. Norma passed away in 2003. After Norma's death, Brien had a 10-year friendship with Nancy Colbert before she passed away in 2015.

Brien had hobbies. From 1957-1959, he was an intrepid unlimited hydroplane driver, driving the Thriftway Too and Hawaii Kai III, and racing in the Gold Cup, the Diamond Cup, the Sierra Cup, and other unlimited hydroplane races. Just before he retired, Brien took to flying aerobatic biplanes. After retiring, he and some partners built and flew a Glasair 2RG. He flew that little plane between Seattle and Sun Valley at 200 mph! He loved flying and only gave it up when his hearing finally required it at age 84.

Brien gave back. He sponsored minority engineering students at the University of Washington. He volunteered to tutor adults seeking their GEDs. He was one of the founders of the Museum of Flight and sat on its boards for many years. He worked to advance women and minority engineers. He assisted less fortunate people with gifts of tuition or cash. He donated annually to numerous official charities.

In 2017, Brien sold his home on Meydenbauer Bay, Medina, that he had had built in 1966, and moved to The Bellettini, a retirement and assisted-living facility in downtown Bellevue. He enjoyed the companionship and activities there for several years. In mid-August Brien contracted pneumonia and commenced hospice care at his apartment. All four of his daughters were with him when Brien S. Wygle took his final flight on September 15, 2020 at the age of 96.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider making a donation to The Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA or The Population Connection. You may also want to view or leave a comment or picture on or

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