Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

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Sgt William Ocker

The “Father of Blind Flight”
Captivated by flight after witnessing early tests by the Wright brothers, Sgt William Ocker became a highly proficient aircraft mechanic and the Army’s third enlisted pilot. His ability to rapidly master aviation principles, combined with a passion for improving flying techniques, made him a pioneer in testing and developing equipment.

Instrument Flight
In early aviation, pilots flew “by the seat of their pants” by relying on visual cues and gut instincts. However, when their vision was obstructed by clouds or fog, vertigo could easily disorient even the best pilots. Ocker created a solution by modifying an early turn indicator so that in “blind” conditions, correct directional movements
could be identified even when they were at odds with human senses.

A Lasting Legacy
Revolutionary at the time, his many devices and methods were initially perceived as too dangerous. A year after he died, the US military permanently adopted his training principles. William Ocker’s foundational work in instrument flight led to all-weather flight and enabled later developments in space flight.

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