Bruce Hinds made aviation history as the first man to fly the Northrop B-2 Spirit , an aircraft whose unusual design could be traced back 50 years! Hinds was born in 1939 and grew up in Denver, Colorado. A 1961 graduate of the Air Force Academy, he earned his wings at Vance AFB, Oklahoma. Then, he checked out in the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and was assigned to Charleston AFB, South Carolina. Next, from Goose Bay AB, Labrador, he flew the C-130 equipped with the Fulton Recovery System and participated in NASA's Gemini spacecraft recoveries. In 1967, he attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California, and then was assigned to Test Operations. He flew in many programs, from C-130 airdrops to tests of BAK-13 landing barriers.
In 1970, he was sent to Thailand and flew another version of the C-130. Back at Edwards AFB in 1971, Hines became a project pilot in the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy test force. He eventually became Operations Officer and finally Test Force Director for the C-5. He was project pilot in 1974 on a spectacular mission, the launching of a Minuteman missile from the C-5! This test became a bargaining chip in negotiations on strategic arms reduction with the Soviet Union. In 1976, he flew both the Boeing YC-14 and the McDonnell Douglas YC-15. Hinds became Operations Officer, in 1977, for the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) test force. Returning to Test Operations in 1978, he became the Chief of Bomber, Transport and V-STOL Testing.
Next, he became Test Force Director for the McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender. At completion of tests on the KC-10, he became Deputy for Strategic Test in the 6510th Test Wing. In 1982, Hinds retired from the Air Force and went to work at Northrop Corporation. Security was so tight, that company executives could not even tell him what his position would involve! Eventually, he learned that he was to be the Chief Test Pilot on the Advanced Technology Bomber program. After test flying the B-2, Hinds worked in management at Northrop from 1991 to 1994. Today, he runs Bruce Hinds Aviation as an aerospace consultant.
He also does air-to-air photography and is an advisor to the entertainment industry in Hollywood. In his spare time, Hinds helped restore the Northrop N9M flying wing for the Planes of Fame Museum. In 1942, the N9M had been a trainer and test bed for the Northrop XB-35 and YB-49. These advanced flying wings contributed greatly to the design of the B-2 stealth bomber. In 1995, he flew the N9M at Edwards AFB, where it posed next to its great-grandson. Hinds has more than 12,000 hours flying time in over 70 aircraft types.
On 17 July 1989, Northrop Chief Test Pilot Bruce Hinds, along with B-2 Combined Test Force Director, Colonel Rick Couch, lifted the B-2 Spirit off the runway at Palmdale, California on its maiden flight. The B-2 was as awesome as the XB-35 and YB-49 were during the forties. After a series of standard flight test maneuvers, the aircraft was landed at Edwards AFB to undergo further testing. The Northrop Grumman B-2, operational at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, will project the global reach of the United States Air Force far into the next millenium!