Rear Admiral Edward L. Feightner (’41) was honored as a 2013 Distinguished Alumnus May 10 in Arlington, Va., where he was recognized for his extraordinary military career as a World War II fighter ace, test pilot, aviation innovator and commander.
The University of Findlay’s President Katherine Fell, Ph.D., Marie Louden-Hanes, Ph.D., assistant to the president, and Dee Dee Spraw, director of the Wolfe Center for Alumni, Parents and Friends, invited his family, friends and retired Army and Navy pilots and spouses to a luncheon and ceremony to honor Rear Adm. Feightner as a Distinguished Alumnus
of The University of Findlay. The luncheon and ceremony took place at the Army Navy Country Club.
In receiving the award, Feightner commented, “I really appreciated my time at Findlay, and I think the caliber of the education I got, I couldn’t have wished for better. Thank you.”
Feightner grew up on a farm near Elida, Ohio, and entered Findlay College in 1938 on a full-tuition scholarship provided by Otto D. Donnell, president of Ohio Oil Co. He went to Donnell’s office to thank him, where he met Mike Murphy, a pilot for Ohio Oil, who asked him, “Do you want to learn to fly, kid?” That question set the course of his life. As a result, Feightner received his private pilot license as a sophomore in 1939 after attending the Civilian Pilot Training Program.
Feightner was active in campus academic and social organizations and was a member of the track and wrestling teams, earning him a place in the Varsity “F” Club. He served on student council and was president of his senior class. After graduating from Findlay College in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics, he enlisted in the Navy Reserve. He entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Training Program, completing flight training in 1942.
A bona fide hero from World War II, Feightner was a naval pilot who flew the F4F Wildcat on his first cruise with the famed “Grim Reapers” of VF-10. On his second cruise, he flew the F6F Hellcat with VF-8. Participating in some of the fiercest battles of the Pacific Theater of Operations, he protected U.S. aircraft carriers and other craft in the U.S. fleet and attacked enemy ships. He is credited with nine kills, four probables and nine damaged during air battles against enemy forces. Highly decorated, Feightner received the Distinguished Flying Cross four times, the Legion of Merit twice, twelve Air medals, a Navy Commendation Medal and many other awards.
Following combat duty and assignments as a flight instructor, his bravery and skill at flying were put to use post-war as a U.S. Navy test pilot. An extremely hazardous job, he flew everything from helicopters to the largest transports, including Bearcats, Tigercats, Corsairs and the finicky Cutlass, surviving numerous near-fatal incidents.
Feightner was assigned as a member of the fabled Blue Angels in 1952. He flew the Vought F7U, despite known deficiencies in design and reliability, as the lead solo. Returning as a test pilot, he tested aircraft, systems and munitions, and contributed to the development of nuclear bomb delivery tactics.
In 1955, he was given his first command and was deployed on several tours in the Mediterranean. Feightner was selected to attend the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., graduating in 1961. His assignments included heading Navy Fighter Design. He was captain of two U.S. Navy ships, the USS Chikaskia and the USS Okinawa. After attending the Defense Weapons Systems Management course at the Air Force Institute of Technology, he was assigned to the office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for Air in the Pentagon, and he also directed the Naval Aviation Weapons Systems Analysis Group.
In June 1970, he was promoted from captain to a two-star rear admiral. His final tour was with the Naval Air Systems Command, where he participated in fighter studies leading to the development of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. Feightner retired from active duty on July 1, 1974, after 33 years of service with 8,610 flight hours and 874 carrier landings.
He was inducted into the Carrier Aviation Test Pilot Hall of Honor in 1998 and is an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. Feightner is an emeritus member of the Early and Pioneer Naval Aviators Association, better known as the “Golden Eagles,” and served as chairman of the board of directors from 2004 to 2006. He also was named to the Findlay College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980.
He was vice president of Silver Wings Over Washington, an aviation-related association in the Washington, D.C., area. He also served as a member of the honorary board of trustees of the International Midway Memorial Foundation, and he was president of FMS, Inc., an aerospace consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
In retirement, he has shared his experiences and educated others about naval aviation. On May 24, 2011, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., he gave a presentation on “Memoirs from an Aviator’s Logbook” as the featured speaker at the Charles A. Lindbergh Memorial Lecture. On July 15, 2011, he participated as part of a panel at the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s 50th Annual Enshrinement Ceremony in a tribute to the 100th year of naval aviation.
Although he is unable to attend, Rear Adm. Feightner also will be honored with other Distinguished Alumni for 2013 at the annual Alumni Association Breakfast during Homecoming on Sept. 28, 2013.