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2007 Hall of Fame

Joseph J. Foster, III

Joseph J. Foster III was raised in Albany, N.Y., and received a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from Indiana Tech in 1950. He built his first model airplane at age 10, and that began his lifelong love of aviation.

Foster says everything he learned about wind tunnel testing was because of the great education he received from Professor Ben Kemp and Indiana Tech. Foster has been a faithful supporter of Indiana Tech and established a scholarship in 2000 to help those who have the potential to make things better in the world. Foster and his first wife, Ruth (deceased), raised five boys and two girls. He married his present wife, Dotty, in 1991, and they are both docents at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Between them, they have nine children, 18 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

In college, Foster worked as an airplane mechanic for 50 cents an hour, and in January 1951, he enlisted in the Air Force. After basic training, he worked for a German scientist at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio where he operated the wind tunnel at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

In January 1954, Foster graduated from pilot training in Texas. He went on to fly student navigators, became a test pilot, and learned to fly jet aircraft while in Japan in 1959. During 1961 he helped build the Titan I and Titan II underground ICBM missile launch facilities. From 1963 to 1966, he flew worldwide with the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) as Douglas C-133 “Cargo master” Aircraft Commander. At the time, it was the world’s largest airplane.

In March 1965 he wrote a special letter volunteering for flying duty in Vietnam. After combat crew training in Florida and jungle survival school in the Philippines, Foster arrived at Saigon, South Vietnam, in July 1966. Foster and his crew flew 1,165 combat support sorties, flying into jungle airstrips and abandoned World War II airfields, sometimes landing on dirt roads often without knowing whether it was safe to land there. They relocated Special Forces and mercenary militia and flew out the wounded soldiers.

Foster was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice for his courageous and precise flying expertise in the face of danger. Foster says, “I was brought up as a ‘family, God, and country’ kid. I volunteered for Vietnam because I felt it was important to keep South Vietnam free of communism. It didn’t work out that way. But flying in Vietnam was the best year I ever spent flying. Every day I felt I was helping someone. And nothing I did was heroic. I was just another ‘provider’ pilot doing his job.”

Foster has flown 19 different types of prop, turboprop, and jet airplanes and logged 5,750 hours in the air. He retired as lieutenant colonel in January 1979 with 28 years of Air Force service. After retirement he worked in project management at several aerospace companies developing the MX ICBM, the B-1B Bomber, and C-17 transport.