James F. "Skeets" Coleman of Del Mar, California passed away peacefully, of old age, on May 13th, 2014. He was just shy of his 96th birthday.
He was born June 2nd, 1918 in Chicago, IL to Martin L. and Irene "Peggy" (Comiskey) Coleman and was the third of 6 children. The family soon moved to Davenport, IA where he grew up and attended St. Ambrose College and the University of Iowa..
He joined the US Marines in 1941 and served during WWII as a fighter pilot who flew dive bombing missions in the Pacific Theatre. After the war he remained in service in the Marine Reserves and graduated from UCLA with an aeronautical engineering degree. He moved down to Del Mar and ran the Del Mar Airport from 1948 to 1950. As a squadron commander in the Reserves, he eventually rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel and he earned the prestigious Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award in 1960. His squadron flew the swept wing Jet F9F-7 more hours than any squadron, Navy or Marine, regular or reserve, without accident or incident.
During his time in the reserves in the 1950's, he also became an engineering test pilot for the US Navy and Convair. In this capacity he made history in 1955 by being the first and only pilot to successfully take off and land a VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) Aircraft. The Convair XFY-1, or "POGO," as it was unofficially called, was a "tail sitter" jet that took off vertically, straight up and then leveled out, horizontally, for jet speed flight. The awkward and unruly plane is today housed at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum and is presently being refurbished.
During the rest of his test piloting career he also conducted experimental flight tests on the Delta Wing Air Force Fighters, the F102, the R3Y 8 engine flying boat, Convair 340/440/T29 transport aircraft, and many Navy helicopter and fighter aircraft.
In December of 1955 he was awarded the Harmon International Trophy by President Eisenhower for outstanding achievement as an Aviator for his test flights of the Pogo. For his service as an aviator in WWII he was also awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals in 2002.
His civilian career included senior management and marketing positions at several top aerospace companies such as Fairchild and North American Aviation (North American Rockwell). He introduced the first turboprop into the US Airline fleets, the Fokker F-27, and the first jet airplane into the business and corporate fleets, the Saberliner (T-39 AF).
As a publisher for Ziff-Davis Publishing in New York, he was responsible for several of their aviation publications including Business and Commercial Aviation. He served on the Board of Directors of National Business Aviation Association, the Aviation/Space Writers Association, and Chapter 14 of the Experimental Aircraft Association. He was one of the founding members of The Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was a lifelong member of the Quiet Birdmen.
He is survived by his two daughters, Nancy Lee Coleman (Don McSorley), Jackie Coleman Remick (Mark), and his son Marty Coleman (Linda). Seven grandchildren, Rebekah Coleman Evans (Patrick) Connie and Chelsea Coleman, Caitlin Reynolds, Tim, John, and Jennifer Remick, and one great grandchild, Vivian Isabel Evans. He is also survived by his sister Betty Coleman McCabe, and over 40 nephews and nieces and their spouses, children and grandchildren.
He follows in death his wife of 37 years, Lee Powell Coleman, his mother and father, three brothers, Robert (Plug) L. Coleman, John (Jack) M. Coleman, Thomas J. Coleman and one sister, Ann Coleman Watson.
Visitation/viewing will be 4-7pm, Wednesday, 21 May 2014.
Service will be at 1pm, Thursday, 22 May 2014.
Interment to follow immediately following service.
Both the visitation and the service will be held in the chapel.
Eternal Hills, 1999 El Camino Real, Oceanside, CA 92054. (760) 754-6600.http://www.dignitymemorial.com/eternal-hills-memorial-park-mortuary/en-us/index.page
Arrangements are under the direction of Eternal Hills Memorial Park, Mortuary, and Crematory, Oceanside, California.