Benjamin S. Kelsey
Benjamin "Ben" Kelsey is most well known by P-38 fans as the pilot who first flew the Lightning cross country.
General "Hap" Arnold decided (after only 5 hours of flying time) to make the announcement about the new XP‑38 warbird in a spectacular way -- they would challenge the current transcontinental speed record, held at the time by a guy by the name of Howard Hughes (7 hours, 26 minutes, 25 seconds).
So, on February 11, 1939, Lt. Ben Kelsey took off from there headed toP‑38 Original Flight Route points East. Kelsey made a few refueling stops along the way. First in Amarillo, TX, then on to Wright Field in Dayton, OH, and finally to Mitchel Field in Long Island, NY. (Although it's now very difficult to find, to read an incredible person-to-person account of this event, pick up a copy of Warren Bodie's book "The Lockheed P-38 Lightning (It Goes Like Hell).")
Kelsey reached NY in 7 hours, 37 seconds to set a new record. Unfortunately, he had a few "challenges" on the set down and crashed the prototype into a golf course ravine just short of the runway. The aircraft was a total write-off, but fortunately Kelsey escaped with only minor injuries. (Read newspaper articles about the crash -- and see another photo -- from the period.)
Kelsey co-authored the technical specifications which led to the development of the P-38 Lightning and stayed in close contact with it during every phase of its development and implementation.
According to author Jeff Ethell, Kelsey flew extended long-range ferry missions, combat missions and potentially dangerous equipment tests. One such flight took place on April 9, 1943 when Kelsey performed a flight test on a modified P-38G to see if Lockheed's newly developed dive flap could be engaged after terminal velocity was reached in a dive. After climbing to 35,000 ft, Kelsey initiated a dive. At maximum speed, he pulled the lever to engage the new flaps but nothing happened. Pulling harder, the handle came off in his hand. Kelsey applied full rudder and aileron at the same time, and suddenly the aircraft lost one wing and the whole tail, and entered an inverted flat spin. Kelsey bailed out and suffered a broken ankle upon landing. The P-38 crashed upside down into a hillside near Calabasas, California.