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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    CONTACT: John Blacksten


    AIAA Mourns the Death of Frederick C. Durant III
    AIAA Fellow Emeritus and Former President of the American Rocket Society

    October 23, 2015 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) mourns the death of Frederick C. Durant III, former president of the American Rocket Society (which merged with the Institute of the Aerospace Sciences to create AIAA), from 1953 to 1954; former president of the International Astronautical Federation, from 1953 to 1956; former governor of the National Space Club, 1961; and former assistant director of astronautics at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., from 1965 to 1981. Durant was 99 years old.

    “Frederick Durant’s leadership of the American Rocket Society and the International Astronautical Federation and his work with various companies did much to build and mature the aerospace industry,” said AIAA President Jim Albaugh. “A relentless advocate of manned spaceflight, Durant was instrumental in convincing key decision makers that manned spaceflight was feasible – helping to bring about a new era of exploration and discovery. While we mourn his death, we are grateful for all he did to shape the future of aerospace.”

    Durant entered the aerospace community during World War II when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an aviator. During the war, Durant taught pilots how to land on and takeoff from aircraft carriers. After the war, Durant joined Bell Aircraft as a test pilot, testing some of the first fighter jets in the U.S. inventory. During the Korean conflict, Durant returned to military service, serving as a U.S. Navy test pilot.

    After returning from the Korean conflict, Durant became one of the nation’s most respected advisors on aerospace technology – working with a number of organizations, including Bell Aircraft Corp., the Everett Research Lab, the Naval Air Rocket Test Station, and the Maynard Ordnance Test Station. In 1953 he served on a panel organized by the CIA for the purposes of investigating if extraterrestrial spacecraft existed, helping to author the committee’s report, which found “no evidence that the phenomena indicate a need for the revision of current scientific concepts.” Additionally, during the same period Durant became a staunch advocate for manned spaceflight, penning an article for Aviation Week magazine arguing that not only was spaceflight feasible, it was time for the U.S. to invest in a manned spaceflight program. Durant’s advocacy attracted the notice of Dr. Wernher von Braun, who recruited Durant for his Project Orbiter program, with the goal of putting a U.S. civilian satellite into orbit around the Earth. The program led to the creation of the Explorer I satellite, launched in 1958.

    The Smithsonian Institution hired Durant in 1964 to lead its efforts to add an aerospace component to the Institution’s museums. Serving until 1981, Durant’s efforts ensured that the Smithsonian became the official repository for all of NASA’s spacecraft and equipment. Durant was a noted collector of space art.



    About AIAA
    AIAA is the largest aerospace professional society in the world, serving a diverse range of more than 30,000 individual members from 88 countries, and 95 corporate members. AIAA members help make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.



    American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500, Reston, VA 20191-4344
    Phone: 703.264.7558 Fax: 703.264.7551