Robert D. Powell, Jr.
Robert D. Powell, Jr., 95, passed away in Newport News, VA, with his two daughters at his side on August 6, 2018. Born in Richmond, VA in 1923, he grew up in Hopewell and the Richmond area, and was a Yorktown resident since 1955. Bob was the eldest child of Robert Dunlop Powell, Sr., and Dorothy Matilda (nee Applewhite). He was predeceased by his wife of 46 years, Susan (nee Hawley, 1936-2017), his first wife Nancy (nee Dighton, 1925-1977), his daughter, Martha (nee Powell, 1955-2018), and his two siblings, “Dot” Richards and Francis Powell. He is survived by two daughters, N. Peyton Powell and M. Lindsay Powell; five grandchildren, Reed, Geoffrey, Shannon, Andrew and Cortlandt; six great grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren.
Bob will be remembered for the love shared in raising his three children with his first wife, Nancy; for the long and loving marriage shared with his second wife, Susan; and for his many friends with whom he pursued his love for travel, entertaining, and golf. He was a mentor to his colleagues, an algebra tutor for neighborhood teenagers, a model railroad enthusiast, an avid reader, and builder/fixer of many things. From humble beginnings, he pursued his lifetime dreams with a quiet and supportive presence. He embraced his long happy life with a dry sense of humor, and a calm and steady demeanor that will be missed by all.
Bob completed his Naval Aviator training in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1944, and flew piston engine F8F Bearcats from aircraft carriers during WWII, looking for Japanese submarines in the Pacific theatre. Earning the rank of Commander, he joined the Naval Air Reserves and flew F4U Corsair and F7F Tiger Cats at Naval Station Norfolk until 1971, where he served as one of sixteen peninsula “Weekend Warriors”.
In his professional life, Bob earned a Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Aero Option) from the University of Virginia in 1952, and was a member of Theta Tau fraternity. He was a lead engineer for the Rotary Wing Section of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics/ National Air and Space Administration (NASA) Technology Group (1952- 1958), where he researched hovering performance of helicopter rotors at Langley Field, earning wings from NASA for his service. He then transferred to the U.S. Army Transportation Research Command (TRECOM), a forerunner of the Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), located at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Bob received several awards for his work as project engineer for many helicopter research programs and as Chief of his technical group. Innovative contributions included his work on the Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk, Lockheed AH-56A Cheyenne AAFSS, Hughes YAH-64A Apache AAH, Lockheed QT-2 / YO-3A Quiet Thruster, Grumman OV-1 Mohawk, Boeing Vertol XCH-62 HLH (Heavy Lift Helicopter), Kaman K-Max UAS, and the Boeing Vertol CH- 47 Chinook, a twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy lift helicopter, which was among the first of its kind. After retirement from U.S. Army civil service in 1984, he was employed for several years by Kaman Aerospace Corporation as their regional representative.
Bob was an American Helicopter Society 66-year Emeritus Member and a member of the President’s Club, where he received numerous awards for his contributions to the field. He is credited with sponsoring over 400 new AHS members. He served many years as the Hampton Roads Chapter Treasurer and as administrator for annual Chapter-sponsored international technical meetings. He managed the chapter’s financial resources in a way that awarded college scholarships, supported local science fairs, and contributed to museums with interest in the history of rotorcraft and its role in civil and military applications.
A memorial service will be held at Grace Episcopal Church on October 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm, with reception to follow. Memorial contributions may be sent to Vertical Flight Society (formerly AHS), Hampton Roads Chapter, P.O. Box 4249, Fort Eustis, Virginia 23604, where the Annual Robert D. Powell, Jr. Scholarship is awarded each year to an outstanding high school senior planning to enter a STEM-related college program. The family will be notified of your condolences and best wishes.