Richard H. Solem


Died June 29, 2011,Irvine, CA

College: Silliman


Colonel Richard Henry Solem, 71, distinguished test pilot and Vietnam Veteran in the US Air Force, passed away on June 29, 2011 in Irvine, CA, following a long battle with Pick’s disease. Colonel Solem was a command pilot with more than 5,800 flying hours in a variety of aircraft. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service medal with oak leaf cluster, and Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. He was born on January 27, 1940 in Chicago, he earned a BS in mathematics from Yale University in 1961 and an MA in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1963. A distinguished graduate of Officer Training School, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1964. In 1966 he flew with the 135th Aviation Company at Dong Ba Tinh and the 458th at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. In 1967 he returned from overseas and joined the 84th Military Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base. Selected for the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 1969, he entered as a member of Class 70A. Following graduation, he engaged in a series of test programs at the 4950th Test Wing. Returning to Edwards in 1972 as an instructor at the USAF Test Pilot School, he flew flight tests during a very active period in the mid-1970s. In 1976, he moved to Andrews Air Force Base where he served as Executive Officer to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Test and Evaluation. Here he was heavily engaged as Chief of Plans and Integration for the F-16. In 1981, he returned to active flying as Commander of the 4951st Test Squadron. A year later, he moved up to become the Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations for the 4950th Test Wing. In 1983 he became program director for the KC-135R. With Special Ops becoming more urgent, he was chosen to get the dormant Combat Talon II program moving again. Within a month and a half, he pulled the program together and had Combat Talon II on contract. Capitalizing on his experience with Talon II, he was selected as the new Air Force Deputy Program Manager for the tilt rotor Navy V-22 program at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, DC. He retired in 1990 as director of flight systems engineering and technical management of the Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Following retirement, he flew as a test pilot for McDonnell Douglas to develop the new C-17 and MD-11 aircraft. After his distinguished flying career, he became a high-school mathematics teacher in Irvine, CA. Richard is survived by his three sons, Christian, Brandon, and Brett; former wife Frances E. Morehouse Solem; brother Johndale and sister-in-law Ann; and many cousins. He was preceded in death by parents Henry Richard and Charlotte Sorenson Solem. Services will be held Tuesday, July 12 at 1 p.m. at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego. Memorials in honor of Richard’s service may be directed to the Wounded Warrior Project at

Published in Chicago Tribune on July 8, 2011