Charles “Chuck” Foster, 96, a long-time pilot and pioneer in American aviation safety, died April 10, 2018, in Issaquah, Washington. Chuck, when he was young, looked up to see a barnstormer fly over his hometown of Heavener, Oklahoma. This was the moment that forged his passion for aviation.
At Heavener High School he loved playing trombone, became an Eagle Scout and was valedictorian of his class. A proud Sooner, he graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Upon receiving his commission, he served in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Far East. He went on to North Carolina State to receive his Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering. Subsequently, he was assigned to the Air Force Research and Development program at Wright-Patterson.
His life-long goal, though, was to fly for the Air Force. The highlight of his flying career was his tour on Hokkaido, Japan, and Naha Air Base, Okinawa. He commanded the Sixteenth Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on Naha, where he was the first to fly the all-weather single-seat supersonic F 102 A Delta Dagger. As part of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, his unit was recognized by the Air Force, for its deployment to Taiwan in the 1958-1959 Crisis, specifically for deployment within four hours’ time of the official notification. The unit demonstrated outstanding night flying in weather below minimums, landings as low as 200 feet, and 1/16th of a mile visibility.
His next two tours of duty were quite different: first, he headed the ROTC program at the radicalized campus of San Francisco State College, during the Vietnam War. Then he was assigned to the Pentagon. He retired from the Air Force in 1967, having been decorated with the Air Force Commendation Medal and Legion of Merit for his work in sonic boom research. He served as U.S. representative to the international meetings of ICAO on aircraft noise. He joined DOT as Director of Noise Abatement. His work there included determining the impact of supersonic transport aircraft flying across the U.S.
Charles continued his career in aviation with the FAA. He was honored at the White House by President Carter for his work developing aviation safety and certification standards, the FAA’s “Lead Region” concept, and for his work as the lead investigator of the tragic 1979 Chicago DC-10 crash. During the course of the investigation the DC 10s were grounded world-wide.
Working as the Director of the Northwest Mountain Region allowed him the opportunity to enjoy the area of the country he loved the most and continue his passion for aviation. The Northwest’s beauty, its hunting and fishing opportunities, brought together life-long joys. He retired in 1986 from the FAA, but he continued in aircraft consulting work and became a proud member of the Seattle Hanger QB. Always a pilot, his last air adventure occurred on his eightieth birthday when he piloted a glider.
His daughters, Linda (Linda Foster Tolman), Franny (Frances Foster D’Ooge), Ruth (Ruth Foster), and Jane (Jane Foster Iacono), always felt very lucky to have had him as a father. They and his wife Helen (Helen Sharenberger Foster) travelled with him for many of his world-wide, momentous career years and were enriched, as few children can say, to have been part of such a wonderful man’s life. He is missed by his many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and his dear friend Jim Cain. His second wife, Evelyn Mauterer Foster, and her children also loved and appreciated him as well.
With everyone he met he shared a story and delighted them with his openness and his genuine concern for their lives. Friends may sign the online guest book at www.flintofts.com (Flintoft’s Funeral Home 425-392-6444).
A Celebration of Chuck’s Life is being planned in the summer. Contact information on the website would be appreciated.