Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America
Bill Spruce, Bell Chief Flight Test Engineer
William “Bill” McCarty Spruce, Jr., was born in Austin, Texas, on Dec. 1, 1948, Spruce attended Irving High School before enrolling in the University of Texas at Arlington in 1966, graduating in 1971 with a BS in Aerospace and Aeronautics Engineering. During his last two years of college, he was chosen for the cooperative education (co-op) program at Bell Helicopter, where he was then hired full time in June 1969 after graduation. He also served in the US Marine Reserves from 1971–1979, as a crew chief on Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters.
At Bell, Spruce’s early career achievements included: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification of the Bell 206L and 222, serving as lead flight test engineer (FTE) on the AH-1T+, adopted by the Marines as the AH-1W SuperCobra, and working countless other flight test programs. He was a long-standing member of the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE), where he held several offices, as well as a member of VFS and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
But Spruce’s career was ultimately defined by his contributions and dedication to the V-22 Osprey. The flight test program took him far and wide, from Texas as Lead FTE on the first V-22 to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, persevering through a demanding return-to-flight program after devastating crashes imperiled the future of the program, to long periods deployed at sea alongside service members on the USS Wasp and the USS Bataan as Lead Flight Director for shipboard testing. He worked tirelessly and received broad recognition; eventually seeing his work culminate in the extraordinarily successful full deployment of the V-22 to both the US Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy.
After the V-22 program, Spruce assumed Lead FTE on the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland/Bell VH-71 Presidential Helicopter program before returning in 2009 to Texas — after 14 years at Pax River — to preside over the whole of Bell flight testing as Chief Flight Test Engineer, before finally retiring in April 2013 after nearly 44 years of working for Bell Helicopter.
In his retirement, he enjoyed playing golf, regularly meeting up with other Bell and flight test alumni, and supported his wife as they fostered newborns for various adoption agencies.
William Spruce, Jr., passed away on February 27, 2023, in Mansfield, Texas, at the age of 74.
VFS Update: Vertiflite May/June 2023