Army Aviation Hall of Fame 1992 Induction
Many have earned the title of being a "pilot's pilot" or a "mechanic's mechanic," but CPT James T. "Butch" Kerr has earned a much higher accolade.
For 50 years, Kerr was the "authority" on flying and maintenance. He continuously advanced his knowledge and capabilities in flying and maintenance, kept ahead of the field, and taught the individuals who carried on as leaders.
As an enlisted man, Kerr joined the Test Group for Artillery Organic Aviation at Fort Sill, Okla., in early 1942 as an aircraft and engine mechanic, and soon became the line chief at the Department of Air Training (DAT). He established maintenance procedures which would be broadly adopted throughout the Army. Such was the quality of his work and the availability rate of his aircraft that, in the words of more than one observer, Kerr was the one indispensable individual in air training at Fort Sill.
Kerr obtained his Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) instrument instructor rating before the Army Ground Forces initiated instrument flying in the pilot program.
In 1950, while the maintenance line chief with the DAT, he spent many hours instructing the staff and faculty in instrument flying.
Kerr obtained a CAA multi-engine instructor rating before the Army procured their first multi-engine airplane, and many senior Army aviators got their check-out on new aircraft from him. He was also the first individual to receive a CAA Helicopter Airline Transport Pilot rating.
In 1951 at the rank of Staff Sgt., Kerr was commissioned and ordered to take flight training, obviously a perfunctory procedure for one who was at that time the instructor's instrument flying instructor.
Assigned later to the Transportation Aircraft Test and Support Activity at Fort Rucker, Ala., he participated extensively in the logistic support testing of all new model aircraft entering the Army inventory.
Retiring from the Army in 1961, Kerr went to work directly for the Federal Aviation Administration becoming an aviation safety inspector, helping to train FAA inspectors in the operation of the helicopter.
In his 20 years in the military service and in his additional 30 years of continuous government service, Kerr was one of the best qualified and most highly respected pilots the Army has ever produced.