Dick Scobee was born on May 19th, 1939, in Cle Elum, WA to parents Francis and Edlynn. He and his family moved to the City of Auburn in the late 1940s from the Cascades, with Dick attending Washington Elementary School, Cascade Jr. High School, and Auburn Senior High School from which he graduated in 1957. At the age of 18, he joined the United States Air Force.
He was assigned to Kelly Air Force Base where he worked as a reciprocating engine mechanic and attended night school, acquiring two years of college credit, leading to his selection for the Airman’s Education and Commission Program. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor of science degree in Aerospace Engineering and received his Air Force commission in 1965, with his Wings following a year later. He completed a number of assignments, including a combat tour in Vietnam. He later graduated from the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California and took part in the testing of 45 different types of aircraft including the Boeing 747, the X-24B, the transonic aircraft technology (TACT) F-111 and the C-5 Galaxy.
Career at NASA:
Dick was quoted as saying, "When you find something you really like to do, and you're willing to risk the consequences of that, you really probably ought to go do it." So, when he had the opportunity to apply for a position with NASA's astronaut corps, he jumped at it. He was selected in January, 1978 and completed his training and evaluation period in August of 1979. His first shuttle assignment was as pilot aboard Space Shuttle Challenger during Mission STS-41-C, launching April 6, 1984, on a week-long journey. While the mission had its own obstacles, Challenger’s crew successfully completed the mission objectives and returned home one week later.
Scobee’s second and final assignment was again aboard Challenger for Mission STS-51-L, this time as commander, with six crewmates in total on board. The launch had been postponed four times by weather and technical problems, and some engineers expressed concern about a liftoff that day because of extremely low temperatures that had dipped to 25 degrees that morning. But, with the countdown proceeding smoothly and with the temperature creeping toward 40 degrees, officials gave the go-ahead on January 28th, 1986. Challenger blasted off into a clear sky at 11:38 a.m. At 58 seconds, a tongue of flame burst through a joint on one of the solid fuel booster rockets, igniting a chain reaction that transformed Challenger into a massive fireball 8.9 miles in the air after a flight of 73 seconds, killing all seven astronauts on board.
Scobee was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 1, 2004 along with his 6 other crewmates. Auburn Municipal Airport was honorifically named “Dick-Scobee Field” to celebrate the life and achievements of a great Pacific Northwest Native. Dick enjoyed flying, oil painting, woodworking, motorcycling, racquetball, jogging, and most outdoor sports. June Scobee Rodgers had this to say on the passing of her husband, “Without risk, there’s no discovery, no new knowledge, no bold adventure. The greatest risk is to take no risk.”
The Auburn Municipal Airport is a public use airfield centrally located within the I-5 corridor of Western Washington. Sitting 45 minutes south of Seattle and just 25 minutes north of Tacoma, we are perfectly situated to serve the growing needs of pilots and general aviation enthusiasts here in the Pacific Northwest.
At the direction of Mayor Shaughnessey in 1962, a committee was appointed to find a suitable location within the City of Auburn for construction of a new airport. After years of feasibility studies and the subsequent acquisition of funds, the Auburn Municipal Airport was opened in 1969 with a 2,900' runway and an adjacent paved taxiway. The Airport was renamed Dick Scobee Field in honor of the late Francis Richard Scobee, an Auburn native and the last commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51L).