- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

William C. McCool, 40, pilot of space shuttle Columbia, was a commander in the U.S. Navy who had logged 2,800 hours of flight experience in 24 aircraft and completed more than 400 carrier landings.

He was selected by NASA in April 1996 and qualified for flight assignment as a pilot.

Initially assigned to the Computer Support Branch, McCool also served as technical assistant to the director of Flight Crew Operations and worked shuttle cockpit upgrade issues for the Astronaut Office.

He graduated second of 1,083 in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in applied science. He also earned a master's degree in computer science from the University of Maryland in 1985, as well as a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1992.

He was born on Sept. 23, 1961 in San Diego. Married, his hobbies were running, mountain biking, hiking and camping, swimming and playing guitar and chess.

"We have such a new and young crew, and we worked together for so long, that the relationship is something you don't quite understand and you never really will understand until you get assigned to a flight," McCool said, commenting on the Columbia mission prior to its launch on Jan. 16.

"We've done so much together and we're all kind of in that same boat. Either we've only flown once, or we've never flown, and the whole growth process together as a crew of seven has been something."

(Editors: UPI Photos WAX2003020111 and WAX2003020122 available)

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