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Marta Bohn-Meyer, at 48; was NASA engineer, pilot

LOS ANGELES -- Marta Bohn-Meyer, a precision aerobatic pilot and the chief engineer of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base north of Los Angeles, died Sunday in the crash of her private plane. She was 48.

Ms. Bohn-Meyer, who lived in Lancaster, Calif., and was off duty, was beginning routine aerobatic practice near Yukon, Okla., an Oklahoma City suburb, when the Giles G-300 she was flying crashed. Her death was announced by NASA, which said the crash is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

''Marta Bohn-Meyer was an extraordinarily talented individual and a most trusted technical expert and manager at NASA Dryden," the center's director, Kevin Petersen, said in a message Monday informing his staff of her death. ''She committed her life and career to aviation and the advancement of aeronautics and space in the United States."

Ms. Bohn-Meyer joined NASA's Dryden Center as an operations engineer in 1979 and had been chief engineer since 2001.

Among her research projects were testing heat-resistant tiles for the space shuttle and utilizing F-16XL aircraft to smooth airflow over airplane wings with the goal of building faster and larger commercial airliners.

She was one of only two flight engineers -- the other is her husband, Bob Meyer -- assigned to fly in the SR-71 Blackbird flight research program at Dryden. During flights of the sleek aircraft, which had been used for spying, she served as navigator and conducted research on aerodynamics, propulsion, thermal protection, and sonic booms. The research is used in designing future aircraft.

NASA had acquired three SR-71 Blackbirds in 1989 after the military had retired them. The plane can fly 2,200 miles per hour -- triple the speed of sound -- and up to an altitude of 85,000 feet.

Ms. Bohn-Meyer was the first female crew member of the plane and the second woman to fly in it, according to the Edwards Air Force Base website. She made her first flight Oct. 3, 1991.

Off duty, Ms. Bohn-Meyer liked to build small aircraft and restore old cars. She was a certified flight instructor and regularly flew in aerobatics competitions, along with her husband, who survives her.

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