John Estes


LCDR John Estes, US Navy (ret) is a United States Naval Academy (USNA) graduate and a career Navy pilot. He graduated with the class of 1959, majoring in Engineering. After graduation, John served 22 years in the Navy, retiring in 1981. He was born in Hanover NH in 1934 where his father was an office manager for the American Woolen Company in Lebanon, NH. John had an older brother, Edwin, but both his brother and his mother passed away when John was in middle school. John was a top athlete on Lebanon High School’s Ski Racing and Jump team. Following high school graduation, he attended the University of NH for two years where he also was a member of the ski team. John was appointed to the USNA during his second year at UNH and graduated from the USNA in 1959. He was selected with the top tier of his class to attend fighter pilot training and went on to Naval Pilot Training in Pensacola, FL where he met his wife Cherie Jean Pennington of Purvis, MS.


John started his flying career in the A-1 Skyraider, and later transitioned to the Navy’s new reconnaissance aircraft E2-C Hawkeye. He was deployed with the USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) and the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) to the western Pacific in the early 1960’s. In 1968, John deployed with the USS Essex and while on this deployment, the aircraft carrier was diverted to pick up astronauts from the Apollo 7 Crew whose return capsule successfully landed in the South Pacific Ocean after the astronauts completed the October 1968 human spaceflight mission.  Apollo 7 was the first mission in the United States’ Apollo program to carry a crew into space.  John’s duty stations included North Island Coronado, CA; Ent AS and Cheyenne MS, Colorado springs, CO, where he was selected to work his only space operations assignment. In addition, John served with VAW-121 out of Norfolk Naval Air Station (NAS); NAS Quonset Point, RI, Fleet Composite Operational Readiness Group-2, Norfolk, VA, when he deployed with the USS America and flew reconnaissance missions off the coast of Loas during the Vietnam War. After the nine month deployment with this carrier group, John returned to his native New England to serve with the Naval District Headquarters in Boston, MA and moved on to become the New Jersey Reserve Officer Training Corp Director for the entire New England region. He finished his Navy career in Naples, Italy with Commander Fleet Air Med Staff.

After retiring from the Navy, John obtained his Real Estate license and continues to work in the real estate industry today. He is also still an active member of Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA) at the age of 82. He was recognized in Vail, CO when he surpassed his 35th year anniversary with PSIA in 2001? Still an avid skier, John lives in new London, NH with his wife Cherie. They have 3 daughters, 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren; twins Stephanie and Kimberly, 49, are both Colonels in the USAFR residing with their families in Colorado. Oldest daughter Dana, 55, is in the banking industry and lives in FL with her husband Jeff.


Selected as one of the first duty officers for the newly established Space Detection and Tracking System (SPADATS) in 1965, this Navy pilot served a landlocked tour deep inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs after assisting North American Air Defense (NORAD) in moving the space mission into ‘the Mountain’. He was then one of three officers (and the only Navy officer) selected to stand up the Space Defense Center (SDC) at NORAD, serving with two Air Force officers. While at the SDC, John developed arguably one of the nation’s first space mission scheduling processes, which looks amazingly similar to satellite scheduling process and products used today by the Air Force.