Test Facility Design Engineer
Served 1952 – 1997
Carlos Bustamante was born in National City, Calif., on June 26, 1930. He attended Texas Western University, now UTEP where he earned a civil engineering degree in 1952.
After graduation, Bustamante joined White Sands. Some of his first jobs included redesigning and modernizing range facilities such as Launch Complex 33 and the 500K static test stand.
In the 1960s, Bustamante became heavily involved in establishing the White Sands off-range flight corridor. This was the idea of launching test missiles from places off the missile range and essentially using White Sands as the target.
The first off-range firing was a Sergeant missile launched from Datil, NM. Bustamante then selected and developed the launch sites at Fort Wingate, NM, and Blanding and Green River, Utah. The Fort Wingate and Blanding sites were used for Pershing missile launches. The Green River site was originally built for the Air Force’s Athena missile tests, but was also used for Pershing launches.
Bustamante was intimately involved in reducing public concerns about safety and security issues, instrumentation requirements for collecting data about tests and to safely control the test, environmental concerns and interstate communications.
Two of these tests brought Bustamante huge challenges. In 1967 a Pershing missile came down just across the Mexican border south of Van Horn, Texas. It happened again in 1970 when an Athena missile malfunctioned and crashed about 500 miles into Mexico outside the remote village of Carrillo.
In both cases, Bustamante was called on to be the range’s liaison with the Mexican government. Bustamante had a unique combination of skills that included fluency in Spanish, high-level management experience, a great technical knowledge of the missile range and a diplomatic demeanor. In part, the successful negotiations and retrieval of the missiles was due to Bustamante’s efforts.
In addition to Bustamante’s technical leadership, he was also involved in recruiting scientists and engineers for government jobs. In both 1969 and 1970 he was recognized as one of the top recruiters in the whole nation.
Bustamante retired from White Sands in 1990 as chief of the National Range’s Data Collection Division. He returned to White Sands in 1993 to do contract work. In his capacity as a contract engineer he designed the environmental shelters for the Hera missile to be used at several launch complexes on range and at Fort Wingate.
All totaled Bustamante spent 43 years in association with White Sands.
He and his wife Yolanda live in EI Paso.