Former Bell Engineer Remembers Unique Encounter with Neil Armstrong

August 30, 2012 Updated Aug 30, 2012 at 6:03 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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August 30, 2012 Updated Aug 30, 2012 at 6:03 PM EDT

AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) Bill Bascom is now 81-years old, but he still remembers his days working as an engineer for the Bell Aerospace Company and building the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) and the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV).

"We had a lot of fun times working on that during the late-50's and mid-60's," says Bascom.

Bell Aerospace used one-million dollars of its own money to develop the odd shaped aircraft that was nicknamed the "Flying Bedstead."

It was used to train the Apollo moon-landing astronauts by simulating flight in 1/6 gravity as is experienced on the moon.

In the late 1960's, several of the lunar landing trainers were shipped to Houston, Texas to be used by NASA.

Bill Bascom was also sent to help the astronauts, but being African-American, he found that skin color was still a big issue at the Texas airbase where he worked.

"My family and I were unable to have a residence at the same place as the other engineers who came down to Ellington Air Force Base from Bell," adds Bill Bascom.

The former Bell engineer says he had to eat his lunch by himself in a separate area, but one day he was joined by a famous astronaut.

"I happened to look up and who sat down to join me for lunch was Neil Armstrong. We had a tremendous 45-minutes to one hour of discussion which ranged from the vehicle that he was primarily interested in, to everything else. That was one of my personal experiences with Neil that I'll always remember."

Armstrong would go on to pilot the Lunar Module nicknamed "Eagle" to a landing on the moon's surface in July 1969.

And according to Bill Bascom, Armstrong's training in the Bell LLTV helped him manually make a safe landing on the moon.

On Friday, the nation's flags will be flown at half-staff in memory of the veteran astronaut who will be laid to rest with a private funeral in Ohio.