Today in History – February 27, 1910 – Birthdate of Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, Aeronautical Engineer

27 February 1910 – Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson (February 27, 1910 – December 21, 1990) was an  American aeronautical and systems engineer. He is recognized for his contributions to a series of important aircraft designs, including the Lockheed A-12, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, Lockheed F-94 Starfire, Lockheed L-049 Constellation, Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, Lockheed SR-71A, Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star, Lockheed U-2. (1)

Besides the first production aircraft to exceed Mach 3, he also produced the first fighter capable of Mach 2, the United States’ first operational jet fighter, as well as the first fighter to exceed 400 mph, and many other contributions to various aircraft.[1] As a member and first team leader of the Lockheed Skunk Works, Johnson worked for more than four decades and is said to have been an “organizing genius”.[2] He played a leading role in the design of over forty aircraft, including several honored with the prestigious Collier Trophy, acquiring a reputation as one of the most talented and prolific aircraft design engineers in the history of aviation. In 2003, as part of its commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight, Aviation Week & Space Technology ranked Johnson eighth on its list of the top 100 “most important, most interesting, and most influential people” in the first century of aerospace.[3] Hall Hibbard, Johnson’s Lockheed boss, referring to Johnson’s once remarked to Ben Rich: “That damned Swede can actually see air.”[1][4]

Source: (1) ThisDayinAviaiton by Bryan R. Swopes c. 2018; (2)

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