Today In Aviation History – February 27 1910 – Birth of Kelly Johnson

aviation history

February 27 1910.  Birth of Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson.

Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson (February 27, 1910 – December 21, 1990) was an American system engineer and aeronautical innovator. He earned renown for his contributions to many noteworthy aircraft designs, especially the Lockheed U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes, but also including the P-38 Lightning, P-80 Shooting Star, and F-104 Starfighter, among others. 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”.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 8th on its list of the top 100 “most important, most interesting, and most influential people” in the first century of aerospace.

List of aircraft he worked on:

  • Orion 9D
  • Model 10 Electra/XC-35/C-36/Y1C-37
  • Model 12 Electra Junior
  • Model 14 Super Electra
  • Model 18 Lodestar
  • PV-1 Ventura/B-37
  • P-38 Lightning
  • Constellation family
  • PO-2W/WV-2/WV-3/EC-121 Warning Star
  • L-1649 Starliner
  • F-80 Shooting Star, the first successful American jet fighter;
  • T-33 and TV-2 trainers
  • P2V Neptune
  • XF-90
  • F-94 Starfire
  • X-7
  • F-104 Starfighter
  • F-117A Nighthawk
  • C-130 Hercules
  • U-2
  • Blackbird family: A-12, YF-12, SR-71, M-21, and D-21
  • JetStar/C-140

(details from Wikipedia, photo of SR-71 by author from National Museum of the USAF in Dayton Ohio)