Wednesday, August 31, 2005

John H. Griffith 1921-2011

John Hardy Griffith flew many early experimental airplanes, helping to explore the realm of transonic and supersonic flight. He flew nine flights in the X-1, three flights in the X-4, sixteen flights in the D-558-1 and eight in the D-558-2. Griffith was also the senior experimental pilot on the F7U Cutlass in 1957. Griffith received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and four Air Medals for combat in the South Pacific during World War II. He was stationed in New Guinea and flew 189 combat missions in a P-40 in 1942 and 1943 with the 5th Air Force. He graduated with honors from Purdue University in 1948 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Aeronautical Engineering. In 1949 Griffith became a NACA research pilot for the High Speed Flight Research Unit at Edwards Air Force Base, where he flew the X-1, taking it supersonic. The X-1 was the first aircraft capable of supersonic flight and Griffith’s research contributed greatly to the understanding of the aerodynamics encountered in that region of flight. He left NACA in 1951 to fly for Chance Vought on the F7U Cutlass. From 1952 to 1960 he flew for Westinghouse as chief pilot for the Gas Turbine Division. He was later an airline pilot and flight instructor for United Airlines on the DC-6 and Boeing 727. Griffith also worked with the FAA from 1960 to 1966 in flight test certification of aircraft and on the supersonic transport evaluation team. He was a flight instructor on the DC-6 and then the B-727 for United Air Lines from 1966 to 1981. Griffith grew up in Homewood Illinois, watching commercial DC-3 planes flying over his home and dreaming of becoming a pilot. During the Great Depression, his family lost their home, and he went to live with an Aunt, graduating in pre-engineering from Thornton Junior College before joining the military. After completing his military service and education, Griffith finally began his career as a test pilot; he knew he was doing what he wanted to do. In a 45 year career, Griffith has flown nearly 80 different aircraft including 20 military propeller and jet fighters, 13 cargo and bomber aircraft, 28 trainers and light aircraft, 7 seaplane and helicopters and 6 airline transports. He flew 4,000 hours in the B-727, bringing his total flight time to over 9,000 hours.