Clarence L. ''Kelly'' Johnson: From Skunk Works to the Edge of Space

Clarence L. ''Kelly'' Johnson: From Skunk Works to the Edge of Space

by Daniel Alef

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Kelly Johnson designed the Blackbird, a plane that flew non-stop from London to Los Angeles in less than four hours, outracing the sun and landing four hours before it had taken off, a remarkable feat--and this was more than 35 years ago. Johnson was the innovative genius behind Lockheed's "Skunk Works," and played a leading role in the development of more than forty aircraft, including some of America's most sophisticated planes. In 2003, as part of its commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight, an Aviation Week & Space Technology poll ranked him 8th on its list of the "Top 100 Stars of Aerospace" in the first century of flight, just behind the Wright brothers, Leonardo Da Vinci and Charles Lindbergh. Lockheed's chief engineer once said: "That damned Swede can actually see air." Award-winning author Daniel Alef tells the remarkable tale of the man who garnered 35 major awards for his aviation feats, including the Medal of Freedom, and brought us to the edge of space. [3,846-word Titans of Fortune biographical profile].

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608041732
Publisher: Titans of Fortune Publishing
Publication date: 10/20/2010
Series: Titans of Fortune
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 505,031
File size: 934 KB

About the Author

Daniel Alef has written many articles, one law book, one historical anthology, Centennial Stories, and authored the award-winning historical novel, Pale Truth (MaxIt Publishing, 2000). Foreword Magazine named Pale Truth book of the year for general fiction in 2001 and the novel received many outstanding reviews including ones from Publishers Weekly and the American Library Association's Booklist. A sequel to Pale Truth, currently entitled Measured Swords, has just been completed. Titans of Fortune, biographical profiles of America's great moguls, men and women who had a profound impact on America and the World, began in April 2003. He is also a contributor to the recently released reference work: Gender and Women's Leadership pubished by Sage Publishing. Mr. Alef's experience as a lawyer, CEO of a public company, a rancher, and author, combined with his academic background-UCLA (B.S.), UCLA Law School (J.D.), the London School of Economics and Political Science (LL.M.), and Cambridge University (post-graduate studies)-gave him the perception to analyze the powerful titans and their achievements, and to place their lives and triumphs in a larger perspective. The Titans of Fortune series of articles appeared in several newspapers including the Lee Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, and became a weekly column in the Santa Barbara News Press. Mr. Alef also had a one-hour weekly radio show based on the Titans of Fortune column. He has appeared as a guest speaker and lecturer at various university, Rotary, and Kiwanis clubs, public libraries including San Francisco and Chicago, cruise ships, and at numerous historical societies across the nation. Mr. Alef serves on the Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and on the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Activities League. He is a black belt in judo and one of the head instructors of the University of California at Santa Barbara Judo Club. He currently lives with his family in Santa Barbara.

Read an Excerpt

Kelly Johnson was a brilliant airplane designer and possibly the most innovative aviation pioneer since the Wright brothers. I have fond memories of flying overseas on Kelly-designed TWA Constellations. Years later, my son and I built models of the alien-like SR-71 Blackbird, another Kelly innovation. And I remember sitting in the stands in front of the runway at Edwards Air Force Base near Mojave, California, during Armed Forces Day, and having the privilege of seeing a top-secret Kelly-designed craft.
It was a strange looking plane, flying low and slow, and the people in the crowd murmured its name softly as if they were afraid of divulging a military secret. It had unusually long wings, resembling those of a glider, but as it neared the middle of the runway it suddenly turned its nose skyward and with a menacing and throbbing roar of its J57 turbojet engine, headed straight up until it was out of sight, a breathtaking display of power. It was the U-2.
Kelly, head of Lockheed's top-secret "Skunk Works," designed the world's highest-performance aircraft, planes capable of feats many engineers deemed impossible; unknown to those naysayers, in some cases the secret planes were already operational.
The superiority of his designs is irrefutable. After more than 45 years, Kelly's 2,000 mph Blackbird remains the fastest piloted jet ever built. In 1974 it flew from New York to London in a record-breaking 1 hr. 55 min! And returned non-stop London to Los Angeles in 3 hr. 48 min, outracing the sun and landing four hours before it had taken off. It covered its final flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. in slightly more than an hour. And this is declassified information. Its real performance limits remain classified.

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