Dick Johnson

Baseball player, builder of model airplanes, flyer of a crate powered by a Model-T engine - Richard Johnson was all of these while in Cooperstown.  His early interest in flying led him to a lifetime career in aviation such as few others have had.

In WW II he served in the Army Air Force and flew 180 missions as a fighter pilot in the Mediterranean area.  After the war he remained with the Air Force as a test pilot, and attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

He later joined General Dynamics and served as chief engineering test pilot.  He tested several supersonic fighters including the F102 and the F106.  In 1948 he broke the world's speed record, when he flew an army jet fighter, the F86 at a speed of 670.98 m.p.h.  He was awarded the French Henri de la Vaulx medal in recognition of this.

In 1967 he was awarded the title of the nation's best test pilot.  He received the Iven C. Kincheloe Award at the convention of the society of experimental test pilots.  At that time he had been engaged in flying the F111A fighter, also known as the TFX.

Three thousand hometown people honored him October 30, 1948 at "Dick Johnson Day" at the local airport.  On that day after a spectacular acrobatic show, Dick landed his F51 fighter on the sod runway.  A considerable feat in itself because the "51" lands at near 100 mph.

He became manager of flight in the Ft.  Worth division of General Dynamics in 1960 and subsequently was named director of flight and quality assurance.  General Dynamics' new airplane, which was sold to four European countries in addition to our own, is the F16, a single engine fighter airplane.  It is the first fly-by-wire airplane in which all control is electric rather than mechanical or hydro mach as most recent aircraft have been.  The principal advantages of fly-by-wire are reliability and versatility.

To quote Dick Johnson "I helped design the F16.  I have not flown it.  I would love to and could with the greatest of ease and delight.  With great reluctance I assigned another test pilot.  I am sure the government authorities, who really run our business would have said 'you're too old.’  I didn't give them the chance.  I have no complaints.  I've had more than my share of fun with my life's work - flying.  My work is no longer fun for me.  I am the boss of lots of things and lots of people - most of them great, lovely men - I prefer sky and fast airplanes however and I stay homesick for new adventure.”

Dick and his wife Alvina live in Aledo, Texas.  They have three children

 

1.     Rick, - a graduate of U. of Texas who is completing his pre-med requirements for medical school, a daughter Christy, a nurse and Lisa fourteen going on fifteen and "the best catcher on the girls softball league.  She can make kumla, lefse, cake, pie and cookies like any good farm girl from North Dakota.  She can ski, skate, swim, ride a motorcycle, fly, back-pack eighteen to twenty miles in a day in the high mountains - and is my best friend - and I like her," Dick said.

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976 Page 69

 

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