NASA AERONAUTICAL INNOVATOR PASSES AWAY
Laurence K. Loftin, Jr., who helped ensure a vibrant NASA
aeronautical research program in the shadow of Americas space
race in the 1960s and early 1970s, died Monday, Jan. 27, at the age
Loftin came to work at Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., in
1944, one year after graduating from the University of Virginia in
Laurence K. Loftin, Jr.
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Influenced by the need to make aircraft fly faster and farther
during a time of war, he soon established himself as an
accomplished aerodynamicist. His first assignment was to the Low
Turbulence Section where he helped conduct wind tunnel tests.
Later, he made significant contributions to making all manner of
aircraft safe from the effects of wing flutter, a coupling of
structural frequencies that tore wings off aircraft in extreme
cases. He also advanced the understanding of supersonic flight
flight at greater than the speed of sound.
In time, Loftin would lead and encourage others in all aspects
of aeronautical research into both military and civilian
"He is one of a handful of exceptional innovators in
Langleys early days whose minds werent constrained by
what could or could not be done. He helped invent the tools for
aeronautics research," said Dr. Jan Roskam, a frequent top-level
NASA advisor and the Ackers Distinguished Professor of Aerospace
Engineering at the University of Kansas. "He was a great
researcher, a very astute manager as well as a true gentleman," he
Loftin rose to be the Director of Aeronautical Research at NASA
Langley, a leading aeronautical research lab within NASA. Before
retiring in 1974, he authored Quest for Performance: The
Evolution of Modern Aircraft, a highly valued reference for
"In my 22 years as an aerospace historian, no one Ive
encountered had a deeper or more profound understanding of the
dynamic relationship between the form and function of a flying
machine than Larry Loftin," said Dr. James R. Hansen, former
Langley historian. "If he had to leave us, it seems right that it
happened in the year celebrating the 100th anniversary of his
heroes, the Wright brothers."
Loftin was born in Lynchburg, Va., in 1919.