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Retired NACA research pilot John Griffith Dies
January 6, 2012

test pilot John Griffith in X-1NACA test pilot John Griffith exits the X-1 rocket plane's tiny cockpit as NACA engineer Clyde Bailey (right) and two technicians look on in this 1950 publicity photo. (NASA photo) Aerospace pioneer and National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics test pilot John Griffith died Oct. 21, 2011. He was 90.

Griffith became a research pilot at the NACA's Muroc, now Edwards Air Force Base, Flight Test Unit in August of 1949, shortly before the NACA unit became the High-Speed Flight Research Station, now NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. He flew early experimental aircraft including the X-1, X-4, D-558-1 and the D-558-2. He flew the X-1 nine times, the X-4 seven times, the D-558-1 15 times and the D-558-2 nine times.

He reached his top speed in the Bell X-1 on May 26, 1950 when he flew the rocket plane to a speed of Mach 1.2. He was the first NACA pilot to fly the Northrop X-4. He left the NACA in 1950 to fly for Chance Vought where he test flew the F7U Cutlass being developed for the U.S. Navy.

A veteran of combat service in the South Pacific during the World War II, Griffith flew 189 missions in the Curtiss P-40 in New Guinea in 1942-1943 and was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and four air medals.

Griffith studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue University, graduating with honors. He then joined the NACA at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio, known now as Glenn Research Center, where he participated in ramjet testing and icing research until transferring to the Muroc Flight Test Unit in California.

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