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Clarence Leonard "Kelly" Johnson (February 27, 1910 – December 21, 1990) was an American aeronautical and systems engineer. He is recognized for his contributions to a series of important aircraft designs, most notably the Lockheed U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird. Besides the first production aircraft to exceed Mach 3, he also produced the first fighter capable of Mach 2, the United States' first operational jet fighter, as well as the first fighter to exceed 400 mph, and many other contributions to various aircraft.
Clarence Leonard Johnson
(1910-02-27)February 27, 1910
Ishpeming, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||December 21, 1990(1990-12-21) (aged 80)|
|Education||Flint Junior College|
University of Michigan (BS, MS)
|Discipline||Aeronautical engineering, systems engineering|
As a member and first team leader of the Lockheed Skunk Works, Johnson worked for more than four decades and is said to have been an "organizing genius". He played a leading role in the design of over forty aircraft, including several honored with the prestigious Collier Trophy, acquiring a reputation as one of the most talented and prolific aircraft design engineers in the history of aviation.
In 2003, as part of its commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight, Aviation Week & Space Technology ranked Johnson eighth on its list of the top 100 "most important, most interesting, and most influential people" in the first century of aerospace. Hall Hibbard, Johnson's Lockheed boss, referring to Johnson's Swedish ancestry, once remarked to Ben Rich: "That damned Swede can actually see air."