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Andrew James (AJ) Smith

The United States and the world soaring community lost a giant in the history of competition soaring on September 5th of 2004 with the passing of Andrew James Smith. AJ passed away with heart failure at age 80 in his home in Tecumseh, Michigan. He began soaring in the 1950s with fellow competitor and friend Dick Schreder in the Adrian, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio area. He quickly focused on competition soaring and preceded to modify each of his sailplanes for enhanced performance beginning with the LO-150 and continuing through the Sisu 1A, ASW12, and Glasflugel 604. He won the Open Class Nationals in each of these planes from the early 60's to 1980. AJ represented the USA on four international teams: England "65," Poland "68," Marfa TX "70," and Yugoslavia "72." He was the second American to win a World Gliding Championship in Leszno, Poland, flying an Elfe S-3 in the Standard Class. In 1968, AJ was inducted into the Soaring Hall of Fame. AJ served as an SSA director for more than 15 years.

AJ was a very successful architect in the Detroit area, owning his own major firm (Smith and Gardner) that designed many award-winning structures from airport terminals to major office complexes across the US. AJ's artistic flare from his architecture background, combined with his engineering knowledge of sailplane aerodynamics, enabled him to design an extremely efficient racing airplane in the early 80's which rocked the racing world of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The plane - the AJ-2 - was designed to compete in a new efficiency race the Oshkosh 500 sponsored by the EAA. The plane dominated the race from its first entry in 1981 and each succeeding year for seven years. The sponsors of the race eventually changed the rules, rendering the plane no longer competitive - the plane is now headed to the Smithsonian Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. (?)

AJ grew up in Tecumseh and graduated from Tecumseh High School in 1942. After high school, AJ began working for NACA (now NASA) as a model builder at Langley Field, Virginia. He then served in the Navy during WWII, flying Corsairs off aircraft carriers for two years in the Atlantic. From 1946-1951 he attended the University of Michigan acquiring an architectural engineering degree.

Although AJ had not been active in soaring for several years, he always stayed abreast of the competition scene and the development of new-generation sailplanes. His heart was - and will always be - with the competition soaring pilot.

Posted: 10/1/2004


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