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Dick Johnson

I met Dick 35 years ago at a contest at Minden. He struck me immediately as a man of direct and uncompromising quality, who spoke his mind without agenda or pretense, as well as being a formidable competitor in the cockpit.

His flight tests over the years--I do not have the number, but it must have been over 50 ships--made him soaring's objective oracle in the matter of sailplane performance. He set standards for test integrity and objectivity unequalled outside the factories that build the birds we fly. Whenever he tested, he did it under the most neutral conditions possible, took endless pains to get it right, explained clearly what he had done, how, and why, what results he measured and the handling qualities of the test article. The result was totally believable.

I last saw Dick at Marfa in Spring 2008 at the dedication of Marfa as a National Landmark of Soaring, and it was as if no time had passed since our last meeting, though it had been more than ten years. He retained the same endearing quality of candor without ‘side,' and in addition he exhibited one of the most extraordinary characteristics in a man who was no longer young: he was full of energy, curiosity and enthusiasm. We discussed an upcoming flight test to be conducted in the 2008-2009 winter months, and he was eager to get at it. He loved soaring.

Now Dick is soaring eternally in the great Universe, looking down on us. We owe it to him to follow in his footsteps, stand on his shoulders in flight test, use and extend his methods and retain the wonder and joy that he possessed, always, at the magnificent act of flight. He is irreplaceable, but his work and his achievements will endure as long as soaring continues.

John Joss

Posted: 9/10/2008 By: Richard Johnson

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