Clarence L. (Kelly) Johnson Aerospace Vehicle Design and Development Award

Established in 1992, this award recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves by making significant contributions during their career in the innovative design and development of advanced aircraft and/or spacecraft.

The criteria for the selection of the award shall include the following:
  • A distinguished career involving significant contributions in the innovative design and development of advanced aircraft and/or spacecraft.
  • The recipient shall be judged primarily for the technical value and originality of the contributions which have expanded the knowledge of aerospace engineering. Providing supervisory or managerial engineering direction, although important, would not solely fulfill the requirements for this award.

The SAE Board of Directors established the Clarence L. (Kelly) Johnson Aerospace Vehicle Design and Development Award to honor the memory of Clarence L. (Kelly) Johnson and the enormous impact he had on the aerospace industry. The SAE Aerospace Council administers this annual award to perpetuate recognition of Mr. Johnson's accomplishments and inspiration as the aeronautical genius who created Lockheed's famed Skunk Works and who played a leading role in the design and development of more than 40 of the world's most advanced aircraft.

This award is made possible through a fund established by the Lockheed Advanced Development Company.

The award consists of a plaque and is presented at an SAE aerospace meeting.

Johnson Biographical Summary

Clarence L. (Kelly) Johnson was a man whose name has come to be recognized around the world for achievement and excellence. From his early years as a schoolboy in Michigan through his extraordinary career as a Lockheed aircraft designer and executive, he dedicated his life to making unusual things happen, all the while bringing out the best in those who worked with him.

Kelly Johnson launched his career in aviation in 1933 as an $83-a-month tool designer at Lockheed's Burbank plant after receiving a University of Michigan Masters Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He had earlier impressed Lockheed management as a graduate student when he tested models of the proposed Model 10 Electra transport in the university's wind tunnel and suggested significant design changes. He retired in 1975 as a Lockheed Corporate Senior Vice President, but remained a Senior Advisor to the company until his death on December 21, 1990. For 30 years, he headed the famed Lockheed Skunk Works which today has become the Lockheed Advanced Development Company.

Kelly designed the twin-boomed P-38 Lightning, perhaps the most famed fighter of World War II, and was instrumental in converting the commercial Model 14 Super Electra into the celebrated Hudson bomber. He also played a leading role in the design of more than 40 other aircraft including Americas first production jet fighter - the F-80 Shooting Star, the Constellation transport, the P2V Neptune anti-submarine patrol plane, the high altitude U-2, the double-sonic F-104 Starfighter, and the 2000 m.p.h. YF-12A and SR-71. He also developed the Agena-D satellite which became the Nations workhorse in space.

Kelly Johnson won every major aircraft design award in the industry, including two Collier Trophies, two Theodore von Karman Awards, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, two Sylvanus Albert Reed Awards and the Daniel Guggenheim Medal. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson presented him the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. President Ronald Reagan honored him with the National Security Medal in 1983 and the National Medal of Technology in 1988. Mr. Johnson was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983.

Kelly Johnson is a fellow of SAE International and Royal Aeronautical Society, honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and member of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Xi engineering fraternities.
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Nomination Deadline: December 31

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