A.M. ‘Tex’ Johnston, 84; Helped Launch Jet Travel
Legendary Boeing test pilot A.M. “Tex” Johnston, who showed the strength of the Boeing 707 with a barrel roll and helped launch commercial jet travel, has died. He was 84.
Johnston died Thursday after suffering four years from Alzheimer’s disease.
In a 40-year career in aviation, Johnston was perhaps best known for showing off the 707 jet before a crowd of hydroplane racing fans gathered around Seattle’s Lake Washington for the Gold Cup on Aug. 7, 1955.
He was supposed to do a flyover; he decided to do a barrel roll. As Boeing executives held their breaths, he completed the maneuver without a problem.
The company didn’t approve. Nevertheless, the stunt helped build confidence in the safety of large, jet-powered passenger planes.
Johnston was chief of flight testing for Boeing from 1954 to 1960. He was with the company from 1949 to 1968. He previously was a test pilot for Bell Aircraft.
Johnston was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1993. Honors included the Elder Statesman Award from the National Aeronautic Assn. in 1995.