John Williamson passed away on Jan. 18, 2010 at his home in Fort Myers. He was 90.
Born in Schenectady, N.Y. on Aug. 31, 1919, he attended Union College and graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with degrees in business and aeronautical engineering. He later completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.
The career that spanned 38 years put him at the forefront of the aviation industry in the United States. As Chief Flight Test Engineer for Republic Aviation Corporation in Farmingdale, Long Island, he was instrumental in designing, flight testing and promoting numerous fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, among them the P-47 (Thunderbolt), F-84 (Thunderjet) and F-105 (Thunderchief).
He worked closely with test pilots – some of whom made history breaking the sound barrier and exploring outer space – in the Mojave Desert at Muroc (now Edwards Air Force Base). During the Vietnam War, he supported the F-105 pilots, traveling to their overseas bases, offering technical support and gaining information.
In the early 1970s, as project manager, he spearheaded Fairchild Hiller’s successful pursuit of the hotly-contested contract for the A-10 (Warthog), which gained prominence years later in the Gulf War.
Williamson became Director of Flight Operations and later Vice President of Fairchild Hiller. He and his wife, Dorothy, raised their family in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island.
After retiring in 1982, he and Dorothy lived in Sweden for several years while he consulted with Fairchild, Saab and the Swedish government over the development of a commuter aircraft. After being “snowbirds” for 10 years, they became full-time residents of Sanibel Island in 1990, and then moved to Shell Point Retirement Community in 2000.
An avid sailor, golfer, gardener and jazz fan, some of his favorite moments were spent on stage as the drummer in Shell Point’s ensemble, “Jazz’N’Stuff.”
Williamson is survived by his wife of 67 years. Dorothy, of Fort Myers, his brother Alan Williamson of Hendersonville, N.C., children Ann Air of Healdsburg, Calif., John Williamson, Jr. of Huntington, N.Y., Jean Carter of Gig Harbor, Wash., five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held in March at Shell Point. Condolences may be viewed and offered at www.harvey-engelhardt-metz.com