Final Flights: January 2007
Friends say Leonard Greene wasn’t just brilliant. He thought on a different level.
With more than 150 patents to his credit, Greene, who died peacefully on November 30 in Mamaroneck, N.Y., at the age of 88, will be best remembered for the simple, metal stall-warning tab he invented in 1946. Working at Grumman during World War II as a young aerodynamicist and engineering test pilot, he was deeply troubled by an airplane crash he witnessed, the cause of which was an aerodynamic stall. His stall-warning indicator was the first of more than 60 aviation-related devices he designed, patented and sold. Today, stall-warning indicators are mandatory on all airplanes, and hundreds of thousands have been manufactured.
To market his inventions, Greene established Safe Flight Instrument in White Plains, N.Y., after the war. Sixty years later the company, now headed by Leonard’s son Randy, continues as a leading supplier of air safety devices for aircraft. Among the firm’s product portfolio are stick shakers, autothrottle systems, angle-of-attack indicators, power-line detectors, wind-shear warning devices and other lifesaving equipment. Greene tackled the dangers of wind shear after the crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 66 at JFK International Airport in 1975. Within a year his first wind-shear warning system was being flight tested. A year after that it became the first such device to obtain FAA certification.
Safe Flight was a family business. One of Greene’s sons, Donald, served as executive v-p of the company until Sept. 11, 2001, when he was killed in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
Besides being an inventor, Greene was also a noted philanthropist. In 1981 he cofounded Corporate Angel Network, the national nonprofit organization that
provides free air transportation for cancer patients by using empty seats on corporate and fractional aircraft. Greene personally flew the first CAN flight, transporting a
patient home to Detroit in 1981 from treatment in New York. From that day
forward, the organization soared. One by one, corporations across America were asked to participate and one by one they joined. Today, CAN has 530 participating corporations, which offer their empty seats to more than 2,500 cancer patients a year.
Green’s achievements go beyond his core field of aviation safety. His notable
inventions and ideas include performance enhancements for America’s Cup yachts, “visible speech” for the hearing impaired and a plan to transform the federal budget to provide greater income security for the poor and tax relief for the middle class. He founded the Institute for SocioEconomic Studies in 1974 and, guided by his own memories of poverty during the Depression, was a lifelong champion of poverty reform.
With his credentials in aviation circles well established and his safety devices flying aboard thousands upon thousands of aircraft, Greene’s true legacy will be his
remarkable talent for finding answers just beyond the reach of traditional thinking, for applying unconventional solutions to important problems–and in the process saving the lives of thousands and, just as important, making lives for thousands better.
Ricky Eubank, who recently retired from FlightSafety International, died on December 4. He was 57. Eubank was a chief warrant officer in the Army and served three tours in Vietnam. He worked at FlightSafety for 22 years as program manager for the Sikorsky S-76 training program and was later responsible for scheduling the company’s helicopter simulator times, staff and students. He is survived by his wife, Hiroko Eubank; two sons, a daughter, two grandchildren, his mother, two brothers and three sisters.