San Diego Air & Space Museum Mourns the Loss of Joe Clark

April 2, 2020

Joe Clark, a leading aviation industry visionary and a member of the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, has passed away.

“Everyone here at the Museum is deeply saddened by the news of Joe Clark’s passing,” said Jim Kidrick, President & CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “Joe’s innovations in aviation technologies have been felt all over the world. Joe was such an important and beloved friend to the Museum, and he is already greatly missed. He was also a close personal friend too and those losses touch us the most.”

Joseph Clark was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Three weeks after his birth, his American father and Canadian mother relocated to a small home in Seattle, Washington. A lifelong resident of Seattle, Clark attended the University of Washington, where he first discovered aviation, and which quickly developed into a lifetime passion.

In 1965, when only 24, Clark founded Jet Air, the first Learjet dealership in the Northwest. His aviation career grew with marketing and sales assignments with Gates Learjet and the Raisbeck Group. Clark co-founded Horizon Air in 1981, a highly successful regional air carrier, later sold to Alaska Airlines.

In 1987, he founded Avstar, Inc., establishing a worldwide sales system to market ex-military jet training aircraft. In 1988, he co-established the Friendship Foundation, which set an around-the-world speed record of 36 hours, 54 minutes and 15 seconds in a Boeing 747SP. The event, publicized via television and print media, raised $530,000 for children’s charities around the world.

Clark co-founded Seattle-based Aviation Partners in 1991, developing blended winglet technology for the Gulfstream II business jet, which reduced its drag by more than seven percent, thereby also greatly reducing fuel consumption. Over time, more than seventy percent of the Gulfstream fleet used blended winglets, and, today, all Boeing business jets and over 1,000 Boeing 737s incorporate blended winglets. The initial goal was to retrofit over 10,000 Boeing aircraft, which would save 1.8 billion gallons of fuel annually, with corresponding reductions in engine emissions. Southwest Airlines, Continental Airlines and Alaska Airlines are just a few of the 40 major carriers, which upgraded to blended winglet technology. Because of his contributions to the winglet technology, Clark was nicknamed the “Lord of the Wings.”

Clark was also a trustee of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, an Innovator of the Year by Professional Pilot Magazine, as well as Entrepreneur of the Year by Aviation & Business Journal Magazine. He was also a member of the Horatio Alger Association.

Clark was selected to join the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2010. For more, and to view Clark’s International Air & Space Hall of Fame’s induction video, visit