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At 101, Aviation Pioneer Keeps Going

In 1930, Joe Grant, now 101 years old, went into a new Middle River aircraft plant claiming to be a seasoned plane builder. "I don't think it took them long to realize I wasn't what I said I was," says Grant. Despite some exaggeration on his credentials, Grant was recently honored for his career in aviation, during which he worked at Glenn L. Martin building early commercial and military aircraft. Glenn was one of the first hired at what would become a busy airplane factory, employing 55,000 workers and running around the clock during World War II. Grant remembers seeing Martin as he walked around and observed the plant. Grant, born in March 1908, says he was captivated by the idea of flight and making airplanes. After being hired at Martin, he was assigned to build a naval plane known as the PM-1, and eventually went on to build the China Clipper. "He's at the top tier of the early aviators who are finally getting the recognition for their accomplishments," says Stan Piet, archive director at the Martin Aviation Museum. Grant worked at Martin from 1930 to 1937, but wanted to do more than just build airplanes. Grant, who received his pilot's license in 1929, his brother Roy, and Howard and Roy French, two seasoned World War I aviators, ran the Logan Flying Service that operated out of Logan Field in Dundalk, Md. Eventually, Grant was hired as a pilot by Pennsylvania Central Airlines, flying out of Pittsburgh and earning $187 a month. In World War II, Grant flew DC-4s for Air Transport Command, after which he worked with TWA. Grant also helped launch Saudi Arabian Airlines, which earned him dinners with the king of Saudi Arabia, who made him his personal pilot. Grant now lives in Stamford, Conn., and has a retail jewelry business.

December 9, 2009

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