CASA GRANDE — An agricultural pilot and inventor from Casa Grande has been inducted into the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame at the Pima Air and Space Museum.
John Goodwin, who worked for many years as a crop duster in the Casa Grande and Stanfield area, was surrounded by family April 27 as he was inducted.
Born in a Bury St Edmunds nursing home in England in 1942, Goodwin invented the closed can opener system in 1977, which eliminated direct chemical exposure to pilots and employees when transferring chemicals from the sealed container into the airplane. This close system was sold all over the United States and protected chemical handlers while loading the aircraft, a biography provided by his son Sam Goodwin said.
“No one has contributed more to agricultural aviation in the state of Arizona than John Goodwin. He has made crop dusting safer for operators and the public, he’s made it more efficient and more profitable,” Sam Goodwin said in the biography. “He’s an inventor, entrepreneur and most importantly he’s simply a great pilot.”
John Goodwin attended Royal Colchester Grammar School in the 1950s and later went on to the Essex Institute of Agriculture, where he earned a national diploma in agriculture.
After college, he traveled to Northern California on an immigration visa and worked on area farms.
“He learned to fly in 1965 in Lakeport, California, out of Lampson Field,” Sam Goodwin said. “Starting dusting crops in 1966 in a 125hp J3 Cub and later dusting grapes in Lodi, California.”
Goodwin moved to Yuma in 1971 and was manager and pilot at Valley Sprayers, where he flew a Cessna Ag Wagon. In 1974, he began night flying on cotton. He went on to manage Arizona Airspray in Yuma from 1974 to 1977.
He became managing partner and lead pilot at Custom Farm Service of Arizona from 1977 until 1996.
“During that time period, he caravanned people during the great flood in Arizona of 1983, flying a Cessna 206 between Stanfield and Casa Grande,” Sam said. “John partnered with various people to help promote new technology in aviation using Custom Farm Service as the platform. Promoting and exploring the possibilities of float based single-engine air tankers: SEA Thrush (converting an ag plane into a fire suppression plane).”
He was the co-founder and vice president of SATLOC GPS, one of the first non-military applications of Global Positioning Systems.
“This company made multiple technology breakthroughs and aided in the future development of all GPS systems, including those for the military,” Sam said. “GPS systems are now the cornerstone of aviation navigation; GPS was first commercialized for use in civilian aviation in Arizona by John Goodwin.”
In 1995, he invented the “dual hopper.”
“This invention allowed the option for the ag aviation operators to carry two separate chemical loads simultaneously, thus reducing the number of takeoffs and landings, and shortening ferry distances. Operational expenses could be reduced and production per hour increased,” Sam said. “Eventually, Custom Farm Service became the second largest agriculture aviation operation in the state. He remained as a pilot and manager after the sale in 1996.”
Goodwin transitioned into being a pilot and worked in fire suppression beginning in 2001. He continued in that field until 2009, when he retired.
“John was given the Allied Industry Award in 1987, then in 1994 he was presented with the Agrinaut Award and in 2003 was inducted into the National Agricultural Aviation Hall of Fame,” Sam said. “During his flying years, he flew numerous types of aircraft and logged many hours.”
He is a longtime member of AOPA, past president of the Arizona Agriculture Aviation Association, member of the National Agriculture Aviation Association and served on numerous committees.
The Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame at the Pima Air and Space Museum is a permanent shrine to noteworthy Arizona aviators who have played a role in or made a significant contribution to aviation history.
Credit: Casa Grande Dispatch