David Griffin is no stranger to rarefied air.
Now the pilot has a plaque and place among the state’s best aviators.
Griffin, 77, is among the three newest members of the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame. The Tega Cay resident received his honor during the Feb. 11-13 South Carolina Aviation Association meeting in Isle of Palms.
“It was one of the biggest days of my life, very memorable,” Griffin said.
Griffin isn’t the only local Hall of Fame inductee. Col. Elliot White Springs, a World War I flying ace and longtime chairman of Springs Cotton Mills, was enshrined in 1992. Bob Bryant, founding member of the Rock Hill Airport Commission, was honored in 1993.
Don Purcell, aviation association president, said no more than three candidates can be selected for the hall each year. There were a half dozen nominees. Purcell said what most stood out about Griffin is his commitment to young people.
“David, with his contributions especially in education, has made a real difference,” Purcell said.
A retired aeronautical engineer, Griffin spent two years with students at Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools building a replica Sopwith Camel bi-plane. It’s the plane Springs flew in the British Royal Fighting Corps a century ago. The plane is now the first in view at Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte.
School and district administrators praised the effort last summer before donating the plane, saying the project brought engineering lessons to life.
“Working with Mr. Griffin has given me a better look and understanding of aeronautical engineering,” then Fort Mill High junior Preston Reddeck said in June.
Purcell mentioned the bi-plane project specifically, but Griffin has years of experience working with students. He began at a middle school on Edisto Island a decade ago. Just last week, he spent time at a middle school in Rock Hill. Griffin plugs joysticks into school computers and runs flight simulator software.
In the Lowcountry, he even took students on high altitude field trips.
“We must’ve flown close to 100 kids down there,” he said.
Griffin usually works with schools where he has a connection. A friend’s wife teaches at the Rock Hill middle school. A friendship with the Close family, which sponsored the project, led to the bi-plane effort.
“It really has been a culmination of a lot of years of really enjoyable work,” Griffin said of the hall induction. “My focus in life now is trying to pass on what little I know about aviation to young people.”
The first young person Griffin taught to fly was himself. Growing up in England, he tried out a glider at age 15 and made his first solo effort at 16.
“For a few days I was probably the youngest pilot in England,” he said.
He’s flown all over this country before and since his retirement 15 years ago. He flies out of the Rock Hill airport mainly, keeping in contact with a constant fleet of friends.
“I’ve met wonderful people in this endeavor,” Griffin said.
Griffin teaches students about flying and engineering, but also about weather and the way one failed drug test will stop a flying career before it leaves the ground. He tells students of the state aviation industry and ways they could be part of it if they apply themselves.
Now, those efforts have landed the pilot among the most accomplished of his peers.
“David went above and beyond in trying to bring young people into aviation,” Purcell said.