2008 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Tap into the inner drive that is born from diversity, and persevere through your mistakes."
Joseph Clark was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 1941. His family moved soon after his birth to a small home in Seattle, Washington. Both of his parents experienced physical and financial hardships. His mother was deaf and could hear only with the aid of sophisticated hearing instruments. Their resources were always limited. Joseph's father suffered from a speech impediment in the form of stuttering throughout his life. His family lost everything in the Depression. The challenges they faced continued as they raised their own children. Young Joe struggled academically, but his grades improved after a relative provided funding for him to attend a private school. He credits his early childhood experiences with teaching him how to persevere and succeed on his own.
In his early 20s, Joe discovered aviation, which developed into a lifelong passion. He became more focused and centered as he worked with determination to establish a career in that field. In1965 he founded Jet Air, the first Lear Jet distributorship in the Northwest, which had a sales territory covering Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and all of Canada. His next career move was to Raisbeck Engineering where he became Vice President of Sales. In 1981, he partnered with Milt Koult to form Horizon Air, a highly successful Seattle-based regional airline that was eventually sold to Alaska Airlines. He founded Avstar, Inc., in 1987, to market ex-military jet training aircraft to American companies and private individuals. In 1988, Joe Clark, Clay Lacy, and Bruce McCaw formed the Friendship Foundation with the objective of raising money for charity and setting the world's record for flying around the world. On January 28-29, 1988, using a Boeing 747SP, the Friendship Foundation set a world's record for circling the globe in 36 hours, 54 minutes, and 15 seconds. Their achievement raised more than $500,000 for children's charities.
In 1991, Joe Clark and Horatio Alger Chairman Dennis R. Washington founded Aviation Partners, Inc. With a staff of 40, consisting primarily of retired Boeing and Lockheed engineers, API invented blended winglets. Winglets are metal extensions that are bolted to the ends of an airplane's wings. The tips curve upward and help to reduce drag and add lift, thereby maximizing fuel efficiency. Mr. Clark estimates that over a seven-year period, his winglets saved the airlines industry more than 350 million gallons of fuel. This will increase as more and more airlines use this new technology. Initially the winglets were designed to fit Gulfstream II jets, but they can now be custom-fitted to all types of airplanes and jets. At the 1999 Paris Air Show, Joe Clark signed an agreement with the Boeing Company to retrofit all of the 10,200 Boeing aircraft in the field. Clark estimates that this could save close to 1.8 billion gallons per year, with corresponding reductions in engine emissions. In addition to working with Boeing, Aviation Partners, Inc., has developed blended winglets for the Raytheon Hawker 800 series and now Dassualt Aviation's Falcon 2000 LX. The winglets for the high Mach Falcon aircraft required additional technological advances to be effective at Mach speeds.
Joe Clark is included among the 'Living Legends of Aviation' in an article in the March 2006 issue of Airport Journal. These are defined as individuals who have the 'ability to fly beyond the boundaries.' The article notes that legends of aviation 'inspire us to fly beyond our own limiting boundaries. When we see proof that extraordinary things are possible, and that it's as simple as reaching beyond ourselves, we are then free to fly to new heights ourselves.' The Horatio Alger Association is proud to welcome Joe Clark as a role model who demonstrates what may be achieved with determination and vision.