John Merritt Fritz was born August 15, 1930 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of Lawrence G. Fritz and Ruth Merritt. He grew up in Tulsa, Kansas City, Missouri and Long Island, New York. In 1948 he entered John Hopkins University and after graduation in 1952 he entered the Aviation Cadet program of the United States Air Force. He graduated from pilot training in 1953, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. He attended Jet Combat Crew Training and then was assigned to the 325th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Hamilton Air Force Base flying F-86 interceptors.
On March 24, 1956 John entered Holy Matrimony with Miss Dorothy Louise Deckert. To this union were born two sons, Greg and James. John closed out his active duty service later that year and entered the reserves.
After leaving the Air Force, John became a production test pilot for Douglas Aircraft, flight testing the F4D Skyray and A 4D Skyhawk. The following year he joined General Electric as their Jet Propulsion Engineering Test Pilot where he flew propulsion development test of the J79 engine on the supersonic F-104 Starfighter, F-101 Voodoo, F-4 Phantom and the F11F-1F Super Tiger prototype. He test flew the first General Electric commercial airline engine, the CJ 805 and the first “Aft-Fan” engine, the CJ 805-23. He tested the J-85 engine slung under an F-102, destined to power the T-38 Talon and the F-5 Freedom Fighter.
In the early 1960s, John Fritz visited all US Air Force bases in Europe and the USA flying the F-104 instructing pilots on the use of the J79 in F-104 operations. This was so successful that he repeated this instruction in air forces throughout Europe, plus Pakistan, Japan and Taiwan. In 1962, John was a finalist in the NASA astronaut selection process. In 1963 he joined Northrop Corporation as an Engineering Test Pilot testing the T-38 and the F5A &B. He led an F5B operational indoctrination and demonstration team to US T-38 bases and demonstrated the F5B to military and civilian leaders in the US, Europe and the Middle East. He flew the first F5B flight across the Atlantic Ocean to the Paris Air Show and demonstrated the F5B to allied nations from Norway to Iran.
In 1965, John rejoined General Electric Corporation as their Chief Test Pilot where he resumed development of the J85 power plant. He flight tested the high-bypass TF-39 engine on a B-52 bomber, later adopted for the USAF C-5 Galaxy transport and led to the successful CF6 commercial turbofan used by wide body airliners to the present day. In 1969 he tested the improved J85-21 engine on a highly modified YF5B-21 aircraft which led to the F5E & F Tiger II fighter adopted by 22 nations. John retired from active flight test in 1969.
John became the manager of General Electric’s Supersonic Transport and Commercial Engine programs where he represented GE to the US Congress, Department of Transportation, and Federal Aviation Administration as co-contractor with the Boeing Company. As an Engineering, Sales, and Support Manager, he represented GE in the C-5 Galaxy program and the Boeing 747, leading to the USAF Airborne Command Post and the use of GE engines in the Boeing 707 and 767. As GE’s Commercial Engines Program Manager, John played a key role in the engineering evaluation of the Boeing 737-300.
From 1985 to 1992, John was the Vice President of GE’s Melbourne, Australia based Australia Aircraft Engines where he was responsible for the marketing and support of GE engine products in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Samoa and the Solomon Islands. Military engine orders during this period included F/A-18 fighters, Sikorsky Seahawk helicopters, and a “marinized” version of the CF6-50 engine for Royal Australian Navy frigates. Commercial orders included Qantas and Australian Airlines.
John retired in October 1992 and settled with wife Dottie to Kent, Washington where he enjoyed golf, hiking, hunting and skeet shooting. He was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the Quiet Birdmen. He was a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Lawrence Jr. and James, and sister Mary. He is survived by his wife Dottie, sons Greg and Jim, sister Susan Battle, nephews John McAvenia, Gerard McAvenia, and John Fritz. Services will be held at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Bellevue, Washington on September 21st at 11:00 a.m. Donations can be made in memory of John M. Fritz to the Lutheran Ministry Services Northwest or favorite charity.
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