Upon learning of his passing last week, the City of Yuma honors the life and memory of Horace B. Griffen, a key member of the record-setting 1949 endurance flight of the City of Yuma airplane that now hangs in City Hall.
The City offers condolences to Griffen’s survivors.
Riding along with Ray Smucker, Frosty Braden, and Woody Jongeward, Griffen was in the car when the endurance flight idea was born. Originally slated to be one of the pilots, Griffen, a local automobile dealer, decided he needed to focus on his business. His parts manager at the time, Bob Woodhouse, offered to fly the plane on the condition he wouldn’t lose his monthly income while in the air. Griffen continued to pay Woodhouse while Woodhouse and Jongeward flew the City of Yuma Aeronca aircraft for a then-record 47 days, or 1,124 hours without landing. The flight reignited federal investment in Yuma that led to the installations now known as Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground.
Griffen also supplied the refueling car, and was the morning refueling driver. Though his daughter Judy was born during the endurance flight, “I never missed a run,” he told the audience at the City of Yuma airplane dedication ceremony on Oct. 10, 2012.
The City of Yuma airplane now hangs above the lobby of Yuma City Hall, while a similar model to the refueling car sits below. An exhibit about the flight will resume its normal place in the east wing of the City Hall lobby once the Planning Nook, currently up honoring National Community Planning Month, ends its run there.
“It all worked out to be a total community effort,” Griffen reflected on the famed flight during a 2008 interview with City 73 TV. “And it could never be duplicated today under current circumstances.”