J. Kenneth (John) Higgins

J. (John) Kenneth Higgins

J. (John) Kenneth Higgins of Des Moines, Washington, passed away suddenly April 22, 2013. "Kenny" was born April 2, 1942 to Paul and Lettie Higgins, the second of five boys. He graduated from O'Dea High School in 1960, earned an Engineering Science degree from the University of Portland and his EMBA from the University of Washington (1985).

Ken began his 40-year career at Boeing as a Flight Test Engineer in 1966, and departed Vice President of Flight Operations, Test & Validation for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. During Ken's tenure at Boeing, the company certified 24 commercial aircraft iterations and certified Boeing's first fly-by-wire commercial airplane, the 777. Ken directed development and implementation of the Systems Integration Laboratory which allowed the 777 program to fly many more hours per month and receive its FAA and JAA type certificate only 10 months after first flight.

Ken was a champion of flight test safety. The practices Ken championed at Boeing were adopted by the FAA as a template for flight test safety best practices.

Ken was awarded the National Aviation Club Cliff Henderson Award for Achievement in 1995 and the 1998 J.H. Doolittle Award for excellence in program management and was inducted as an SETP Fellow in 2005.

Ken married his high school sweetheart, Sandra Pelton, in 1964. They raised their three children, Joel, Shannon and Dan in Des Moines, WA. Ken is survived by his wife Sandy, children Joel Higgins (Amy), Shannon Cirovski (Sasho), Dan Higgins (Melyssa), and grandchildren Connor, Hailey, Ryan, Karli, Jack, Ellie, Ashlyn, and Jason, along with his four brothers Tom (Ginny), Charlie (Linda), Jim (Nancy) and Dave (Polly).

A Celebration of Ken's Life is planned for May 5 at 2:00 p.m. at the Normandy Cove. Another memorial at the Museum of Flight is in the planning stages.

Published in The Seattle Times from Apr. 30 to May 2, 2013