Sen. Jake Garn, a former Navy pilot, and two other astronauts returned to a favorite hangout of naval aviators to memorialize a fallen comrade, S. David Griggs.
A mission specialist for the shuttle flight on which Garn, R-Utah, went into space in 1985, Griggs, also a naval aviator, was killed June 17, 1989 in the crash of a World War II-era racing plane in Earle, Ark.Garn joined Friday night with astronauts Don Williams and Robert "Hoot" Gibson and Griggs' wife, Karen, to present a mission patch and photo collage of Griggs and the April 1985 launch of the shuttle Discovery to Martin "Trader Jon" Weissman.
Weissman's bar, Trader Jon's, is jammed with aviation memorabilia, including photos, uniforms, crash helmets, model aircraft and various pieces of airplanes. It is a favorite haunt of flight students and pilots from the Pensacola Naval Air Station.
"Everybody, I guess, that ever went through pilot training . . . knew of Trader Jon's," said Gibson, a Navy captain and also a racing plane enthusiast.
Greg McNeely, a friend of Griggs who owned the propeller-driven T-6 trainer in which he crashed, also presented Weissman a photo of Griggs with the plane.
Weissman had fond memories of Griggs, who was a rear admiral in the Naval Reserve, as a flight student.
"He was a good guy, always ready to help somebody," Weissman said. "(When it came to) the guys who were behind in his class, he spent time - hours and hours - teaching them how to learn what they were supposed to in the flight training."
Griggs was a native of Portland, Ore., and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He flew two combat tours in Southeast Asia and a stint as a Navy test pilot. He was appointed chief of the Shuttle Training Aircraft Operations Office in 1976 and had been tapped to serve as pilot of a mission scheduled for launch five months after he died.
Garn said another astronaut, astronomer Jeffrey Hoffman, probably would have been at Trader's Friday if he hadn't been in space aboard the shuttle Columbia. Hoffman and Williams also were members of the Discovery crew with Garn and Griggs.
Hoffman and Griggs were sent outside the shuttle to repair a faulty satellite.
"One thing I will never forget is when Houston called us up and told us what they were going to try to do with the satellite: send two people out and fix it," he recalled. "If only I could have pictures of Dave's and Jeff's faces when they knew they were going to get to go outside in their spacesuits."
Garn also recalled his own days as a flight student in Pensacola.
"The first time I went to Trader's was in June 1956," he said. "Basically it's still the same. The cracks and the bumps in the cement floor are still here. It hasn't changed a bit."
Mrs. Griggs called the bar "Dave's type of place."