Rabardy Floyd, 85, aircraft, missile engineer at Glenn L. Martin, Hopkins lab

J. F.

May 01, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

J. F. Rabardy Floyd, a retired aircraft and missile engineer, died Friday of complications of pneumonia at Howard County General Hospital. The Ellicott City resident was 85.

For 38 years, he was an engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where he worked in missile design, shipboard missile systems, solid rocket development, launching systems and subsonic aerodynamics.

Working in conjunction with the Navy, he helped design the Terrier anti-aircraft missile and the Triton missile system. He was a supervising engineer for the Aegis Ship project and other related missile systems. He retired in 1985.

His family recalled him as a patient, soft-spoken man who never talked about his secret defense work.

"When we came to him with homework problems - often about math - he would not give us the answer. He would teach us, he would keep trying, offering examples and questions until we got it," said his son, John H. Floyd of Garland, Texas. "One day, he used oranges and grapefruit to illustrate the Earth and the moon. He used the dining room chandelier to represent the sun."

At age 12, during a picnic near his family home in Newton Highlands, Mass., Mr. Floyd saw an airplane circling overhead. Later, he discovered it had been flown by Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

"That singular event determined the choice of his career," said a daughter, Joan L. Floyd of Charles Village.

In summer 1937, Mr. Floyd moved to Baltimore and joined the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Co. in Middle River, where he worked closely with owner Glenn L. Martin on design modifications on the Mars Flying Boat, a large, four-engine craft. When he was 28, he was named chief of aerodynamics at Martin and held that post until 1947.

When working on World War II projects, he occasionally brought aircraft plans to Mr. Martin's home on Greenway in North Baltimore.

Known as Jeff, Mr. Floyd was born in Pagosa Springs, Colo., and raised in Newton Highlands and Nashua, N. H. He earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh in 1937. In the 1940s, he taught engineering at McCoy College of the John Hopkins University.

He was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi and Theta Tau engineering honorary societies. He was listed in Who's Who in American Science.

As a child he enjoyed swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Massachusetts and continued this pastime at Ocean City, where he had a summer home.

He was a member and former board president of the Church of New Jerusalem.

In 1944, he married Elizabeth Jane Heiss, who survives him.

Private funeral services were held yesterday.

He also is survived by another daughter, Anne W. Floyd of Honolulu; a brother, Joseph E. Floyd of New York, N.Y.; and three grandchildren.

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