Avionics pioneer Ed King dies at 90

Avionics industry legend Edward King, Jr. died June 3 at the age of 90.

“Ed King was one of the most important figures in the development of modern avionics,” said National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen. “His vision and entrepreneurial spirit helped establish and advance the state of the art for onboard electronics.”

King had humble beginnings. He was born on his parents’ farm near Jetmore, Kansas, on Aug. 8, 1921. King graduated from Hodgeman County Community High School and attended Dodge City Junior College before enrolling as an engineering student at Kansas State University.

After graduating from college in 1943, King took a job on the East Coast with RCA, designing aircraft radio equipment for the U.S. Navy. He soon returned to the Midwest, and in 1948, he founded his first company, Communications Accessories Corp. (CAC), which in 1956 was purchased by Collins Radio Corp. (now Rockwell Collins).

King remained CAC’s president until 1959, when he left to start King Radio Corp., a fledgling company that he started in his basement, and then moved into a farmhouse in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa. Eventually, the company employed thousands of workers who developed and produced world-class navigation and communication equipment for all types of general aviation aircraft, from piston-powered airplanes to business jets. King Radio products were installed on numerous notable aircraft, including Burt Rutan’s Voyager, which in 1986 became the first airplane to circumnavigate the globe on a single tank of fuel.

In 1985, King sold King Radio to Allied Signal/Bendix Aerospace and retired. However, in 1991 he joined with his son, Ed King III and other family members in another entrepreneurial venture: the founding of the King Estate Winery near Eugene, Oregon. The company has since grown to be become one of Oregon’s largest wineries.

Ed King, Jr. is survived by his wife of 32 years, Carolyn G. King, his son Ed King III (Jodee), daughter Shelley King Theis, son William King, daughter Shannon Young, son Ronald Innes (Michelle) and granddaughters, grandsons, and a great grandson. He was predeceased by his brother and sisters, his wife Mary Jo McHargue King, daughter Ann Katherine King, and grandson Michael Lane Thomas.

You can read his obituary in the Kansas City Star here.

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