Buzzard has chosen for the Man-of-the-Month Mr.
Thoburn C. Lyon, Assistant Chief of the Aeronautical
Chart Branch. Mr. Lyon is one of those rare persons in the City
of Washington today, having been born in Washington, D.C., on
July 3, 1896. Although a native Washingtonian, he has not spent
his entire life and efforts here. He has been employed by other
agencies and commercial concerns such as the Forest Service
and Rand McNally.
Mr. Lyon was first appointed in the U.S. Coast
and Geodetic Survey in 1916. Shortly afterwards he was employed
in the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture for a
short time, after which he returned to the Coast Survey for
another period of about five years. He then spent about two
and one-half years as a computer in the District of Columbia
Engineering Department. Again he returned to the Coast and Geodetic
Survey. In January 1926 Rand McNally induced Mr. Lyon to leave
the Coast Survey to take charge of their air maps, astronomical
and other special work. Unable to resist the appeal of his home
town and the desire to work again for the good old C&GS,
he returned to Washington in November 1931. He was assigned
to the Aeronautical Chart Section as a cartographic engineer
and has been employed in that capacity until the present time.
In 1935 it became evident that the pilots were
in great need of a publication that would instruct them in the
use of aeronautical charts. “The Professor,” as
Mr. Lyon is sometimes called, was assigned the task of preparing
this publication. The first edition known as “Special
Publication No. 197” was completed and first used in 1935.
The publication rapidly developed into a book called “Practical
Air Navigation,” and was extensively used by flying instructors
who found it an invaluable aid in training new pilots. The success
and value of this publication is indicated by the fact that
there has been 350,000 copies distributed up to this time.
In 1938 the Civil Aeronautics Administration
was faced with a giant civilian training program. The success
of Mr. Lyon’s book on practical air navigation led to
its adoption by the C.A.A. as a manual necessary in the instruction
of all civilian pilots. This manual became known as “C.A.A.
24 – Practical Air Navigation.”
Not only has he developed himself to a point
where he can prepare a satisfactory publication, but he has
become one of the outstanding men in the field of cartography
and an authority on practically all of the related subjects.
His research and experience has made him one of the most valuable
men now employed in the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey. His
knowledge of projections, celestial navigation, astronomy, methods
of air navigation, cartographic practices and policies is one
which is probably unsurpassed by anyone.
There has been one source of amazement to all
those connected with aviation today. Mr. Lyon has never flown
an airplane. It is recalled that one time a pilot asked him
how it was possible that he able to write and prepare such a
wonderful book on air navigation without having had some practical
experience in flying and replied, “ I don’t believe
that it would be necessary for me to remove my appendix in order
that I may know how to remove yours.”
Many of you will be surprised to know that
Mr. Lyon is an ordained minister. In fact, he used to have a
church of his own out in Ohio. There is an incident which happened
at that time which he has to a selected few.
It seems that one of the congregation passed
the word around that the pastor and his family liked hog livers.
You can imagine what happened at hog-killing time. There was
no place to keep all that was brought and it was impossible
for them to eat all of the livers, so in order to avoid hurting
the feelings of anyone of his well-meaning congregation, as
the dear old pastor received a liver at the front door, his
wife buried one in the back yard.
His responsibilities at the present time as
a senior cartographic engineer and Assistant Chief of the Aeronautical
Chart Branch are varied and great. He has not only established
the cartographic policies and practices for most of the aeronautical
chart work, but he has set down general instructions for all
types of charts which are being used by over a thousand people
employed on this work.
Mr. Lyon is truthfully a “self-made”
man. He is not a college graduate, but there are not many technical
text books that he has not mastered. He is constantly studying
new methods and ideas that will improve the quantity and the
quality of our aeronautical charts.
“The Buzzard,” Vol. X, No. 33, p. 1-2. August 19,