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Roy Franklin, founder of Friday Harbor airport, dead at age 86

Local aviation pioneer Roy Vincent Franklin, who died Feb. 3 at the age of 86, stands in front of the airplane that helped make him a legend among Pacific Northwest aviators, a Stinson 108, better known to islanders as the workhorse of Franklin
Local aviation pioneer Roy Vincent Franklin, who died Feb. 3 at the age of 86, stands in front of the airplane that helped make him a legend among Pacific Northwest aviators, a Stinson 108, better known to islanders as the workhorse of Franklin's 'Island Sky Ferries'.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Legendary pilot and local aviation pioneer Roy Franklin was found dead at his San Juan Island home Thursday afternoon.

Franklin, who built the foundation of what would later become Friday Harbor Airport some 50 years ago, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at about 3:15 p.m., according to the San Juan County Sheriff's Department.

He was 86.

Franklin, a WWII fighter pilot, began flying passengers to and from the San Juan Islands on regular-scheduled flights beginning in 1948. At that time, his home airfield was an unlit cow pasture on a neighbor's farm that was ice-crusted in the winter and choked full of cattle most of the year.

In 1954, Franklin put money down on a 66-acre plot of timberland located on the west side of the town of Friday Harbor.

Over the next two years, he cleared enough of that lot to be able to build a 2,300-foot hard-surface, lighted runway, which became the foundation of the Friday Harbor airport. His Stinson 108 became a fixture in the islands' skies.

Franklin, co-founder of San Juan Airlines, sold the airport to the Port of Friday Harbor in 1983. The airport terminal bears his name, as does the airport's aviation museum, which, opened in 2008 and is co-sponsored by the San Juan Pilots Association and the Port of Friday Harbor.

Many of Franklin's exploits and much his history as an aviation pioneer were chronicled by Air & Space Magazine in an article published in May 2004.

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