Grasshopper flew West in his sleep on 2 November 2013.
Ken Jennings, known to all of us as "Grasshopper" passed away in his sleep last night.
Terri just called Hap and she asked that we get the word out to the Grizzlies.
I'll pass along details when I get them but I know that we all will miss him and feel a great loss.
He was the best and always gave and helped those of us who served with him.
To all the Grizzlies,
Thank you everyone for your kind words. Ken was indeed a good man, a good husband, provider, father and grandfather. Most of all, he was my best friend.
He was looking forward to Grizzly Vegas. Please drink a round or three in his honor.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your kind words, thoughts and memories. Ken was indeed the smartest man I ever met and all of your tributes mean so much to myself and our kids.
Services are pending and I hope to see you all there if possible.
Terri Jennings and family
Ken's gravesite at Bakersfield National Cemetery.
Every Phantom I was assigned at the Guard had Grasshopper and me on it. I have more time in the F-4 with Grasshopper than any two other people. We did not get to see so much of each other after I retired, but that really changed nothing. Three guys at the Guard I am really close with, Ken, Milt and CMac. No one is as close to my heart as Ken. We did a lot together, we were not killed a bunch of times together. You know, from a technical standpoint, there was never a better WSO than Ken. From a flying standpoint, we were one. We did so much together, not all of it stupid. There is no one I respect more. He is still my best friend.
I will never forget his words during our last substantive conversation at his retirement, “Oh, no!” It went on, it always did. I look forward to seeing him on the ground.
Trevor received an email at work 4 April 2016 from Ken's former boss at Edwards Test Pilot School, with the below info. The school had a brick with Ken's name on it placed in Century Circle by the Edwards main gate. Ken was a Systems (Avionics and Armament) Master Instructor at the USAF Test Pilot School from 2004 until 2009 then went over to the 412 Test Wing where he was Chief Engineer of Avionics and Armament.
I have never seen so many tributes of admiration and sadness from the Grizzilies, we were all a little better for having known "Grasshopper". May you find some peace knowing how much we all felt about him.
Ken's centrifuge video at Salleys was a classic that I will always remember, he was a good man.
Unknown - aka Jack Halley
A True gentleman whose humor and uncanny wit will be sorely missed. God Speed my friend.
So sorry Terri. Ken was an excellent man with a great heart and one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. I loved flying with him. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
rb - Randy Ball
I loved flying with Ken too. He gave us so much. What a sad day.
Ken was a valuable and memorable member of the Grizzlies. His calm and positive exterior and tremendous expertise were valuable assets afforded to our highly-successful team! He will truly be missed. God bless our departed brother.
Respectfully, Bob Barrow
Terrible news!!!! I am sooo sorry Terri!! Huge loss! Ken was a great guy with a heart of gold. He will be missed!!
We will all miss The Grasshopper gone west.
Oh my gosh!!! My backseater from Spain- in which we experienced close formation from a Spanish jet intercept!!
Then We drank beer at plaza mayor to celebrate with CMAC, dean-o, me and grasshopper!!
Hope he's still smiling about it.
Just got the sad news. Damn!
It was always a good feeling coming into the Briefing Room and seeing JENNINGS on my line-up card. Cheers to Ken and his family... and the Grizzlies. We lost another brother today.
And, just in case that was not cool enough Jamie Morton, an active duty Air Force test Boom at Edwards sent Terri this picture of the brick in place!
My heart is heavy, laden with sadness. Remembering many non-drill Saturdays conversations, just Ken and I, as our young children played together in the squadron. Seems like only yesterday.
But here we are today saddened by his absence from us. At these times I am drawn to this poem for solace...
I hope there's a place, way up in the sky
Where pilots can go when they have to die.
A place where a guy could buy a cold beer
For a friend and a comrade whose memory is dear.
A place where no doctor or lawyer could tread,
Nor a management-type would e'ler be caught dead!
Just a quaint little place, kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke.
The kind of a place that a lady could go
And feel safe and secure by the men she would know.
There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their wings become heavy, when their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung.
Where you'd see all the fellows who'd 'flown west' before,
And they'd call out your name, as you came through the door,
Who would buy you a drink, if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, "He was quite a good lad!"
And there, through the mist, you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen in years, though he'd taught you to fly.
He'd nod his old head, and grin ear to ear
And say, "Welcome, my Son, I'm proud that you're here!
For this is the place where true flyers come
When the battles are over, and the wars have been won.
They've come here at last, to be safe and alone,
From the government clerk, and the management clone;
Politicians and lawyers, the Feds, and the noise,
Where all hours are happy, and these good ol' boys
Can relax with a cool one, and a well deserved rest!
This is Heaven, my Son. You've passed your last test!"
— Captain Michael J. Larkin, TWA (Ret.), 'Air Line Pilot' magazine, February 1995
A worthy tribute to a true friend, Ken Jennings!
Stay close my Grizzly brothers.
Here's what Rob was talking about. Plaza Mayor, Madrid Spain... licking our wounds after being tapped by the Spanish Air Force.
Ken was the best of the best ! We all always looked forward to flying with him. You knew you were going to have a great mission when Ken was in the crew ! He will be sorely missed down here, and welcomed with open arms by the Grizzlies up there.
The smartest,sincerest Grizzly to ever serve that I had the pleasure to know and call a friend...God bless you Ken and your family...
Sooo sorry Terri. A sad day for the world for sure. Ken was one of the nicest guys I ever knew. He didn't even seem to mind flying with us new Lt's. And he made for some good unique video footage too. Fly high my friend...blue sky up!!! We'll miss you in April.
Piggie & Jewels
The quiet guy with the smile has gone West--way too soon.
Terri-- both of you are in our thoughts
Safe Flight, Ken-- I will always remember you telling me about that beautiful woman at the bar; "That's my sister!"
Micro - David Snell
Grizzlies have always been a stand up group of brothers. Ken was one of the best of the best. He was an example to me of one who certainly had the right stuff.
Ken will be sorely missed by us all. I look forward to seeing him again on the other side.
My prayers are for his family.
Many are good, few are great. Ken was one of the great ones.
One of the most beloved grizzlies to walk the planet! Will be sorely missed. My favorite memory is seeing his g-training video on Piggy's Challenge of Flight series.
Ken was a favorite Grizzly and i was lucky to have him with me when we flew home from Rota, Spain and also Osan, Korea in 1989. I got to work with him at Edwards AFB when he was at TPS and I was on the X-45 from 2001 to 2005. We had so much fun each year at Grizzly Vegas. Yes, he will be sorely missed.
Ken was a friend to all of us. He was never too busy to answer a question or pitch in. He was my "go to" guy for Grizly software development. Another sad day this year.
Slow hand salute to Grasshopper. A true professional. Thoughts and prayers are with Terri and family.
So sad to think about. A real professional who contributed much to our squadron.
Ken was also an outstanding flight test engineer at Edwards AFB. Back in the day when Ken and I both worked on F-15 flight test, Ken was an armament engineer, He had briefed the test points for an F-15E air-to-ground test mission. Later the test pilot, Jim Brown (JB), who was an F-4 operational guy and is now a fairly well-known Lockheed test pilot (F-117, F-22) came and asked me about Ken: "Who is this Ken Jennings guy and what's his background?" Me: "He's a WSO in the Grizzlies at March." JB said that explained it, as Ken talked like he had been down the chute himself. Indeed he had, many a time.
There is a void in the Force.
E-Man - WARREN EASTMAN
It seems like yesterday that I went over to the comm building at Ontario to recruit Ken and a WSO. Jim Lieslie (sp?) was a bit concerned that ops was taking their best comm SSGt...oh well.
He proved to be an outstanding aviator and friend. I was so looking forward to seeing him on Thursday for Grizzly Vegas ...I'm confident he will be toasted many times. Ken was my friend and he will be missed.
Blessed to fly with, and work with and for Ken... he will be missed! - Jamie McMath
Nooooooooooooooooooo - I'm stunned... put out my hand and touched the face of God. - Chris Rios
Great, great guy. Ken, was a great flyer and even more my friend. We worked together on every issue I came across at the Guard and it continued on at Edwards AFB for many years up there together and every year at Grizzly Vegas. My prayers to Terri and the family. - James Thornell
Keith and I are besides ourselves. I just don't know what to say except I am sad. He was a gentle spirit. A kind man. Terrible. I am so sad. Our prayers to Terri and Grasshopper's family. Such a great guy. - Lisa Hatfield LeQuire
So sad for the Grizzlys and his family for this lost far too soon. - SharLee Fricks
Please keep me posted on details. - Jennifer Crain
A really good man and friend to everyone. - Charles McCormack
Great guy. Going to miss him. Prayers to the family. - Ron Doyle
Wow thanks for the information my prayers go out to his family he was such a great guy! - Lisa Allen
Sad. - Eileen Mueller-Miller
Too sad. - Erin Zoccoli
Please post updates when possible. - Sammy
Sorry for the loss Hap.... flying even higher now! - Mark Platt
PRAYERS - TJ Duckets Cahill
My best to all. Prayers too. - Jason Naylor
Prayers and God Bless you "Grasshopper." - Buzz Gillis
A nickel on the grass for you friend. - Rich Martindell
I'm very sorry to hear this news. Ken's time came way too soon. - Thomas E. Ames Lt. Col. (Retired)
Real sad news. Ken , quiet voice but loud impact . You go man, visor down, throttle afterburner, stick full aft, we'll all rejoin on you soon. - Frankie Kardos
All of these emails with their wonderful words are a testimony to a great man. I flew with him and enjoyed talking with him about his work at Edwards. He has flown West way to soon. God speed, Ken. - Rick Weizenegger