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1. Contributing to aeronautical science.

After graduation from Georgia Tech with two engineering degrees (aeronautical) and a pilot's license Conway joined the staff of NACA/NASA. He served at the Langley lab in Virginia 1941-42, at HQ in Washington 1942-44, and at the Ames lab in California 1944-47. At HQ he met Orville Wright, Jimmy Doolittle, Igor Sikorsky and other aviation legends. He served as Secretary of the Committee on Aircraft Materials and worked with a new subcommittee on gas turbines. He wrote a paper on use of ceramic materials in aircraft power plant installations and helped draft a future facilities plan for the agency.

After being commissioned in the Navy and assigned to the Ames lab, Conway served as project engineer on full-scale tests of the Grumman F7-F, first twin-engine fighter for carrier duty, and Ryan FR-1, the first jet for carrier operations. He wrote Principles of High Speed Flight, a paper proposing control of airplane flight path by propulsive jets. It was the first textbook on the subject. The text helped move aeronautical science into the space age. In 2006, new jet fighters were using thrust control as he had proposed decades earlier.

Conway's most significant contribution to aviation may have come decades later. In 1990 he founded the Safe Skies Award to recognize individuals who perform outstanding deeds to protect air travelers from acts of terrorism. For a decade he provided a cash prize and recognition for heroic acts by pilots, swat teams, and others in such locations as France, India, Ethiopia, Greece, and the USA.

2. Linking science and development

Conway left NACA/NASA to become director of the Southern Association of Science and Industry in Atlanta. SASI was a new organization of business executives, university professors, and public figures whose goal was to lift the Southern states from its status as a poverty-stricken agricultural area. Conway immediately began a campaign to inject science and technology into the region's development process.

Conway toured the region speaking to scores of groups such as lawyers, doctors, farmers, teachers, librarians, and shop owners. The program gained momentum when he was invited to serve as an advisor to the Southern Governor's Conference.

The most significant work was directed toward establishing research centers. While working with NACA/NASA in California Conway had seen the emergence of the Stanford Research Institute and Stanford Research Park at Palo Alto. He urged similar centers for the South — setting the stage for such units as the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, Technology Park in Atlanta, the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, and the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The subsequent progress of the region was featured in the New York Times, Time magazine, and other prominent media.

While serving as Chairman of the Georgia Science and Technology Commission, Conway proposed the establishment of an oceanographic research center at Skidaway Island, Georgia. At the same time he edited a study, "Bio-Technology Atlanta," that brought together Emory University medical talent and Georgia Tech engineering talent to create a new complex that today includes the CDC research center.

The results of this work are highly visible today. The Southern states are now among the leaders in economic development, most of it in technology-related ventures. Moreover, the South's program strategy has since been used with success by many regions around the world.

3. Creating the Airport City

After World War II Conway saved enough to buy a second-hand single-engine Cessna 170 to gain mobility. Thereafter, for more than 50 years, he owned an airplane. His log books show more than 7,000 hours of intensive flying — night and day, summer and winter, often to remote locations.

In 1960 he flew a single-engine Cessna 182 from Miami to the West Indies, across Venezuela and Colombia to Panama, and north across Mexico. In 1965 he flew an Aero Commander across the Amazon basin from the Pacific to the Atlantic. And, in 1980 he flew a single-engine Mooney to Europe via Greenland and Iceland — and return.

During his many travels, Conway was distressed by the clutter and lack of planning he saw on and around airports. He saw an opportunity to revamp old airports and plan new ones with the runway visualized as the main street of a community or city. He called it "the fly-in concept".

Late in 1970 Conway authored a book, "The Airport City," that captured the imagination of planners and developers. It showed plans for airport business parks that made it possible for a corporation to park its airplane at its door. Plans for fly-in communities showed how pilot-owners could keep their airplanes at home. The plans offered dramatic improvements in mobility.

Conway was retained as a planner and consultant for airport projects at such locations as Jackson, Mississippi; Chester and Greene Counties in Pennsylvania; Melbourne, Florida; Scottsdale, Arizona; and some 20 other sites. He was the planner and developer of the total fly-in community at Spruce Creek near Daytona Beach, Florida. There, hundreds of pilots enjoy a new life style that is the envy of millions.

Today Conway's airport city concept is a factor in planning around the world. The Spruce Creek project is recognized as the first and best of a growing list of fly-in communities.

4. Fighting communism in developing nations

In the early 1960s trouble was brewing in Southeast Asia. The Soviets were trying to spread control of communist regimes from Siberia to Singapore. The USA was trying to counter. There was guerilla warfare that later developed into the full-scale conflict in Vietnam.

Against this backdrop the U.S. decided to send an economic development mission to the region to explore trading opportunities, argue the case for private enterprise, and gain good will. After a briefing in Washington by LBJ the 5-man team flew to Rangoon to be welcomed at the palace. For the next few weeks the team met with business and tribal groups from the Irrawaddy delta to the foothills of the Himalayas and along the Malay peninsula. The effort came to a screeching halt when the Burmese army overthrew the government and all foreign entities were evicted.

For Conway, the Burma experience as a wake-up call. He realized that it was not enough to say or promise that the democratic process and private enterprise system was best — it had to be proven on the farms, in the shops, on the streets, and in the homes of people in developing nations.

Thus, when President Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress to counter the threat of communism in Central and South America, Conway was selected by the U.S. Department of State to lead the new AID/PEP program (AID standing for Agency for International Development and PEP standing for Private Enterprise Promotion).

During the late 1960s Conway headed an aggressive program covering 18 nations. He conducted Inter-American Development Conferences at Caracas, Venezuela; Arequipa, Peru; and Panama City, Panama — bringing together heads of state, cabinet ministers, and business leaders to give impetus to the program. The focus was on the pyramid concept of organizing development activities from the ground up, starting in local areas. The Conway staff produced films, publications, and other training materials in Spanish and Portuguese.

He personally led field trips to Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru and Nicaragua. Small groups of local leaders were selected in each nation and brought to the U.S. to see what people in small communities could do for themselves. In many cases Conway flew groups in his airplane to see projects in the desert Southwest or in farm communities in the south or midwest.

As the learning process evolved, specific projects were promoted. Examples were industrial parks at Valencia, Venezuela; Cartago, Costa Rica; and Arequipa, Peru. Conway selected experts from U.S. areas and dispatched them to assist with specific projects in the region, such as a slaughterhouse in Nicaragua.

The result of the program was to arrest the spread of communist regimes and strengthen shaky democratic regimes. Communism was defeated throughout Latin America.: (Cuba was an exception. It was not included in the AID/PEP program).

5. Improving government and political systems

Inevitably as Conway worked to improve economic development programs he encountered problems with local, state, and national governments. At every level he sought to finds ways to improve our systems.

At home he served as Chairman on the DeKalb County Planning Commission while installing the first master plan for Atlanta's fast-growing suburb. He also served as chairman of a metro government study panel set up by the state legislature. He was the plaintiff in a landmark federal court case that established the one-man one-vote concept for the election of state senators.

While serving in the Georgia Senate he introduced the "Sunshine" law to gain open meetings and records. He was co-author of the bill that created MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. As a member of the Senate highway committee, he proposed an outer loop highway around the Atlanta metro area with interwoven greenways and links to parks and environmental preserves — a dream project not yet realized.

More than 25 years ago Conway authored a report on the legislative climates of the 50 states. It has been updated annually and has become a standard reference for investment planners. His 1979 book Legislative Climates for Economic Development recalled his service in the Georgia Senate with fellow Senator Jimmy Carter plus involvement with political turmoil during a time of great changes in the South.

Coming from a scientific background, Conway found the world of politics to be confusing and frustrating. He wrote a widely-cited monograph on The Problem Voter. Perhaps his most significant contribution was a booklet The Telcom Coup that forecast major impacts of the internet on our political processes. Unfortunately, his key forecast and recommendation, the conduct of a national issue referendum with each congressional election, has yet to be implemented.

6. Introducing the science of geo-economics

When Conway left the scientific laboratory to begin his career in the business world the planning of new industrial facilities was chaotic. New plants were scattered around metro areas with little thought given to aesthetics and environment. Belching smokestacks were considered a sign of progress and prosperity. Quality of life for employees was not a consideration.

Conway attacked the problem by launching a journal then called Industrial Development (now Site Selection), the first publication covering corporate facility planning, location factors, and area development. He followed this with a series of books including The New Project Checklist, which listed hundreds of factors that ought to be considered when building a new plant. He also founded the International Development Research Council, a professional society that grew to have some 3,000 members from large firms around the world.

To promote competition Conway established a new plant reporting system that provides a scoreboard for the development industry. The much-sought-after Conway Governors Cup is presented annually to the Governor whose state wins the most new multi-million dollar plants.

In 1983 Conway launched SiteNet, the first telecommunications network serving the field of development. It functions as an extension of Site Selection magazine, providing a library of thousands of files available free to web browsers. In 2000 Conway founded the Industrial Asset Management Council, a prestigious professional society for top planning executives of major corporations. .

The geo-economic information services begun by Conway more than 50 years ago continue to grow. Today, Site Selection reaches more than 50,000 readers worldwide, and SiteNet has more than 90,000 visitors each month.

7. Harmonizing development and environment

Pilots of small airplanes are among the keenest observers of environmental problems. Cruising across the countryside at low altitude they see the swaths left by uncontrolled logging, muddy and polluted water flowing into clear streams and the scars of strip mining. On a clear day, they can see smoke stacks 50 miles away. When flying in clouds they can smell pollutants as they pass over plants.

Thus, as he criss-crossed the country in his small Cessna back in the 1950s, Conway saw the need for thoughtful action. Long before there was an EPA or a federal program he arranged a waste management conference for the Southern Association of Science and Industry at New Orleans. The main topic was concern over pollution of streams by pulp and paper mills.

During the same period Conway became a strong proponent of planned business and industrial parks with standards for site coverage, setback, side yards, fencing, waste management, noise and air pollution, architectural and graphic controls — all in campus-like settings. In 1976 he authored Industrial Site Performance Standards, and in 1981 he wrote Industrial Park Growth, a 546-page hard-cover book presenting proof of environmental progress. Other Conway books with powerful environmental content include The Good Life Index, The Weather Handbook, and Disaster Survival.

Conway was keenly interested in the relationship between urban forms and environmental enhancement. He introduced the term "Decoplex" to refer to a development-ecology complex. Such projects combine seemingly conflicting interests to achieve mutually positive results, such as converting a hazardous waste to a useful product or utilizing a waste site for a needed utility. He aired proposals for underground communities, floating cities, domed communities and other unique urban forms that offer environmental benefits.

Many of Conway's ideas for environmental enhancement resulted from his visits to unique sites from Antarctica to Lake Baikal in Siberia. He has explored OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) sites in Hawaii and at Nauru in the central Pacific. He visited eel farms in the Mariannas, a nursery for giant clams at Belau, green turtle pens in the Caymans, and botanical gardens in Singapore, Yalta, Rio, and Kuala Lumpur.

Perhaps Conway's most interesting project was his "Eco-Site For The Future" that he hoped would produce a better life style for many. He explored this idea personally on a wooded tract in central Florida. He moved there several years ago, built a small family complex, and continued his world studies surrounded by nature.

8. Stimulating global planning

During the 1980s Conway was devoting most of his attention to large ventures around the world. He became increasingly distressed by the lack of effective global planning. While the UN conducted theoretical studies there was no master plan for world development and there was no world zoning board that reviewed applications and issued permits for huge global industrial and infrastructure projects.

In 1990 Conway decided to do something about the situation, launching a series of annual Global Super Projects Conferences. He believed that by bringing together the experts who were actually planning and building projects — many of them from the private sector — that positive ideas could be brought to bear. In the ensuing decade he conducted conferences in Singapore, Honolulu, Barcelona, Paris, Osaka, Atlanta, Madrid and Jubail, Saudi Arabia.

The conference programs featured speakers and panelists who were building such projects as the Euro-Tunnel, the Three Gorges Dam and Hydro plant, the new airports at Hong Kong and Osaka, and many other multi-billion dollar projects of global significance. It was the first time in history that such assemblies had been held. Conference programs and lists of attendees are included in the book Global Super Projects authored by Conway and his daughter Laura Lyne.

Much of the background for the global conferences and projects covered was gathered by Conway in his travels around the world. His many adventures and misadventures are described in his book Notsodull!. This field work also led Conway to establish the World Development Hall of Fame to recognize the individuals who created the world's most outstanding projects.

The result of this work can be seen today as true global systems are emerging, especially in energy and transport. Conway was proudest of the Great Global Highway idea for a project that would eventually lead to a road connecting some 100 nations on five continents.

9. Presenting a positive agenda for the future

From the beginning of his career McKinley Conway was fascinated with the future. Most of his work sketched above dealt with plans and programs that promised to make things better in the days ahead. Among his most significant looks ahead were two books: books A Glimpse of The Future, and Development Highlights of the 20th Century and Lessons for the Future. both written in 1997.

In order to extend his view into years ahead and attract interest for futuristic projects Conway produced Three Tomorrows, a fictional trilogy. It included Miracles of Megamind, which looked at the future as seen from year 2000; Rivers of Hope, which looked at the future as it might be seen in year 2025; and Galaxies of the Mind, which gives the view as of 2050.

Conway concluded: Much remained to do but the future is bright!


Note: Most of the events listed above are well documented. For more information go to Conway works chronological.

Personal data

McKinley Conway (11/1/20 - 5/29/11) was born at Hackleburg, Ala. He married Rebecca (Becky) Kellam, his college sweetheart, on September 17, 1942. They had two daughters: Linda Duever, a consulting ecologist, and Laura Lyne, president/CEO of Conway Data, Inc. Laura's husband, Jack Lyne (2/5/44 - 12/3/11), was a senior editor at Conway Data. Laura has two children: Adam and Piper. Adam is a managing director of Conway Data and Site Selection magazine. Piper is a musician (www.piperrevamusic.com) and an artist (www.artistinthealley.com) and lives on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. Becky, Linda and Laura live on a farm in Florida's "horse country" between Gainesville and Ocala.


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©1999-2011 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.