Throwback Thursday – Naval Pilot and NASA Legend, David Finney

Aviation Heritage Park’s annual Hangar Party event is coming up at the end of this month. Every year, the party honors a southern Kentucky aviator and features a unique theme. This year’s party is honoring Colonel Mac Reynolds, whom we featured a few months ago. As another salute to a southern Kentucky aviator, this week is the story of Commander David H. Finney, a naval pilot and NASA operations chief.

Born in nearby Springfield, Tenn., in December of 1944, Finney was raised in Auburn in Logan County. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1967, earning his Navy wings a year later. By 1969, he joined a California-based squadron, and ended up flying 75 combat missions in Southeast Asia. Finney went back to school, graduating the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School with a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering in 1973. 

He continued naval assignments all over the world until his retirement in 1987, when he then joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as a civilian research pilot and engineering manager at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. He managed shuttle acquisition projects, worked on developmental designs, and became Chief of the Johnson Space Center Aircraft Operations Division in the Flight Crew Operations Directorate.

Finney logged over 92 thousand flight hours in 30 types of aircraft. The NASA T-38 Talon at Aviation Heritage Park is one of the many types of aircraft he flew. He was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 1994 and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 2008. He passed away in Bowling Green in 2010.