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Albert Grant Kettles

Albert Grant Kettles

1898-1972

Albert Grant Kettles was born in Bruce Mines, Ontario, Canada on January 3, 1898. When World War I began in Europe, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, and at the age of 17 made his way into the aviator ranks and was sent into combat in Italy. While with the 66th Squadron, he was credited with downing a balloon (equated to 4 aircraft). He returned to his home in Canada on April 3, 1919.

In 1924 Grant left the banking business, married Cora Lee Stobie and moved to the United States where he worked for Dodge Motor Company stripping bodies and, on a part time basis, gave flying lesions in Detroit.
In 1927 he became a pilot with SKF Flying Service in Lansing, Michigan, providing flight instruction and passenger service. Concurrently, he served as station manager for Kohler Airlines, station agent for Pennsylvania Central Airlines, test pilot for Driggs Aircraft company and a part-time pilot for the State of Michigan. Grant flew the first Driggs Skylark X592E.

In 1934 Grant became the first Chief Pilot for the State of Michigan and in 1938 he became one of the first instrument qualified pilots in the state.

The day after the United States entered World War II, Grant volunteered to serve in the Air Transport Command at Romulus and shortly thereafter accepted a commission as a Captain, U.S. Army Air Corp. Some 200 aviators volunteered, but only two were instrument qualified. Therefore, Grant was frequently assigned to lead flights over the Atlantic as the only instrument qualified pilot among the crews. He was also assigned to fly Cordell Hull, then Secretary of State, to a high level conference in Moscow. By the end of World War II, Grant had qualified in about every aircraft within the Air Corps inventory from the P-38 to the B-29. With the end of World War II, Grant returned to civilian aviation in 1945 as Chief Pilot, Ford Motor Company. In 1947 he became Chief Pilot for Abrams Aerial Survey in Lansing, Michigan where he remained until his retirement in 1966.

Albert Grant Kettles died on December 19, 1972. He was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 7, 2000 for his long and illustrious aviation career which included serving the State of Michigan and voluntarily serving under two nations during two World Wars.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program