What Weight Should A 3 And Half Year Old Be Aerospace, Post WW II – Greatest Half-Century of Achievement – And North American Aviation’s Role!

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Aerospace, Post WW II – Greatest Half-Century of Achievement – And North American Aviation’s Role!

Of the few aerospace companies that emerged after World War II, North American Aerospace Corporation (later the Aircraft Division of Rockwell International Corporation) soon became one of the pioneers of the nascent aviation industry. Other famous American companies are Lockheed Aircraft, Grumman Aircraft, etc. But graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, Class of 43 (3.93 average, honors in all departments), I was offered and accepted by North American as a Stress Analyst “B” at their LA facility ($1.01 an hour ) positions.

In the final years of World War II, North American companies produced the P-51 Mustang fighter jet for Britain; its superior speed and performance quickly achieved a 10:1 kill ratio against German fighters; then, shortly afterward, the NAA produced the The first jet fighter F-86. Collaborating with other specialized engineering groups: aerodynamics, thermodynamics, load analysis, dynamics, etc., and with an ongoing focus on improving performance and reducing weight, the Design, Stresses, and Materials/Processing group began researching materials through higher strength-to-density ratios (aluminum , steel, magnesium, titanium) and more efficient structural concepts (such as sandwich configurations) to minimize structural weight. Driven by the optimization approach of the NAA team, the American Aerospace Technology Conference was held, showcasing technological advances in all areas, with active participation of the NAA. (In my 10th year, I earned my Masters in Aerospace Engineering at USC Evening School — and was promoted throughout the years — and my current title is Director of Structural Sciences.)

A notable achievement of the North American company was the first aircraft to reach supersonic speed, the Mach 1 F-100. From this technology soon was born the first supersonic trainer T-28. (Note: An interesting personal anecdote developed from that project – there was a major accident while machining the lower main spar cap – which carried the largest loads in the aircraft. As structural supervisor, I approved the repair. Several Months later the chief engineer called me, “Remember that T-28 spar cap joint you signed – well, there was an air force captain who said he wanted to make sure it had a d-mn engineer sitting in front of him while he pulled the max Gs!” He waited a few seconds before adding, “I hope you’re sure of your analysis – you’re flying to his airport tomorrow morning!

It was exciting, but it turned out well: When my plane landed, a jeep and two soldiers were waiting for me; I was taken to the airport immediately; a serious 25-year-old captain shook my hand and muttered said hello, had his men attach a parachute to my suit; and helped me climb into the T-28. He did make a joke, “You know you’re putting your life to trusting your analysis!” (Note: Mach 1 is exciting, as is max G pullout. Spar cap repair and wing sticking. We Landed safely. Captain buys me a drink.)

As the aftermath of World War II and its eventual emphasis on nuclear bombs, the DoD decided to use the U.S. Navy to extend its nuclear range—it called for proposals for a medium bomber capable of catapult launches and intercept-hook landings On an aircraft carrier – while carrying an atomic bomb. A few months later, he called to tell me we had won. “Oh, by the way,” he added, “be prepared, your friends will tell you that the FBI has been asking some very personal questions about you!” Moments later, he explained, “You and I’m going to get a ‘Q clearance’ to go along with our top secret – if the NAA is going to build a bomber that carries an atomic bomb, someone has to tell us its weight and location to grab!”

Although the hypersonic performance of the X-15 greatly surpassed the B-70’s Mach 3 in speed and altitude, the NAA’s B-70 technology had a huge impact on my later career, in the international arena of commercial aviation, UK And France decided to pool their aerospace know-how and money — to overtake the U.S. — and build a Mach 2 commercial jet, the Concorde. Unfortunately, the program failed, namely the tail engine and the thrust reverser structure. Although a setback for France and the UK, there are also entrepreneurial risk-takers who see it as an opportunity. One such man is Leopold S, Wyler, CEO of a small but successful New York Stock Exchange company (TRE Corp.) that manufactures home locks and has a small division with patented aerospace-type construction sandwiches ; who grew up in France but has a solid knowledge of the NAA’s B-70, has made two separate but conditional proposals: – the first is for France and the UK – and his firm will fund the redesign and building the structural test cell, which — if it hits weight and performance targets, would win him a production contract for those Concorde structures. His second proposal was for me (he asked his Stresskin Div. President to find out who was in charge of the B-70 structure). The proposal was to hire me and my dozen or so NAA B-70 engineers; give us a 30% raise to leave NAA and join him – if we could produce a test unit within a year. It’s worth noting, looking back, that it all got done: I was joined by a dozen NAAs (all moved to Orange County); Wyler built a big new factory; we ended up hiring more NAA Staff – We produced all Concorde production structures.

Just like my “late career” with Concorde more than a dozen years ago, my “late career” with NASA’s space shuttle program was initiated by the North American Aeronautical Memorial—that’s still recalling the sound of my old Charlie XXXX, NAA senior program manager, is now president of Rockwell Space. “I need you – or someone like you – in my space shuttle program. Come over tomorrow – I’ll give you a job.” (See Ezine article: “NASA’s Space Shuttle Secrets – Lean On – Tile !”)

I met Charlie the next day and he offered and I accepted the Asst.Chief Eng position. Rockwell Aerospace’s space shuttle program. Always wanted to be a part of the NASA space program and I found the long hours and frequent travel very satisfying. NASA finally held its first flight FRR (Flight Readiness Review) – I was very relieved when NASA asked me to give a detailed briefing to the Administrator (a senior NASA official who reports to the President of the United States). After three successful flights over three years, I left the program and NAA Rockwell and returned to TRE at Wyler. In 1982, I received NASA’s Public Service Award and Medal.

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