"Alan Brown Part 1" Avstry #3a

Alan Brown, of the Lockheed Skunk Works tells us about the early days of his career, working on the F-104 Starfighter, Bristol Bloodhound surface to air missile, UGM-27 Polaris intercontinental ballistic missile.

Published Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2012

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Show Notes

J.R. Warmkessel: Welcome Alan Brown. How are you doing tonight?

Alan Brown: Fine thank you.

J.R. Warmkessel: I want to thank you for being with us, it's really an honor. I like to begin this interview by asking my guests what type of licenses, certificates or credentials they might have in aviation, that might help set the stage.

Alan Brown: Okay, I've got two Masters Degrees in Aeronautical Engineering. I've got an Honorary Doctor of Science. With two other people I won the National Aircraft Design Award in 1991. And I've been in the airplane design business pretty much all my life.

J.R. Warmkessel: That's absolutely incredible. Take me back to the beginning. You obviously are an Englishman?

Alan Brown: I'm English yes.

J.R. Warmkessel: And from what part of England do you hail?

Alan Brown: From Newcastle, which is in the northeast part of England, close to the Scottish border.

J.R. Warmkessel: So, you went to college in England? Or in America?

Alan Brown: Both. I went to, I started off, well first of all I didn't do what is conventional in this country. I did what is more conventional in Europe, and that is I left high school with my High School Diploma at the age of fifteen.

J.R. Warmkessel: What year was that?

Alan Brown: 1945.

J.R. Warmkessel: Okay.

Alan Brown: And then went to do an apprenticeship with the Blackburn Aircraft Company. Starting at age fifteen, to do an apprenticeship as a Aeronautical Engineer. The way that works, is we do two years working in the factory, spending three months in each of eight different departments. So we get a pretty good understanding of how airplanes are built and flown. While we're doing that, we do two years of night classes at the local technical college. Then after the two years is up we go to the technical college full time for two and a half years and get, what was called at that time, a Higher National Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering, which is fairly close to a Bachelor's Degree in this country. Then I went back to, for the last six months of my apprenticeship, went back to the parent company, Blackburn's and spent three months in the Structural Design Department, three months in the Aerodynamics Department, and then they stamp...

J.R. Warmkessel: Approved?

Alan Brown: approved on your forehead and you're a qualified Aeronautical Engineer. So that was, that took five years.

J.R. Warmkessel: So if you started in '45, you would have been in England during the World War II?

Alan Brown: Yeah, I was in high school.

J.R. Warmkessel: Give us a little flavor of that from your perspective?

Alan Brown: Oh, we, of course we, knew how important it was and I lived far enough north that we weren't really involved to the extent say that London was and the counties close to the French coast. But nevertheless, we got raided fairly regularly starting at about the middle of 1940 for about three years. We all had air raid shelters in our backyards. So the air raid siren would go, my mother and father and I was the only child, so we'd go in the air raid shelter when the sirens blew and sometimes bombs would go off. We were, we lived just about a mile from the North Sea coast, and were close to the city of Newcastle which is about eight miles away, which was a fairly important weapons production city, so it got raided a lot. And if the German bombers couldn't penetrate the defenses, they would drop their bombs on the coastline on the way out. So we would get the aftermath of that.

J.R. Warmkessel: Wow, that must have been... Would you say shaped you, is that kind of why you went into aviation?

Alan Brown: No. I, before the war started, back in 1938, I was eight years old then, and like a lot of kids my age, we were all just airplane crazy. You know, the timing was that Germany was re-arming, the Spanish Civil War had just come and gone, every kid my age, knew about Hurricanes and Spitfires and Messerschmitts and all that stuff, and I think I knew when I was eight years old, I wanted to be an airplane designer.

J.R. Warmkessel: And you succeeded?

Alan Brown: And I succeeded, yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: So in your apprenticeship, what country was that in, the Blackburn, was that in America? Or was that...

Alan Brown: No, no, that was in England, that was all in England. In fact it was only about a hundred and twenty miles from where my home was. So I went into a boarding house when I was first there, then it turned out, my father got a job which was not far from where Blackburn's was, so I lived at home for the last four years of my five year apprenticeship before going off to do my Master's Degree also in England.

J.R. Warmkessel: Any memories of that time, that really stand out in your mind? Things you worked on or projects you might have found interesting?

Alan Brown: While at Blackburn's in the Aerodynamics Department, I worked on all the programs that, you know all the accomplished engineers worked on. So I was familiar with the new airplanes that were coming out then. We were competing with Fairey Aviation. The two companies, Blackburn and Fairey, were both the two British navy companies, a bit like Grumman is in this country. And we were competing with them, on an airplane, which in fact Fairey's won the contract, for an anti-submarine airplane. So I worked on that for a while. Then I worked a little bit on the four engine transport, a general aircraft, that was brought out by Blackburn's and we built their transport airplane, a little bit like their C130.

J.R. Warmkessel: And, so where did you go after Blackburn, when you got your Masters?

Alan Brown: I went to, what was then called just The College of Aeronautics. It was a government started college, which only opened in 1946. So I was in the, sort of the first wave starting in 1950. And it was set up, because I think it was recognized after World War II, that Britain, although it produced some very good airplanes, was still not as far advanced in say Aerodynamics and Structural Research as Germany and the United States were. So the College of Aeronautics was set up as a Government College, which later became Cranfield University, and that was set up particularly to set up a course a bit like MIT has or Caltech, which was essentially only for graduate students.

J.R. Warmkessel: Now, one of the things that I heard in one of your previous talks, was kind of about the original English jet engine, that was produced during the war and also the Lockheed competitor. Could you maybe recount that story again for me?

Alan Brown: Oh, an Airforce Officer, called Frank Whittle in the 1930's, the early 1930's invented a jet engine. Had a hard time selling it to the British Air Ministry, which you can imagine, probably seemed like a pie in the sky kind of operation. But eventually it did get produced, particularly when the war was imminent. So in 1938, Whittle produced his engine, and interestingly enough, the company that I worked for much later, Lockheed's Skunk Works in 1943, or end of '42 actually, got a sole sourced contract from the US Air Force to build a single engine jet engine Fighter using the British Whittle Engine, which was then in production.

J.R. Warmkessel: Was that a radial flow engine or and axial flow engine?

Alan Brown: That was called centrifugal flow. Yeah, centrifugal flow engine, jet engine, that Whittle invented worked very well. It ultimately was succeeded by the axial flow engine that Rolls Royce, for instance developed.

J.R. Warmkessel: And pretty much the only engines we see now are axial flow engines in modern aircraft.

Alan Brown: All are. Yes.

J.R. Warmkessel: So please continue.

Alan Brown: Okay, so that really is the British jet engine story to the the extent that it affected anything that I did. After getting my masters degree at Cranfield, I then looked around for where to work and went to work at Bristol Aeroplane Company, which is in the southwest and I was choosing between that and a company called English Electric, which was just north of London, and I thought Bristol was more interesting. I just got married and we just, we were going to go out find a place to live and so Bristol looked pretty interesting, and the work we were doing was, to the extent they could tell me, was interesting, and I worked there in the guided missile department for about four years.

J.R. Warmkessel: Uh-huh.

Alan Brown: After... during that time, I had done my thesis work at Cranfield in supersonic stability, aerodynamic stability, and so I got into supersonic aerodynamics at Bristol.

J.R. Warmkessel: What year was this, or roundabout?

Alan Brown: This would be 1952, I started at Bristol.

J.R. Warmkessel: And when, in kind of relationship, was Chuck Yeager's famous flight breaking the sound barrier? Was this before or after that?

Alan Brown: Oh, it would be... it would be after that. It seems to me that was the mid-50s. I can't remember the exact date.

J.R. Warmkessel: Okay.

Alan Brown: But, anyway, I was at Bristol from '52 to '56 and I worked on aerodynamics of supersonic boundary layers on the what was the Bloodhound guided missile, which, in fact, became the leading European surface to air missile, SAM missile, for about 30 years.

J.R. Warmkessel: Wow.

Alan Brown: It was used by about six or seven different countries in Europe.

J.R. Warmkessel: How fast was that missile when it was in flight?

Alan Brown: About Mach 2.

J.R. Warmkessel: Okay, and, so, kind of reflecting back on that time, what was the most... was it the missile? Were that the most interesting thing you kind of worked on? Was there anything that really

Alan Brown: That was the only thing I worked on so...

J.R. Warmkessel: The only thing you worked on, okay.

Alan Brown: For four years it was just the one thing. One of the reasons for doing that was just sort of what probably seemed like a side issue, and that is that we still had conscription in England into the services, and if you worked on a military program, you didn't have to go in the army.

J.R. Warmkessel: Ah, so you got a waver.

Alan Brown: So that was why I would work on a guided missile program rather than on a commercial program, for instance.

J.R. Warmkessel: So one of the big secrets that Chuck Yeager figured out, and maybe you as well, was the control issue when you were going through the transsonic and supersonic flight regimes. Could you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

Alan Brown: Oh, okay. Well, that was not a big issue with our missiles because we had enough acceleration that we just went right through the speed of sound very, very quickly. So it wasn't the kind of problem that the airplane guys were having, who were just barely able to go transsonic.

J.R. Warmkessel: And what was the problem, specifically?

Alan Brown: The problem is just fairly simply, as the speed of the airplane increases, even if it's flying at less than supersonic speeds if it's high subsonic speeds, then the airflow over parts of the airplane will go supersonic, just locally, terminate in a shockwave and the shockwave can close flow separation, which may interfere with how well the controls work, and so on, and it often doesn't' appear completely symmetrically. So you can get it happen on one wing and not the other.

J.R. Warmkessel: That could be a problem.

Alan Brown: Very interesting, yeah, for the pilots. So that was the issue with the airplanes at that time because their plane didn't have the acceleration that our surface to air missiles did. I mean, we just buzzed through that, you know, with now sweat.

J.R. Warmkessel: Well, that's just really interesting. So then where from there, after your masters was complete and that program was completed?

Alan Brown: Well, the masters, when I finished the masters programs is when I went to Bristol.

J.R. Warmkessel: Oh, okay.

Alan Brown: So I had four years at Bristol and the rules about the... about joining the army were that once you get to be 26 years old all bets were off anyway. So you weren't bound by this, and I had always felt that I really want to do more aerodynamic research, and the way that England was set up, although its research capabilities were really very good and very strong, it was generally done by a fairly small group of people in one of the major government establishments, either the Royal Aircraft Establishment or the National Physical Laboratory, and to get into one of those you generally had to go through Oxford or Cambridge or something of that sort. The companies did not tend to have their own research facilities, so, as a consequence, and of course American companies did, so I figured if I'm going to do research, it's going to be a lot easier to do it in the United States than it is in England. So I wrote to about seven different companies in California, because that's where I wanted to come.

J.R. Warmkessel: And do you remember who they were, this late date?

Alan Brown: Well all the major aircraft companies in the Los Angeles area, Lockheed, North Rock, North American, Douglas, I can't think who else, but, you know, all the major companies, and interesting enough I either got no reply or got turned down by all of them.

J.R. Warmkessel: And this was about '55?

Alan Brown: This is 1956, end of '55, beginning of '56, and the reason I discovered later is that in the early '50s had been a phenomenon called the brain drain, and the brain drain had been when a lot of Europeans scientist and engineers had come over to America to work in American industry, and the thing that happened, that the companies really hadn't thought about, is it took an extremely long time to get these people cleared to do secure work on military projects, which is what most of them are good at.

J.R. Warmkessel: That's a problem.

Alan Brown: And so having spent a lot of time and effort getting these people and then having to pay them just to play chess, or dominoes, or bridge while they're getting their clearances through, they sort of got... by the time I applied they got a bit sour about the whole business and decided that that was not a good idea.

J.R. Warmkessel: So you were denied based on their poor experiences?

Alan Brown: Yeah. Okay, so what I did then was I just looked at Aviation Week to see who was advertising for jobs, and the two places that came up were Cessna Aircraft in the midwest and...

J.R. Warmkessel: Wichita probably.

Alan Brown: Wichita, Kansas, and also Cornell Aeronautical Labs in Buffalo, New York.

J.R. Warmkessel: Okay.

Alan Brown: So I communicated with both of them, and it looked like they were going to work out. Cornell eventually decided that, although I was qualified as far as my capabilities were concerned, they couldn't solve the security business either because they had some secure contracts and some not, and they couldn't arbitrarily separate the people very easily, and so on and so forth. And I was getting ready to go to Cessna at Wichita, Kansas when a friend of mine, who also had been at Cranfield with me and was now working with Aerojet in southern California in Azusa, he called me and said, "Whatever you do, do not go to Kansas." You know, that rubbed me awful. "It's not that Kansas is so bad, but Cessna is going to be very limiting compared to what your experience is." So he said he's been working with the University of Southern California and they've been doing some research in wind tunnel work for them at Aerojet, which is a rocket propulsion company. He said, "I'll talk to the people at USC and see if I can get you a job there." So he did in fact get me a job at USC, at what I thought was a very princely amount of money, which I later found out was almost the minimum that they could legally pay me. But nevertheless, I came over and my wife and daughter, we had a two-year-old daughter then, they came about three months later. I think my mother-in-law wanted to be sure that I really had a job and having seen all the American movies, didn't know whether I'd be shot by the Indians or by Dillinger.

J.R. Warmkessel: You were going to Hollywood.

Alan Brown: Yeah, but anyway. So we came to Los Angeles and I worked at USC for a couple of years as a research associate.

J.R. Warmkessel: What did you do there?

Alan Brown: I was doing supersonic aerodynamics. I worked with a guy called Lee Daley. He was a Cal Tech Ph.D. who was in charge of what we called the engineering center. He was a very bright man and he and I did a lot of work in the transient behavior of supersonic propulsion systems, which was a pretty, fairly new subject at the time.

J.R. Warmkessel: So give us a little more flavor. What does that mean?

Alan Brown: Okay, I'll give you an example of one of the contracts that we had. The Lockheed F-104 is flying along quite nicely at Mach 2, and suddenly the pilot experiences a huge lateral acceleration, and his head gets bumped from one side to the other. He's flying at Mach 2 and he's got a 6 G lateral oscillation on his airplane, and what it's caused by is the two inlets on the side of the F-104, if you yawed the airplane slightly you'd get slightly different operating conditions on the two sides and one of the inlets might what's called un-start, which meant that the whole shock system, shock wave system, you're flying at Mach 2 so there's lots of shock waves, the whole shock wave system comes out of the engine, puts very high pressures on the sides of the airplane, pushes it over to one side. The engine then restarts, but the inlet on the other side goes out. So the whole thing oscillates like crazy, with this oscillation of the way the inlet aerodynamics is working.

J.R. Warmkessel: So it sounds like that the aircraft, even though it's traveling Mach 2, that the air inside the engine is having to go subsonic.

Alan Brown: Yeah, oh, yes, it has to, because the engine cannot.

J.R. Warmkessel: Why is that?

Alan Brown: Engines cannot absorb supersonic flow coming into them. They've got to have high pressure. You've got to exchange velocity for pressure. So you got to go through a shock system that slows the air down enough that the engine, which likes to operate with air coming in at about four-tenths, five-tenths Mach number. It can't operate with air coming in at Mach 2, because it's not high enough pressure. So you exchange pressure for velocity.

J.R. Warmkessel: Along with Bernoulli's theory?

Alan Brown: Yeah. Good old Bernoulli comes to the rescue again. It's a little bit more complicated when you get to higher Mach numbers but it's the same principle.

J.R. Warmkessel: So one engine would un-start, and then the airplane would turn, and then the other engine would un-start, and it would oscillate back and forth.

Alan Brown: Yes, that's right, yes, and that was one of the programs we worked on. And in fact, that was done, the particular one with Lockheed, I mention that because it's a very simple, straightforward example, that was done a couple of years later, because after we'd been at USC for just two years my boss, Lee Daley, decided that we were probably competent enough to go off and form our own company and become millionaires. That seemed like a great idea.

J.R. Warmkessel: I'm sure that worked out.

Alan Brown: So half a dozen of us left USC and we joined a small company called Weanco that was run by one of Lee Daley's old buddies from Cal Tech, Tom Weanco, who had invented some new techniques in pressure transducers, so he was manufacturing pressure transducers.

J.R. Warmkessel: What's a pressure transducer?

Alan Brown: A pressure transducer is a device where you convert measurement of pressure in pounds per square inch into an electrical signal that goes to your laptop, if laptops had been invented then.

J.R. Warmkessel: So maybe used for the pitot static system?

Alan Brown: A pitot static would be an interesting example. You could easily put one of his transducers, and rather than just, as in the olden days a pilot would just watch a glass tube full of water that showed how much pressure there was, a U-tube. Then of course the next thing is it goes from a pressure measurement to an electrical recording. So the pressure transducer is what does that. So anyway, Tom Weanco took our group of half a dozen people on with the idea that he would take care of all our paychecks and our income tax and all this good stuff, and when we grew enough, he could turn us loose. Just down the street from us in Pasadena on Foothill Boulevard, Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena at that time was a hothouse of new invention people. There was all kinds of startup guys. Just down the road from us, about a block down from us, with a same size group, was a young guy called Abe Zarem, and Abe Zarem did a little bit better than we did. He started Xerox. His group of six people became the Xerox Corporation. So we didn't quite make that. And the main reason why we didn't make out, we had a number of contracts with various, we had a contract with Lockheed to fix the 104 program, we had contracts with North American on the B-17 six-engine bomber, and with Northrop on the F-5 to try and make it go Mach 2, and so on and so forth, but the period was 1958 to 1960, and that, if you recall, is when Sputnik and the space age was starting.

J.R. Warmkessel: I do recall.

Alan Brown: So the airplane industry just went downhill in a hurry. The B-70 was cancelled, the finance on the F-104 and the F-5 got cut drastically. So as consultants, we were among the first to go. It turned out that on the B-70, we were doing well enough for them that they actually had to let go of a lot of their own people at North American before they let us go, which was sort of interesting. But nevertheless, eventually all these programs were dying down, so our group of half a dozen people split up and went different ways. I looked around to see what was the, as missiles and space was obviously the new thing, and airplanes were not in favor, and I was not really a commercial airplane guy, I was definitely a military airplane person. I looked around to see what was the best missiles and space research laboratory on the west coast. And I decided that Lockheed in Palo Alto was the top place. It's on the Stanford industrial park, had a lot of interchange with Stanford University and of course LMSC, Lockheed Missiles and Space, in 1960 had only just started two or three years before that. They started in 1957. They were just really expanding and it looked very, very good, so I went up to the Missiles and Space Company and signed on in their research labs. In fact, I just went into the gas dynamics lab, part of the physics division, and I just told Dan Basheda, who was the boss there, I said I'm going to join your company, I need a job. And I said I know I can do it because the guy that I'm replacing, Ed Smith, was one of my students at USC and I taught him, and he's now going on to Stanford to do his Ph.D. And I'm essentially saying I can take his place, and if I can teach him, I can certainly do what he's been doing. So I bludgeoned my way into Lockheed Missiles and Space Company and stayed there for six years in the research labs.

J.R. Warmkessel: So tell us a little bit about that experience.

Alan Brown: That, of course, was very exciting. It was the days of the Polaris missiles system was coming up. I worked in high temperature gas dynamics. As I say I had some good experience in supersonic aerodynamics and in propulsion system instability so I knew about both steady state and dynamics of these flows. We did a lot of tests on the re-entry physics of the missiles. We tested them in high temperature wind tunnels, that was pretty interesting.

J.R. Warmkessel: Was that the NASA wind tunnel that's here at Moffet?

Alan Brown: No these were Lockheed tunnels, at Lockheed, in the physics lab.

J.R. Warmkessel: Oh, okay.

Alan Brown: They were not generally known about because they were part of the Polaris program, so these were not used by anybody except, as I said, Lockheed. And that was a very interesting period of time. I became, did a lot of theoretical work in high speed aerodynamic boundary layers. And in particular what I was doing was when you get to high enough temperatures, you get all kinds of funny things happening to the air. First of all, the individual gases, oxygen and nitrogen, start to ionize, so you form an ionized layer round the missile re-entry body. When you have an ionized layer you can't transmit radio signals through it.

J.R. Warmkessel: Ah, so you can't guide the missile?

Alan Brown: This is an incoming, this is our re-entry, out intercontinental ICBMs. But when we're testing them, we need to know what's going on. We need to send telemetry signals, and the telemetry doesn't work when the gas is ionized because it cannot go through the ionized gas. And although we could not intrinsically solve that problem, we could at least do a lot of research to understand exactly when it's going to happen, when you're on, when you're off. And I became somewhat of an expert in developing hyper-sonic boundary layers for both ionizing and dissociating gases. And that's different from just using something called air, you've then got to think about oxygen and nitrogen as being separate, they then ionize and they have slightly different characteristics. They form different compounds like NO and NO2, because they get hot enough to do that. So the whole gas dynamics is different from what it would be for the same kind of gas running, like on an airplane. So I did that and got some sort of level of expertise there, but it was pretty obvious by 1964 and '65, two things. One is that I was giving papers, often in classified sessions, on these subjects, and the people who were also doing work in different parts of the country would of course be in the same sessions, and it was pretty obvious that about 20 of us within the country were just giving papers to each other. We were the only people who cared.

J.R. Warmkessel: And the only people who could understand the papers.

Alan Brown: Well, yeah, we were probably the only people who knew what we were talking about. And after two years of realizing we're all just talking among ourselves, I decided I had better get back into the airplane business. And in fact I got asked to go down to Lockheed in Burbank while I was still at the missile system research labs and I went down there for three months because they had just started their supersonic transport program. This is 1965 probably.

J.R. Warmkessel: Now, right about in this time, wasn't Kennedy and the Cuba missile crisis going on?

Alan Brown: Yeah, that would be in '63. We were not, no, there was no direct connection with us with that. That was certainly one of the political events of the time that we were doing the Polaris missile system. And of course that being a submarine based thing, it was very pertinent to the Cuban area. So anyway, the people at Lockheed in Burbank, who got a contract to do the supersonic transport, along with Boeing, were looking for people with supersonic aerodynamic experience within Lockheed, and my name came out of the hat. I had also, as I mentioned earlier, had worked with Lockheed in 1958 on the F-104 problem, so the people at Lockheed knew me from that. So I was asked to go down and help out on the SST, and so I went down.

J.R. Warmkessel: The SST?

Alan Brown: The supersonic transport. Sorry. I said it rather glibly because it appears regularly in crosswords.

J.R. Warmkessel: Fair enough.

Alan Brown: Anyway, I went to work on that, and one of the things that I did, because I'd been going to Stanford University also, doing some coursework while I was at LMSC as well, and I went there because my degree from England was not really very well known in America. So I decided it would be smart to get a degree from Stanford at the same time.

J.R. Warmkessel: And you were close.

Alan Brown: Yeah, in fact, my boss at Lockheed, my immediate boss, was also a professor at Stanford. We had a professor at Stanford who would come in every Friday for consulting. So a very close relationship. So I worked on doing a master's degree at Stanford as well, and a part of the work allowed me to come up with a new method for estimating sonic boom characteristics on the ground. And that sonic boom, of course, was a big issue.

J.R. Warmkessel: Tell us a little bit about that.

Alan Brown: Sonic boom is where there's a bang-bang as an airplane flies over at supersonic speeds. And that was felt that the noise that the supersonic transport would make was such that they could not allow overflights across the country.

J.R. Warmkessel: Ultimately, this was a problem that the Concorde had.

Alan Brown: Absolutely. The Concorde, for instance, could only fly across the Atlantic, but couldn't fly from New York to Los Angeles.

J.R. Warmkessel: So what causes that boom? Can you give us a little flavor on that?

Alan Brown: The airplane has drag, and also develops lift, and in doing that the air flow over the airplane changes. And again, going back to Bernoulli, you're trading high velocity for pressure, and the only way you can do that at supersonic speed is through a shock wave. So every airplane that flies supersonically, including when the shuttle used to re-enter at Edwards Air Force Base, always gives a double bang. There's a bang when the forward part of the airplane causes the flow to slow down and therefore there's a shock wave generated, and there's another bang at the exit, when the air that's flowing over the airplane goes back to its subsonic characteristics. You always get a double bang from an airplane flying over. So I developed a program to calculate what the sonic boom impact, pressure level, would be on the ground, because we needed to know that for the airplane. So I did that in three months and then came back to Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, I just went there for sort of a three month consulting, almost, situation. After about another few months, again, with the fact that the stuff I was doing at Lockheed was a bit repetitive, I decided to go back to Burbank. They already knew me from just a year previously, so I went back into the propulsion department, where I'd already developed expertise in the late '50s. So that was 1966 and I got into, I was in charge of all the inlet and exhaust nozzle development for all our airplanes, and I did that in advanced design, so I worked on all of our new airplanes as they were coming along.

J.R. Warmkessel: Can you tell us what those airplanes ultimately became?

Alan Brown: When I first went down there we were just finishing off on the F-104, the Lockheed Shooting Star fighter, and so that was on the tail end of that. The Lockheed P-3, which was our four-engine anti-submarine airplane, was ongoing, and I worked on that immediately. Then going into our advanced design, I worked on Lockheed's entry for what became the F-15 program, and we worked on both the F-15 and the F-14. The F-15 was eventually became the one done by McDonnell-Douglas, and the F-14 was done by Grumman. And we did quite well in the preliminary stages on that, but we were also competing for a new naval carrier based anti-submarine airplane and that became eventually the ES-3. The board of directors at Lockheed decided that we really couldn't compete on all these different airplanes at once.

J.R. Warmkessel: It wasn't fair?

Alan Brown: It was too much work. We couldn't do it. It was not a matter of being fair or not. So they said, on the fighter programs there are seven competitors. On the Naval carrier program which is essentially a carrier-based successor to our existing P3, there's only two competitors, Lockheed and Gruman, so we, based on our P3 experience and the fact there's only two versus seven, we'll compete on the S3 and we'll forget the F15. So, we, in fact, backed out of the F15 program in about 1967 or 1968, 1967 probably, and concentrated on the S3 which we won.

So we won the S3 program. Shortly after that, we got onto the, we decided to make our own civil transport and that was the Lockheed L10 11, Tristar.

J.R. Warmkessel: The Tristar. I remember the Tristar.

Alan Brown: Tristar, yeah. And so I worked on that guy for a while and then, Rolls Royce were building the engines for the Tristar and we needed a group over at Rolls Royce to coordinate our inputs with them, you know, so we got a good match between the, you know, proportion installation, how do you best put the engines to work best with the airplane? The layout for instance, of where you put the engines on the airplane is fairly critical for the best optimum lift, drag characteristics, you know, so there's a variety of things that you have to work with the engine company to, you know, figure these things out.

J.R. Warmkessel: So maybe hanging them underneath the wing or putting it in the wing or at the tail.

Alan Brown: Yeah, or how far out on the wing. Even if they're under the wing should there be, you know, how far out do you put them? It was interesting that we competed with Douglas on the DC10 and we had a, for the central, were both three engines, so for the central engine we had a lower drag and better thrust to drag ratio than Douglas had because we mounted the engine, actually, in the rear fuselage with sort of an s-shaped duct, bringing the air from above the fuselage into the engine and then going straight out with the engine, integral with the fuselage.

Douglas decided to mount their engine up on top of the tail so it was straight through, so that turned out to be a higher drag and also a higher weight situation, although it was more straightforward. The Lockheed job we did, we thought we did a pretty good job on it, and unfortunately the thing with the L10 11 was that we designed a very good airplane but we did not understand how to work with the airlines.

J.R. Warmkessel: Yeah, as I recall the airlines just really loved McDonald-Douglas at that time.

Alan Brown: See, Douglas had a tremendous experience with commercial airlines. You know, going back to TWA and United back in the 1930s with the DC3. Lockheed had no experience at all. One of the reasons that Lockheed picked Rolls Royce as an engine whereas Douglas went with General Electric is that General Electric also had no airline experience, whereas Rolls Royce was very strong in that area. So we figured we've got to have one of us be good with the airlines, so that was part of the reason for picking Rolls Royce.

J.R. Warmkessel: Now who were the big engine manufacturers around this time? There would have been Rolls Royce...

Alan Brown: Rolls Royce and General Electric were the two competitors. Rolls Royce was the first company to come up with one of the very big fan engines. You know, six feet, six diameter whereas previously jet engines had all been of the order of about two and a half to three feet diameter.

J.R. Warmkessel: And these are all high-flow bypass engines right?

Alan Brown: Exactly.

J.R. Warmkessel: Tell us about what that engine looks like or how is it different than a jet engine?

Alan Brown: Well, the jet engine, the big thing is it is a jet engine but the very first compressor blade, it both feeds air into the secondary compressor to compress it so the fuel can burn with high pressure air, but it also, the majority of the air goes straight past the engine as if it was just a propeller. So it's the first compressor blade act like a propeller and the bypass air also is the main propulsion unit for the system.

J.R. Warmkessel: And that's just simply actions having equal and opposite reactions. You move the air backwards, the plane goes forward.

Alan Brown: That's exactly right, yeah. That's, and it's basically you're using the jet engine in the center for part of the thrust and also the jet engine turbine is what drives the big compressor which is essentially a shrouded propeller.

J.R. Warmkessel: OK.

Alan Brown: So anyway, so I went across to, I thought it was a good idea when I was asked to go across to England for several reasons. One, of course, is I spoke the language. Another one is that it was an opportunity for, by this time my wife and I had four children. It was an opportunity for the grandparents who all lived in England to see their grand kids close up, you know, for a period of time, and so we went there and we stayed for three years. So I was the manager, not at the beginning, but for the latter part of that time, I was the manager of our little engineering group that interacted with Rolls Royce.

That was pretty exciting time because in the middle of our tenure Rolls Royce went bankrupt.

J.R. Warmkessel: Uh-oh.

Alan Brown: And that was a big surprise to everybody and we, of course, as the resident people from Lockheed were expected to know that these things were happening but it was a very well-kept secret and so I remember that we had a, we used to have a regular quarterly meeting with Rolls Royce in addition to the fact that our team was there full-time, we had a quarterly meeting where our CEO and a lot of senior board members came over and Kelly Johnson was one of them and Dan Horton who was then the CEO of Lockheed came over and we were having just a routine kind of technical meeting. Two of us were sitting at the back of the room. I was sitting representing the engineers and another guy, Matt Earheart was representing the business side of Lockheed who was there also. So Matt and I were the leaders of our two groups there at Lockheed, the two Lockheed groups, and we're sitting in the back of the room listening to a talk on turbine blades and how they're being developed when at precisely 10am a man in a neat, dark blue suit came on the stage, elbowed the turbine blade guy off and said "It is now 10am. I have to announce that at this moment Rolls Royce is calling in the receivers" and the reasoning had to do with precisely at that time is because a simultaneous announcement was made on the London Stock Market and you have to be careful so that you time these things so that news gets out simultaneously. Of course, the people like Horton and Kelly Johnson and Willis Hawkins, all the board of director people all simultaneously turned around and looked at Matt Earhart and I and gave us that "Why the hell didn't you know?" look, and it just came out of the blue. I mean, it was a bolt from the blue for us.

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Show Notes