"Alan Brown Part 2" Avstry #3b

Alan Brown, of the Lockheed Skunk Works continues his discussion with his work on the Have Blue, Horton flying wing, U-2 "Dragon Lady" and F-117 nighthawk and research into stealth technology.

Published Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2012

Direct link to m4a audio file of show. Recommended (right-click to download/save).

Before we get to this episodes we ask that you consider making a small financial donation to the Aviation Story podcast. This donation will help us gather better stories, and share them with the Aviation Story podcast community.

Sincerely, The Avstry Team

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

Show Notes

J.R. Warmkessel: Now, was this the first time you were working with Kelly Johnson, or had you been...?

Alan Brown: No, I'd never worked with Kelly Johnson before that, and, in fact, I wasn't really working with him then. I mean, he was just an interesting high-up as far as I was concerned.

J.R. Warmkessel: You know, this is...

Alan Brown: But it was a very interesting situation. Loughborough University, at that time in England, was one of the major business schools in the country, and they decided, in their masters degree program, that they would have a team effort where they would look at a prominent British company and just see how it operated. You know, just one of the blue-chip country's companies in England.

J.R. Warmkessel: Kind of like a case study.

Alan Brown: Yeah, sort of a case study. Exactly. So they did this study and decided the company they picked was Rolls Royce. Rolls Royce seemed like a pretty good company, makes nice cars, and great aero engines, so they had a good look at this and went through the books and found, to their amazement, that it was a total disaster from a business point of view. And one of the things, for instance, they had put as a major asset was their engineering staff, the actual people that were there. It was pointed out to them that these people, theoretically, can leave at two-weeks notice, so this is not a legitimate asset. You know, you can't count that as a money asset, or anything like that, and there were a whole bunch of things like, and when they went through the whole thing, they decided that the whole financial set up of Rolls Royce was sort of a pack of cards. It was really not very stable at all. So they, as the British government owned 35 percent of Rolls Royce, they decided that they had to notify the British government. So the British government, the prime minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, his brother was the chairman of the board of one of the very big British soap companies, I think Lever Brothers, and was very knowledgable in financial stuff, so he got his brother to set up a committee to investigate Rolls Royce, and they started off. It actually started off in April of the previous year. This was 1970, and the idea was that they would do a complete study and they would report back to the government in April of the following year. I don't think anybody really knew that this was going on. This was all a fairly secret government thing because if it had been revealed that Rolls Royce was insolvent, you know, that would be a bit of a problem, particularly if there was something could be done. Well, anyway, it turned out that Lord Home, Sir Alec's, the prime minister's brother who was head of the committee, decided to not to wait till April because by February he had seen so much that he decided he couldn't wait, so that's why the announcement was made when it was, and it was made at our meeting between Rolls Royce and Lockheed. So that was very interesting that it was a result of a business school doing a case study and determining that things were not really all that they seemed at first site.

J.R. Warmkessel: But they did survive this somehow. They did come out of the bankruptcy.

Alan Brown: Oh, they came out of it because the government put money, you know, the government owns that, one-third of Rolls Royce, so they weren't going to let them die, so they, yes, so they survived, but it was a tenuous situation, and of course, the people at Lockheed were a little upset about this, obviously, because it meant that a lot of money that would've gone into engine development was slowed down and everything got clamped down for awhile. So that was an interesting three years that I spent there, and it was certainly, you know, good for us. Children got the opportunity of living in a foreign country. To them, you know, for three years, going to school in England rather than the USA. Our parents got to see our kids a lot and it was quite a broadening experience in every respect.

J.R. Warmkessel: So then you came back?

Alan Brown: '72. I came back in '72, and went back into what I'd been doing before, which was in propulsion, and my... the person in the 1960s who'd been head of Advanced Design was a man called Leo Selnica, and I used to do all the advanced propulsion work for him when we worked on these different programs I mentioned. And Leo was a very bright guy. He had a masters degree from MIT and graduated Cum Laude, you know, really up at the top of his class, but found it difficult to communicate with the common rabble that he had to work with, and very typically we'd have meetings and Leo would tell us what he wanted doing and I got on pretty well with Leo and could understand what he wanted well, but frequently we'd come out of the meeting and the guys would all say to me, "What does Leo want us to do?" You know, so I've got to repeat it, words with one syllable rather than five syllables.

J.R. Warmkessel: You had to translate.

Alan Brown: Translate what was required, but anyway, Leo and I became very firm friends, and so what I'm getting to in a few minutes is that, in 1975, I got a call from Leo, who by that time had gone across to the Skunk Works to head up a small research program.

J.R. Warmkessel: And what's the Skunk Works?

Alan Brown: The Skunk Works is the Lockheed top secret, advanced development project area, and everybody who goes to Skunk Works will wear a Skunk Works watch and so on.

J.R. Warmkessel: It's a beautiful watch with a picture of a skunk on it.

Alan Brown: It's a watch with a skunk on it. It's a 15 dollar watch, but I've had it over 20 years, and it has a lot of significance to me.

J.R. Warmkessel: How did the Skunk Works get its name?

Alan Brown: Okay. We have to go back now to 1943, and it turns out that one of the lectures that I occasionally give to people like the EAA is one on the history of the Lockheed Skunk Works so I know this story very well, and I've run it past people at the skunk works that were there at the time and so I think its pretty valid. But anyway, 1942 a very bright guy at Lockheed, called Nathan Price, had invented a jet engine. Just like Riddle had done in Britain and like [pause] oh I'm lost for his name now I want to say Olberth, Olberth in German, but anyway of course these were all independent because the war was going on and nobody spoke to each other. So um and this man, Nathan knew nothing about the other two groups that were doing this work in Britain. Anyway, he came up with this thing. Kelly Johnson was a very bright airplane designer who'd worked on the P-38 , the Lockheed Electro,that became the Lockheed Hudson, World War 2 bomber, and he was working in advanced design areas in Lockheed during world war 2 and when Nathan came up with this jet engine, Kelly came up with a design for a twin engined airplane which was actually a Canard style airplane. A Canard is where the tail sits in front of the wing rather than behind it. So he... at the instruction of Paul Hiberd who was Lockheed's chief engineer at the time went to the air force at Wright field... Wright-Paterson Air force base. Where they do the center of the air force R&D. And he said we've just got Nathan Price here, who'd just come up with this jet engine and I've got the design of an airplane which I'd like the air force to consider. So the airforce this was a twin engine airplane, so the air force said with all the sophistication you can imagine at the time, "Gee wiz, we've already tried a twin engined jet airplane... and it wasn't much better than the old propeller driven P38, so we don't want any twin engined airplanes. Of course you know the fact that the reason might have had nothing to do with the number of engines never went into the equation.

J.R. Warmkessel: The P38 one of the most successful fighters of its era?

Alan Brown: Yes, but it's propeller driven..

J.R. Warmkessel: Yes, but it was a very successful fighter

Alan Brown: Oh it was very successful, but the jets were supposed to be that much better. And the airplane they were talking about with the Boeing P59, which really wasn't that much all of an improvement over the P38

J.R. Warmkessel: And you said it was an axial flow engine...

Alan Brown: I'm not sure what... I'm pretty sure it wasn't...

J.R. Warmkessel: Okay

Alan Brown: It was not. For the reasons I'll get to in a moment. SO they said, "We don't want a twin engined thing. Second thing is, we do not approve of airplane manufacturers also being engine manufacturers. We've got engine manufacturers, we've got airplane manufacturers , but we don't want the same guy doing both things. But we've got a deal for you... if you will put your engine up to be bought by one of the major engine companies and let them develop the engine. We'll give you a sole source contract for a single engine fighter using a British engine which is already in production because we've already got these British engines which are already used in the P59.

J.R. Warmkessel: Yeah, they wanted to squirrel that engine out of England in case the war went badly.

Alan Brown: They were bringing these engines from England, yeah. So they were being made in England so Kelly Johnson... they said also, "Can you give it an airplane in 180 days... 6 months?" So Kelly, of course being a young guy said, "Sure! No sweat". You see he was then, let's see he'd be about 30. 29, 30 years old then. Very bright guy and full of confidence, so he said no sweat so immediately Kelly came back to Lockheed. The engine was actually bought by Curtis Wright. Curtis Wright, unfortunately put the engine and Nathan over in a corner. Nathan of course had to move from Los Angeles, which he and his wife liked, to Cleveland which they didn't necessarily like. His wife after some considerable time divorced him because Curtis Wright never did anything with the jet engine. Poor old Nathan got stuck in the corner. One of the big reasons, of course, they were fully occupied making engines for B17s and B29s... the big Curtis Wright propellant radial engine propeller driven things.

J.R. Warmkessel: So then the WASP engine?

Alan Brown: That was Pratt Whitney

J.R. Warmkessel: Oh okay, sorry...

Alan Brown: Pratt Witney made the twin WASP. But Curtis Wright had the big four roll radial engines

J.R. Warmkessel: Right

Alan Brown: The twenty eight cylinder ones

J.R. Warmkessel: Wright cyclones, Are these the Wright cyclones?

Alan Brown: Wright cyclones. Curtis Wright cyclones. And they were fully occupied with that and the jet engine just got pushed to one side. As you know, Curtis Wright later went out of business. Whitney and GE took over the jet business, and Curtis Wright missed the boat entirely. Nathan got so disgusted that A... his wife divorced him and B... he quit engineering and went to Mexico to sell real estate. And that was the last we ever heard of him. But, Kelly Johnson came back to Lockheed, and was asked to set up a special top secret area to develop this single engine fighter. Which of course he had no idea what it was going to look like. Whether he agreed with the air force. But, they designed and built an airplane... and because it was top-secret and they didn't have a special building available, they were set up in a circus tent which was guarded by security across the runway at Burbank from the main plant and next to a very smelly paint and varnish company. And a phone call had came across to them one day when they were working was answered by one of the aerodynamicists there- a guy called Irve Covert- whom I had later met on the supersonic transport. And Irve because of the smell of the next door place said Skunk works because of the cartoon at the time that, you know, pogo was a big cartoon character and the skunk works was part of the cartoon. It turned out later that- well first of all Kenny Johnson fired him for saying that but Kenny Johnson tended to fire people and rehire them the next day. So that was no big deal. So Irve was rehired. The people who wrote the cartoon told Lockheed that they couldn't use the words Skunk works because they had started applying it to their little circus tent, so he changed from skunk works. to Skunk Works. And Lockheed now actually has the proprietary rights on that name and on the appearance of the little Lockheed skunk on my watch.

J.R. Warmkessel: It's a beautiful watch. Tell us about Kelly Johnson.

Alan Brown: Okay, my interaction with Kelly was actually fairly small. I overlapped with him on the supersonic transport to some extent because he came across from working on the SR71 in the top secret Skunk Works to help out with the supersonic transport because that was a new, you know, similar speed airplane to the SR. So we saw him very briefly then. And then when the- to talk about Kelly I've first of all got to tell you why and how I got to the Skunk Works anyway. In about 1971 DARPA which is the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency in Washington who really services all three services in advanced research design came to the conclusion that our conventional bombers- the B52s had no chance of penetrating Soviet defenses. Because the Soviet early warning system combined with surface to air missile systems pretty much would be 100% positive of knocking all our guys out before we got anywhere close to the targets. So we'd have to come up with something different. And at that time there was no real optimism about what could be done. One of the things, clearly, was to look at low radar cross section and make the airplanes stealthy so they couldn't be seen but if you looked at the equations, the cross sections had to be reduced to make the airplanes 100% survivable was so- such a big jump that nobody imagined it was possible, we're talking about numbers like factors of a thousand or ten thousand lower than the existing values.

J.R. Warmkessel: And I actually watched an episode I believe it was on

Alan Brown: Horton

J.R. Warmkessel: The Horton pardon me the Horton flying wing.

Alan Brown: Yeah.

J.R. Warmkessel: So, so could that have ever been successful?

Alan Brown: No, no and that's interesting, it's rather interesting that Northrop recently got a contract to reconstruct the Horton flying wing to determine what it's radar cross section would be.

J.R. Warmkessel: Was it, it wasn't even close.

The difficulty is that the, I'll give you an example. We measure radar across section in square meters. The F-15 which was our conventional fighter of the time, 1970s, had a nose on radar cross section to air to air weapons like another fighter carrying its own radar of about ten square meters. The number you would need to be essentially invisible is one thousandth of a square meter. The ten square meters essentially all came from the two inlets on the F-15. Cause if you shine a radar at an airplane coming towards you it goes in the inlets, rattles around, bounces off the compressor face comes back like a pair of search lights, straight back to the radar. And that's a very, very tough problem. And although the Horton Brother's airplane did use techniques which the German's had developed in materials they for instance put radar absorbing material on the submarine periscopes in 1944 to try to avoid being knocked out by patrol bombers. So they had developed material pretty well. And the materials were used on the wings of the Horton. And the Horton airplane being a very streamlined airplane, it was just a flying wing, it had no protruding surfaces at all, no vertical fins, just a flying wing, was basically very amenable to low radar cross section. But they never could beat the engine propulsion system, the inlets and the exhaust which were going to be dominant coming and going. After the side it might have a really low cross section, but really if you're dealing with a bomber you're concerned with it coming towards you because you have to penetrate enemy lines. So the answer is it did some very interesting things but no it would not have been successful.

J.R. Warmkessel: There was also some story about the U2 that you mentioned about the wires on the wings.

Alan Brown: Oh right okay.

J.R. Warmkessel: Are you familiar with that story too?

Alan Brown: Oh yeah. There was a program; it was recognized very early on in the U2 program. The U2 is essentially a very high efficient sail plane with a jet engine in it. And so it was designed like a sail plane. And it was recognized it was not stealthy. It was not going to have a low radar cross section. And in fact when it was first designed, Kelly Johnson thought its lifetime would be at most two years before it would not be survivable.

J.R. Warmkessel: And the issue was they would get shot down.

Alan Brown: It would be shot down. Yeah. And of course the situation with the airplane was they had decided MIT was brought into the job, Lincoln Labs were essentially created to help solve this problem. This is back in the 50s. But Lincoln Labs was essentially created to help solve the radar, low radar cross section problem and apply it to the U2. And they came up with a variety of techniques, one is a technique where you use capacitive coupling on the sides of the materials on the sides of the airplanes so at specific frequencies it will have a low radar return. And another one is to work against the early warning system where you take advantage of the fact that if you can get two signals coming back from a target which are equal and spaced half a wave length apart then they will be clearly cancel each other out.

J.R. Warmkessel: And that's kind of how noise canceling headphones work.

Alan Brown: Yeah

J.R. Warmkessel: Same general principle.

Alan Brown: Yeah. Okay the idea was to put wires around the perimeter of the airplane at a distance which was a quarter of a wave length away so energy would bounce off the first wire and then travel a quarter of a way in, hit the edge of wing, come another quarter of the way out so it's a half wavelength total and if you did it right the two signals would cancel each other. Unfortunately things like the propulsion system and the pilot's cockpit things like that could not be treated that way and it wasn't very practical. There was another rather amusing thing that came off of that, which was basically the U2 is a very high efficiency airplane. That allowed it to fly to 68,000 feet.

J.R. Warmkessel: You could see the curvature of it

Alan Brown: Oh yes. You could see the curvature of the Earth by the time you're up there. You're essentially in a black sky background. You've got no air left or not much air, so not much to deflect dust particles like blue sky. Anyway, the airplane normally flies at 68,000 feet and the Mig-15's at that time were able to get up to 50,000 feet. And even flying their air to air missiles they couldn't reach the U2s. However every U2 over flight was picked up by the Russians. As was every SR-71 over flight and that was based on later conversations after the Cold War ended which I got involved in to some extent. So it basically their flying at 68,000 feet and the pilots can see the Migs below them circling. You put all these wires on the airplane, the altitude drops about 10,000 feet and suddenly they're in Mig territory. Well the obvious reaction of the pilots was pretty straight forward. Get that god damn stuff off my airplane let me get back up to altitude where I feel safe. Of course eventually Gary Powers got shot down by I think it was a SAM 2 missile and that was the end of the U2 program over Soviet Russia. But the so that was, anyway to back up a little bit, sorry we'll fast forward now to the fact that it was quite clearly realized that despite all of these things that they did to the U2, because all of the problems with propulsion and the fact that the cockpit reflects and a man's head reflects that you cannot practically modify an existing airplane to get the radar cross section down to where it's essentially 100% survivable. So by 1970 when they realized the B52 could not pass the Tall King radars and the Tolkien in turn could pass off their missiles which could shoot you down then that seemed like the end of the conventional bomber against Soviet Russia. So because it was such a long shot, Darpa issued some contracts just at a level of confidential to see if anybody could come up with anything that might improve the situation. The program in the mid, early 70s was called Project Harvey, after the invisible rabbit in Arsenic and Old Lace if you remember. So Leo Selnicker who I mentioned earlier as the head of advance design in the main part of Lockheed and his chief far sighted designer Dick Sherer worked on the project Harvey in the mid and the early 70s. Did not come up with anything. One of the thoughts of course was could you just make airplanes smaller? The thought was in World War II single seat fighters carrying one guy and plenty of armament to shoot down other single seat fighters weighed between 5 and 7 thousand pounds. An F-15 which does the same job weighs 50,000 pounds. You know where have we gone wrong? Can we get back to small airplanes? Well that was one of the attempts but of course when I mentioned the talking light factors of at least 1,000 just making an airplane smaller by even a factor of 10 in weight is not going to hack it. So that approach didn't work, but Leo Selnicker was asked to come over because Darpa then put together a program called XST, experimental stealth technology, and they invited the seven major fighter building companies in the country to compete on this. These seven companies did not include Lockheed because Lockheed hadn't built a fighter since the F since the F-104, which was like 20 years earlier. So, and also the security was such that nobody in DARPA knew that Lockheed was in fact the top company in stealth technology, probably in the world, at that time, but as the program was sort of pie in the sky, it only had a confidential classification and so Lockheed, in the meantime, is doing a stealthy missile program for the US Navy because this is all, again, top secret stuff that DARPA doesn't know anything about. The Lockheed program manager, in spring of '75, is in the Pentagon reviewing the program with his opposite number in the Navy, and the Navy guys says, "Hey, are you guys in the new XST program?" To which of course Warren Gilmore, who was the program manager said, "What the hell is that?" So he said, "You should get in it because you guys know more about that than anybody else does." So Lockheed, totally by accident, found out about this. Ben Rich then tried to get into the program. DARPA said they didn't have any money left, so Ben said, "Can I just pay you a dollar and get in the program just to get in?" So they said, "Sure, if you want to. That's your nickel." By that time, the seven companies had got down to two: Northrop and McDonnell Douglas. And very shortly after Lockheed started, McDonnell Douglas dropped out, so it was just Lockheed and Northrop. We competed against them and Leo Selnicker was brought over from what he'd been doing in the project Harvey to head up our entry in the XST program.

J.R. Warmkessel: What was the name of the entry?

Alan Brown: Well, it wasn't called anything then. It was just XST. It eventually became Have Blue, but that was when we won the contract after we won, but this was just the XST program, Lockheed's version. So interestingly enough, Leo very quickly realized how important the propulsion system was to the overall signature for the reasons I just mentioned about the headlight business. So, and he was not getting very much satisfaction out of the Skunk Works propulsion department who wanted to put on SR71-type inlets, which the computer experts, Dennis Overholser, said just plain wouldn't do the job.

J.R. Warmkessel: The SR71 is the classic cone shape that …

Alan Brown: Yes, it was a circular cone shape inlet on the SR.

J.R. Warmkessel: And that moves to create that shockwave we talked about earlier.

Alan Brown: That's right. Of course, our airplane didn't need to go supersonic so it could be a little different from it, but basically, what the Skunk Works propulsion people were coming up with was not doing the job, so I'd worked with Leo in advanced propulsion back in the '60s, so this is now 1975, so he called me up and said, "Can I come over for about six weeks and see if I can fix this propulsion design business?" because it's a real bear. So I came over for six weeks, which became 10 years, or 15 years actually, and I would say that as far as I was concerned, so that that was my beginning in my Skunk Works experience, so I came over based on something which I've always felt and that is, if you do the right thing for the longterm, with luck you'll be recognized possibly before you die. You know? And, in fact, Leo, because I'd done good things for him in propulsion in the '60s, asked me to come and try and fix this problem for the XST, and it turns out I came up with an inlet design, together with Dennis Overholser, who was the computer expert who developed the mathematics of the radar cross-section calculation. Dennis and I, between us, worked on this and eventually I came up with an inlet design for which I actually hold the patent, or Lockheed holds the patent, but it's got my name on it. And, of course, that's not of any great value because, one, it belongs to Lockheed and, two, nobody else ever used that since then because we got more smarter as we got on, but, anyway, I came over to work on the inlet system and, because that was the hardest part of the development of the airplane, I very quick, and because I'd had, going back to my Palo Alto days, I had some knowledge of electromagnetics from my high-temperature missiles and telemetry and radio blackout and all that stuff, because I sort of combined aerodynamics and electromagnetics in my background knowledge, I became sort of the, sort of more or less the technical engineering expert on the XST program, coordinating between the aerodynamics and structures guys who were designing the basic airplane and radar cross-section development people who were trying to come up with analysis to analyze what the airplane looked like. So very quickly we had a competition with Northrop. We won the competition, and, in fact, it was interesting, to me it was sort of a highlight that we had a complete, with our program called the Echo program, we had a complete calculation procedure to calculate the radar cross-section of the entire airplane, coupled with my knowledge of doing the propulsion system, and between us, we could pretty much compute the entire thing.

J.R. Warmkessel: Yeah, this would've been done on the early computers.

Alan Brown: Oh, yeah. This is-we had CRAY computers at Lockheed then, which we got specifically to do our problems, and Lockheed was a big company. It employed probably 15,000, 13,000 people in Burbank. Our small group on the radar cross-section analysis was using 80 percent of the computer capability at the Lockheed company because it was just heavily computer intensive. So Dennis and I worked on that. As I said, when we showed our predictions to the Air Force, and of course the Air Force reaction was, "Yeah, that's fine, but wait till you'll have to make a full-size model and test it on our range at White Sands missile range and you'll see how different you are, you know, what real life is like." So we tested our model, and, incidentally, in order to test it, we had to redesign the supporting pole that holds the model for a static test.

J.R. Warmkessel: Why is that?

Alan Brown: The model was made full-size, which would make it about 40 feet long, and it's held on a pole which was originally just made of sort of a foam material, but we measured and they use a static radar system. There's a variety of different frequencies to measure what the airplane is doing on the pole. Well we measured the pole and determined that the pole had a bigger radar return than our airplane did. So we said, "We can't use it. We've got to design a pole for you like we designed the airplane." So we designed the pole and used that, and of course we can design a pole because it's at an angle and it's obviously much smaller in cross-section than the airplane, so we could design that to be a little cross-section device. Much later I talked to my opposite number at Northrop, who later did the same job on the B2, said, "When we heard that you guys had designed your own pole, we thought we were really in trouble, and in fact we were." We won that static competition because the Air Force's reaction was, well, "Okay, so your pole results did come out like your calculations, but wait till you fly the real airplane where it's got hot parts and they warp and distort and there's control surfaces moving." So we built the real airplane and that came out the same as the pole model, which came out the same as the calculations, so we were, I've got to say we were lucky because that's-it doesn't often happen that well, you know, we did pretty well with that. So off we go and fly the Have Blue airplane and I'm now sort of the radar guy that is in charge of radar testing, and we fly it at a well-known invisible place called Area 51, and we're up there for quite a long period of time and we fly the airplane for about 18 months and run up against the Air Force's best radar system, because they are also using the Area 51 to check out the most modern radar capabilities, so the best radar system in the country went up against the best airplane, we thought, and the first test was that we said, "We will come over the hill at this bank angle and at this elevation, 500 feet, at precisely 3:00 PM tomorrow afternoon. So you can point in that direction so you know exactly where we're coming." So we did that and then the radar guys said, "Oh, you must have missed the boat. It didn't take off." They got a telescope, a visual telescope, attached to the radar and the guy looking through the telescope says, "I've just picked up their airplane at 17 miles distance," and the radar guy said, "That's impossible because I would've seen them," but, anyway, of course he kicks the radar and that was the beginning of our program because by that time it was pretty obvious that we really had got something that worked. The Air Force then decided that they would-there was a crisis. The crisis was Gaddafi in Libya at that time. So we had to have a military airplane, a military version, of what was essentially a race car, to compete and go bomb Gaddafi, and he wanted to have it in 18 months. And my boss, Ben Rich, and I was in the office with him at the time, said, "Yeah, we can do that in 18 months. No sweat."

J.R. Warmkessel: And what year would this have been? '75 maybe?

Alan Brown: tie me down 197-late '77. December of '77. Yeah, '77, '79. Sorry, maybe it was December of '78. December of '78, it was. Okay, so Ben says, "We can do 18 months." I knew at that time I was going to be the program manager, and this was because the Air Force had told Lockheed, Ben Rich was my boss at that time-I know you asked me much earlier what my impressions of Kelly were and I had a very, very small overlap with him because he retired just about the time I came into Lockheed, into the Skunk Works. However, he did keep an office next to Ben Rich's for quite awhile, which, you know, he couldn't quite let go, but all of my interaction on a technical basis and financial was with Ben, who was running the Skunk Works, and not specifically with Kelly. So, I mean, I did have some interaction but not a lot. He was a very smart guy. A good friend of mine, Willis Hawkins, who later became a president of Lockheed airplane division in about that same period of time, the late '70s, and he came to Lockheed just a year after Kelly at Kelly's recruitment. They both had gone to the University of Michigan and Willis was just a year behind Kelly, and Willis Hawkins comment about Kelly Johnson, with which I really agree very strongly, is, "He shouldn't be thought of as a great designer. He was a good designer, but not necessarily the best in the world. But he was certainly the first of the modern program managers, he was the first person that really knew how to combine engineering design, at a fairly high level, with program management." And in 1953 he came out in the Skunk Works, which was then 10 years old, with his 14 rules for operation of the Skunk Works, and that stayed in place for very many years after that.

Direct link to mp3 audio file of show (right-click to download/save).

Show Notes