Sunday, February 10, 2013

SeaMaster to Skylab

I worked diverse programs at Martin and Lockheed
by James L.

I retired from Lockheed at the end of 1989 after 14 years working in the Advanced Systems Division in Sunnyvale as a safety engineer. Before 1976, I worked at Martin Marietta for 19 years, starting in 1956.

I started at Martin on the P6M SeaMaster program as a flight test engineer. This was an awesome airplane. Martin was a well-respected builder of seaplanes (PBM, P5M), both during and after World War II. The P6M was a four-jet engine seaplane that could fly at Mach 0.97 (as I remember) at sea level, dropping three “strings” of mines, on three different courses, all automatically. But as it today, money was a problem, and the major competition for Navy funding was the Lockheed Trident program. The Navy’s decision was to scrap the SeaMaster program and go with the submarine Trident program.

Other programs I worked on at Martin were direct energy conversion of nuclear power to electricity, initial design and feasibility testing of airplane collision avoidance systems for the FAA and Skylab (three men in orbit for 50-plus days, about 1974). At Lockheed, I was involved in the Army Aquila program (early RPV reconnaissance airplane), including Navy programs and HOE.

Diversity of programs was strong in both companies, and these two great companies have merged into one of the major defense contractors in the world.