Saturday, April 27, 2013

It Was in the “Stars”

Working with Lockheed aircraft took me to new heights
by Vero A.

From October 1964 to September 1983, I was a Lockheed employee at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. We had sixty F-104G Starfighter jets that trained German student pilots. I worked in the supply section, and my job was to order the replacement aircraft and engine parts needed to keep the aircraft flying. It is hard to believe, but I ordered, on average, $2,500 in parts each working day. The difficult part of my job was getting the right part for the F-104G, our model, when we shipped the aircraft at the end of contract to Taiwan, Republic of China. We had parts without paperwork and paperwork without parts. My job was to combine the two!

However, my Lockheed Martin story began decades before. Serving in the military, I worked on Lockheed’s first jet plane, the P/F-80 Shooting Star, in 1948 at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. I was stationed there as a mechanic. I was chief on Aircraft #280 of the highest “in the air” record (950 hours) for jets. I was moved to Aircraft #279 to fly in the “acrobatic jet” demonstration (air show) team. We went to Miami, Florida, for an air show in November 1949, where my pilot flew in the fourth rear position. I had to increase the engine speed from 100 percent to 105 percent, and it was approved by our Lockheed representative. I took the jet out and adjusted it. The pilot was happy!

My other association with Lockheed while in the Air Force was with the Lockheed T-33 aircraft. At Williams Air Force Base, I rode with the test pilot in front seat. I also road in rear seat at Luke Air Force Base, with the pilot in front, pulling a target behind with a cable in the Barry M. Goldwater Gunnery Range. The F-82 pilot didn’t show up, and to burn fuel for landing, we did lazy eights over Sun City, Arizona, for a half-hour. Wow! The experience of this test hop pilot diving down to a mountain top, and then going toward the sun, with your head getting darker (three times the head weight) was unforgettable. Our commander also had a test plane and joined us. Both planes checked, and then came the "horse play," creating the jet stream the other had to fly through. It felt as if we were in a car and hit a ditch, and then we were in the air!