Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Lifetime in Aviation: 1940 to 1981

I enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940
by Walter S.

I've been involved with aircraft since I graduated from high school. I enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on October 2, 1940. I went to school for 22 weeks to become an aircraft and engine mechanic at Keesler Field, Mississippi. I was transferred to Cannon Air Force Base as a mechanic on B-17s, then B-29s. I was upgraded to Staff Sergeant and Crew Chief and upgraded to Flight Engineer. I was set to go overseas, when the war ended. I was discharged on October 6, 1945.

After the service, I went back to school to get my aircraft and engine mechanics license. I wanted to get a job with the airlines. During the last week of class, three aerospace companies visited our school. General Dynamics, a Lockheed Martin heritage company, hired me in July 1948. I was assigned to work on the final assembly of the B-36, and I believe my starting salary was $1.25 per hour!

During my long career, I was laid off just one time when the company was tooling up for the B-58. During the layoff, I went to work at American Airlines. When I was rehired at General Dynamics, my position was upgraded to supervisor once we started the B-58 assembly.

I did a lot of travelling. I went to Edwards Air Force Base to work on the YF-16 and YF-17. I went to Eglin Air Force Base to work on F-111s and F-16s. I was a supervisor at this time. I was sent to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Nellis Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base to upgrade F-111s.

I want to Eglin to test B-36, Number 170, in the cold chamber. I went to Edwards Air Force Base to work on Project Pee Wee for a B-57 twin engine, modified with long wings to fly high altitude like the U-2. I was sent to Waco, Texas, to remove the instrumentation from a B-58 so that the airplane could be returned to the Air Force.

Back to the company, I worked down at the test stand. We were testing jet engines for the B 58. I worked on the nuclear reactor, and we flew a B-36 with the reactor installed. I also worked in the test lab and cold chamber testing the F-111. My last assignment was as supervisor of F-16 final assembly for electrical systems. I retired January 23, 1981. I enjoyed my work and never had problems with anyone in the company. Congratulations, Lockheed Martin!

The B-28 played a big part in my life!