Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Atlas, the Aardvark and the Wonderful World of Aerospace

I thoroughly enjoyed my career
by Thomas R.

In February 1956, I submitted an application to Rohr Aircraft and to Convair, both located in San Diego, California. Rohr offered me a job as a spot weld processor at $1.48 an hour. In April of that same year, Convair requested an interview and offered me a position paying $1.52 an hour. I accepted the offer and terminated my employment at Rohr for a wage increase of four cents per hour and the convenience of less travel time to and from my home.

While working the night shift, I came close to losing my hand in an accident. I was taken to the medical station where the doctor applied stitches. Our department was leading in "no loss-time due to injuries." I requested to stay at work, and my department allowed me to stay.

Sometime between 1957 and 1958, Convair was acquired by General Dynamics. The Astronautics Division was established to manufacture the Atlas missile. The factory was located north of San Diego, just off Highway 395. I worked in the manufacturing area, which fabricated the nose section of the Atlas. I wanted to be the best at my job, and I was.

After three years, I felt as if I needed more challenges. I enrolled in school and requested authorization from my supervisor to speak with employment regarding openings in other departments. I always approached my supervisor every two weeks when paychecks were distributed. After all, everyone felt good on payday. Approximately one year later, Mr. Long approved my request for an interview. After several offers, I accepted a position in procurement; working directly with experienced buyers who had college degrees. That experience changed my life, improving my vocabulary, writing and people skills. It was a great new life.

In March 1964, work began to slow, and I was promoted to buyer. The Fort Worth division had recently been awarded a contract developing the F-111, and that work sounded interesting. One day at lunch, I asked my supervisor-about the possibility of a transfer to the F-111 program. He advised that my job was "safe." However, I asked if he would look into the transfer.

In April 1964, my transfer was authorized. Not long after, I was promoted to senior buyer, then to technical buyer and then to purchasing agent. I thought, "What a wonderful world." Years later, I retired in 1987. After retiring a month or so later, I thought, "Is this it?" I didn't know what to do with all the time I had, and things were looking pretty grim. I decided to contact the vice president of material with whom I had developed a good rapport over the years. I asked him if there was anything that I could do for the company. Two months later, I was in Taiwan working with the Chinese on that country’s fighter aircraft. I ended my service in 1989 and felt better about retirement!

Thank you for allowing me to share my story. It was a fun trip down memory lane!

The F-111 Aardvark