Kelly: More Than My Share of It All
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Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson led the design of such crucial aircraft as the P-38 and Constellation, but he will be more remembered for the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. His extraordinary leadership of the Lockheed “Skunk Works” cemented his reputation as a legendary figure in American aerospace management.
copilot. It was the first airplane with an all-metal surface to go into production in the United States. And it was fast—190 miles an hour cruising speed. The first derivative was a smaller version, Electra Jr., or the Model 12, for customers who didn’t need or couldn’t afford the Model 10’s capacity and performance. It carried only six passengers, was somewhat faster at 206 miles-an-hour cruising speed, and, at $40,000, cost $10,000 less. Introduced in 1934, it set a number of new world speed
inspector, who decided—quite rightly—that if we were going to fly with that carburetor, we had to prove it with a lot more flying in icing conditions. The problem was compounded when about that time one of Northwest Airlines’s Model 14s, flying between Seattle and Minneapolis-St. Paul in icing conditions, crashed near Bozeman, Mont. The cause of the crash, of course, wasn’t immediately known. I was on the investigating team and joined in inspecting the wreckage. It was apparent immediately that
and he would phone his favorite flight test engineer at Lockheed, Jack Real (now head of Hughes Helicopters), in the early morning hours about once a month, wanting to come over, climb into the cockpit, run up the engines, and just sit there awhile. Real would join him. The personal eccentricities that later were to become obsessions and make a tragedy of Hughes’ life had not yet manifested themselves—at least, not to us. Hughes and Real became good friends. While Hughes and I never again flew
the ulcer formation. Eventually I was able even to persuade the doctor, who also had ulcers, of the validity of this treatment—in moderation. During the war years, I was working on as many as six airplanes at one time and making a trip once or twice a month to Washington. In the pre-war DC-3 transports, that meant stops across country; flying was not as enjoyable as it is today in the big jets. At the plant, I would start about six o’clock in the morning and maybe work on the F-80 for an hour or
surrender. They may be ahead of us in charged particles. I think we may be ahead in lasers. I’m quite sure we are ahead in infrared use. But I do not think we should make it any easier for them by transferring technology in any of these areas. There was interest by the Russians during the early ’70s in buying Lockheed’s L-1011 transport. It was the latest in advanced passenger airliners. The Russians wanted to buy three planes only. This would have provided them with three complete sets of