Fred White


The Lockheed Aircraft Company recruited me during my last year as a mechanical engineering major at U.C .Berkeley. Upon reporting, my assignment was to the engineering department of Vega Aircraft, their wholly owned subsidiary in Burbank, in April of 1943. Assigned to a training schedule at first, the next move was to their Engineering Flight Test Division where I remained until a two year stint in the Navy.

On return after the war and duty on two aircraft carriers in their combat information centers as a fighter director, I joined Lockheed's Engineering Flight Test Division and remained with their flight performance organizations until retiring in April of 1977. I worked on almost all of the patrol, transport and fighter aircraft models that we produced from 1946 to 1965. Quite a bit of the results of my work went into the performance sections of their flight handbooks and flight manuals.

Chief flight test engineer Ernie Joiner, fresh from Kelly Johnson's U-2 projects, approved my request and transfer to the Advanced Development Project group. That was shortly after the first flight of A-12 blackbird #121.

I became and always remained a member of Bob Klinger's flight analysis division. Bob assigned me the task of directing and producing the flight manuals needed for operation of the A-12, YF-12A, SR-71 and U-2 aircraft. Roger Christensen worked with me during this time, took over as I left when the F-117 came on line.

The hours were long but the work interesting while with ADP. One problem, my family had no idea what I was doing or where I went when out of town for a week or so at a time. I had worked for quite a while on F-104 projects before the transfer and, as far as they were concerned, that was what I was still doing. Once in a while when I had project visitors in from “out of town” I would invite them over for dinner. No problem, even on very short notice. My family made them welcome. They just didn't ask questions, even though these friends of mine sometimes wore rather strange orange coveralls and didn't talk about their work. I don't think our neighbors paid any attention, although they would sometimes comment to us that someone had come around asking questions about our home life. Oh well!

The work of my group became one of producing flight manuals, as mentioned above. Our guidance was specification MIL-M-7700, but it was only guidance, not a requirement. Although the organization of our books could pretty well follow the spec, no one, to my knowledge, had ever produced a manual for operation of aircraft designed for sustained operation at supersonic speeds by a very small and very select group of highly dedicated individuals. We had to find a way to serve the pilots, flight planners and command and operational people in their rather unique situations. The previously published U-2C books served us well. Ernie Joiner's people had done their job of keeping their examples simple but complete. But the supersonic blackbirds were a lot more complex. We needed to “memorize” the aircraft and its systems and write suitably understandable descriptions. To do this my people had to work very closely with the people involved -- pilots, flight planners and command staff at Area 51 in addition to our own project engineers at Burbank and at The Area. Ray Haupt and Harold Burgeson were instrumental as were Bill Corbin and Sam Pizzo from the project side. Klinger and Glenn Fulkerson were among those from ADP who helped us. Henry Oda deployed from my group when the time came to become operational. My Jack Maxwell used to produce check list changes overnight for next day's aircraft delivery to the project pilots. (We lost him one night before his part of the job could be completed.)

The first customer's project was finished when the SR-71 assumed its tasks, but our job continued. Ray Haupt and Pat Halloran served the Air Force well as did Bob Wachter from Dayton. As mentioned, Roger Christensen took over when I retired, as did Carl Nachtrieb. There was no debriefing as such, just an understanding that, as a Roadrunner, my family and I could get together in Las Vegas every two years for a half-hour convention meeting with others from the project and talk about anything but the things we had done together.

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