Excerpt from Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story
In the Beginning,
Were Two Brothers
California has always been the promised land of milk and honey, from the days of the first Spanish explorers to the unforgettable invasion of the gold rush miners to the present day. Its green fields and rebounding economy still beckon--some say too strongly--to people of every nationality.
But, now as then, California can be difficult, the land yielding its bounty only to those who work it hard, with a living wage from crops being as elusive as a living wage from the goldfields. One family that would give three men important to the aviation world would experience that hardness, be tempered by it, and wrest from California fame and a transient wealth that was savored to its fullest--while it lasted.
The three men were all sons of a remarkable woman, Flora Haines Loughead. Born on July 12, 1855, in Wisconsin, at least a century before her time, Flora was the daughter of John Penly and Mary Haines. Her father had a strong futuristic bent--as early as the 1860s, he predicted the future dominance of the automobile--and was probably the source of the mechanical genius later evidenced by the three Loughead boys. A brilliant individualist with an insatiable lust for life, Flora graduated from Lincoln University in Illinois at age seventeen. She was a journalist, married three times, had five children by two husbands, worked her own mining claims, farmed thirty-five acres, wrote many articles and more than a dozen books, taught her children at home, and in general behaved in a manner that would be widely applauded today but was unheard-of at the time.
She moved to Denver around 1875 and met the architect Charles E. Aponnyi. They were married in Sacramento that same year. He was an indifferent husband at best, and she supported herself as a journalist even as she bore Aponnyi a daughter, May Hope, and two sons, Victor Rudolph and John Haines, who died as an infant. The marriage ended acrimoniously in divorce in 1883, for Aponnyi had abused her physically and then deserted her; years later her diaries revealed how much she had come to loathe him. In 1886 she married John Loughead, who apparently adopted the children. Loughead was of Scots-Irish descent, the name indicating that his family lived at the head of a lake. John and Flora had two sons, Malcolm, born on November 15, 1886, and Allan, born on January 20, 1889. These children were born in Niles, California, near the Mission San Jose de Guadalupe, about twenty miles from Oakland. (Inexplicably, Victor chose to spell his name as Lougheed when, later in life, he followed in his mother's footsteps and became a writer. Both spellings were pronounced "Lockheed." To avoid confusion, the more familiar name Lockheed will be used from this point on, even with aircraft or company designations.)
Flora maintained her interest in mining into her eighties, camping out as she prospected for opals in mines near the Nevada-California border as late as the final decade of her long life. Fiercely independent, living alone, she made a living in her final years in part by sealing as many as three dozen opals in small, half-round glass paperweights that sold in department stores for up to five dollars each. Her fascination with prospecting was passed on to her sons and to her grandchildren. In the course of her life, rich in content and achievement if not material possessions, she had continued to prospect for husbands as well; her third was David A. Gutierrez, of whom little is known.
Members of the Lockheed family were and are reticent; while friendly, there is a familial tendency not to talk about themselves. Perhaps for this reason, the story of May Hope's life is obscure, and the details of Flora's marriages are not well known--particularly their dissolutions. The Lockheeds lived in Santa Barbara, the scene of future successes, until about 1898, and then returned to the Oakland area for four years. In 1902, Flora moved the family--sans husband--to a thirty-five-acre ranch near Alma, California, only about ten miles from the Lockheed Martin Corporation's present Sunnyvale properties. There she raised grapes as a principal crop, supplemented by prunes and other fruit typical of the area.
At the turn of the century, making a living on a ranch of this size was difficult, but Flora was able to draw on her own considerable personal resources, writing feature articles for area newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, and for magazines, including Sunset. She also began a successful book-writing career. In her lifetime she wrote both fiction and nonfiction, and among her novels were The Man Who Was Guilty, The Black Curtain, and The Abandoned Claim--the last one a children's book featuring a girl heroine named "Hope" after her daughter. She also wrote two standard library reference works, The Libraries of California and The Dictionary of Given Names; the latter remained in print at least until 1934. She had a scientific as well as a domestic bent, writing The Natural Sciences and Quick Cooking, the latter dedicated to "busy housewives." This indomitable mother of an aviation family died on January 27, 1943, the apparent victim of heart failure.
Malcolm went to San Francisco in 1904 to work for the local White Steamer Car distributor, for speed had a visceral appeal for the Lockheed boys. Malcolm's innate mechanical ability was recognized, and he was soon placed in charge of testing engines after they had been repaired, a weighty responsibility for such a young man. At the age of seventeen, Malcolm conceived of an invention that has affected the future of automobile design, the hydraulic four-wheel brake. It was a remarkable stroke of genius for someone who had never had any formal engineering training. Although it took him several years to perfect the concept, he eventually obtained a patent and created the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Company to manufacture his invention. The first Lockheed four-wheel hydraulic brakes appeared as a seventy-five-dollar optional equipment item on Chalmers cars in the late fall of 1923 and were adopted as standard on the brand-new Chrysler line of cars, introduced in January 1924.
Malcolm, wealthy by the standards of the time, and certainly by the standards of the Lockheed family, sold his company and some fifty-six patents to the Bendix Corporation in 1932 for a "comfortable sum" said to be $1 million. Whatever the amount, it was not sufficient to maintain him in comfort all his life; Bendix extracted much more profit from the invention than he did. He returned to California, and, ever the optimist, began gold mining again at his Ilex mine. He lived the last twenty-nine years of his life at Mokelumne Hill, in Calaveras County, eventually forced to become a welfare recipient until his death on August 13, 1958. It was a sad end for a great--if stubbornly independent--inventor and entrepreneur.
His younger brother Allan was not strong as a boy, and Flora tutored him at home. He never finished grammar school, but received a well-rounded education from his mother and from reading that complemented his natural mechanical and engineering skills. It was an unusual upbringing, but one that stood him well in later life, when he would endure personal shocks as great as the San Francisco earthquake. At age seventeen, he was ready to follow in Malcolm's footsteps to seek his fortune.
When Allan arrived in San Francisco in 1906 he had to be content initially with a job in a hardware store, earning ten dollars a week. In a move that presaged many of his later business deals--in which love of the job outweighed monetary considerations--he took a four-dollar-a-week pay cut to work in an automobile repair shop. The pay cut probably did not bother Allan, whose frugal tastes reflected Scotch ancestry as his red hair did. A daredevil, he was hired by an automobile dealer to hurtle upward over the rough bricks in hill-climbing exhibitions, racing the jaunty "Full Jewel" Corbin automobile.
The three boys--Allan, Malcolm, and Victor--had the natural interest in aviation possessed by many mechanically inclined people during these early years of flight, but Victor was the first to participate. The oldest brother was an intelligent man--a founder member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and author of Some Trends of Modern Automobile Design. He wrote two seminal books on aviation. Vehicles of the Air, which appeared first in 1909, was in print for a number of years, and has been reprinted as recently as 1995. The second book, Aeroplane Designing for Amateurs, gave advice to the many budding aircraft builders around the country and was a harbinger of today's wildly successful Experimental Aircraft Association.
Victor worked for James E. Plew, a wealthy Chicago distributor of White cars and trucks, and was sent by Plew to San Francisco to obtain the rights for a tandem glider design of Professor James F. Montgomery. His idea was to install an engine and create a salable powered aircraft. This proved not to be feasible, but Plew had also tasked him to acquire a Curtiss biplane. This was Curtiss's fourth production aircraft, and was shipped to Plew from the Curtiss factory in Hammondsport, New York, on November 30, 1909, for four thousand dollars.
Victor saw to it that Allan was hired to work on the two-aircraft fleet in Chicago. (Sadly, the previously cozy and supportive relationship of the three brothers came to an abrupt end in a bitter quarrel that pitted Allan and Malcolm against Victor. They never reconciled.)
Learning the Hard Way
It proved impossible even for Allan to put an engine in the Montgomery glider, however, and he instead concentrated on making the Curtiss pusher airworthy. In the process, Allan learned how to fly in the same manner that he later learned to design airplanes: just doing it. He joined a group of fellow enthusiasts who belonged to the Aero Club of Illinois and had a small flying field at the intersection of Fifty-second Avenue and Twenty-second Street, next to a railroad marshaling yard. This was a veritable hotbed of aviation, with several exotic designs along with the latest aircraft from Wright and Curtiss, despite the fact that there were no terminals, runways, radios, or landing lights--the principal piece of equipment was a mower to cut the tall marsh grass. As might be expected, James Plew was club president.
Allan's first opportunity to fly came when he met George Gates, who had cobbled together his own version of a Curtiss pusher, modified with a strange control system in which the midwing ailerons, the rudder, and the elevators involved separate control movements. Gates had been unable to get the aircraft off the ground; each time he tried, a wingtip dug in. He solicited Allan's assistance as copilot to handle the ailerons while he handled the rudder and elevators.
With rags wrapped around his hands so that the aileron control cables would not cut him, Allan sat behind the rudder/elevator man and in front of the pulsating four-cylinder fifty-horsepower engine that Gates had built from automobile engine parts. They made three or four straightaway hops, and both were vastly pleased with themselves. The unique control system was never used again, however.
Allan continued working on Plew's Curtiss biplane, installing a new engine in it. After Plew's regular pilots failed to get the Curtiss in the air, Allan spent two full days adjusting the rigging of the aircraft and preparing the engine to obtain its full thirty-five horsepower.
All the aircraft of this early period were extremely difficult to fly. The margin between top speed and stalling speed was very small--often as little as ten miles an hour--and this margin was reduced by a turn. Controls were relatively insensitive. To change direction or attitude, the pilot had to make large control movements and then be prepared immediately to return the controls to neutral to avoid overcorrecting. The concept of stall recovery was largely unknown even to the most experienced pilots. And, although the aircraft did not go very high or very fast, a crash was often fatal because the pusher engine would rip forward from its strut mounting to crush the pilot.
None of this bothered Allan Lockheed, who was certain that his automobile-racing aptitude would be transferred to flying. On his second attempt he became fully airborne, and found himself circling tightly to stay within the confines of the racetrack from which he'd taken off. He landed successfully in the infield, and later said, "It was partly nerve, partly confidence and partly damn foolishness. I was now an aviator."
His new status, laden with both prestige and danger, inspired him to marry his longtime sweetheart from San Francisco, Dorothy Watts, in June 1911. They had two children, Flora Elizabeth, born in June 1913, and John Allan, born in May 1915. Dorothy passed away in 1922. As persistent in marriage as he would be in manufacturing, Allan married Evelyn Starr Leslie in 1924. This marriage ended in divorce. In 1939 he married Helen Kundert; one son was born to this union, Allan Haines Lockheed Jr. (the family named had been changed legally in 1926). For Allan, marriage and home life had to take a backseat to the battles involved in carving out a career in an entirely new, highly speculative, and terribly risky industry: aviation.
Plew now owned two Curtiss aircraft, and during the early months of 1911, Allan rebuilt them both. Plew hoped to recoup some of his money by a successful exhibition season. Allan successfully test-flew one aircraft, but the second crashed, killing its pilot. It was the last straw for Plew, who sold the surviving Curtiss and withdrew from flying.
With a total flying time of one and one-half hours, Allan was hired by an automobile dealer named Sam Dixon as an instructor pilot for the International Aeroplane Manufacturing Company of Chicago and to fly the "headless pusher Curtiss" (i.e., no forward elevator). There he met a brilliant Czechoslovakian named Anthony Stadlman, who had just wielded a hacksaw to modify a standard pusher into the new configuration. Stadlman would later gain fame pioneering the concept of a "flying wing" aircraft.
Allan's $25-per-week salary was excellent for the time when a secondhand Curtiss could be purchased for $1,500. Allan next became an exhibition pilot at county fairs. This work was so dangerous that pilots received 25 percent of the gross, which was often guaranteed at $500 per day. To collect, pilots had to fly for at least five minutes, not an easy task if there was much wind or rain.
Young Lockheed proved to be a natural flier. On one occasion, he took a brand-new Curtiss up for its first flight. At its conclusion, the managers at the airfield suspended his flying rights for five days--not because he was careless, but because he flew too well, and they were afraid that less qualified people might try to imitate him.
Yet his wife was concerned about the danger, and her arguments prevailed: Allan quit exhibition flying, and decided to build his own aircraft. The couple returned to San Francisco, where they were joined by Malcolm.
A Significant Star
The Lockheeds had a no-nonsense approach to life and to engineering. They had to make a living while building their aircraft, and set to work in their old professions, Allan feeling no loss of status in changing from intrepid aviator to auto mechanic. Their concept of a new aircraft was equally pragmatic. Allan had already had close encounters of a near-fatal kind in pusher aircraft; he decided immediately that his aircraft would be of the more modern tractor type, with the engine up front. Both men knew that to make any money from the aircraft carrying passengers, it would have to carry two passengers plus the pilot.
In a manner that would be followed often in the later Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, the two brothers made sketches of several designs, labeling them from A to G. They selected the last design, and the Lockheed G was conceived as a very large three-place wood-and-fabric seaplane. Looking not unlike the later Curtiss JN-4 training planes, it was distinguished by midwing ailerons and the Breguet control system. The brothers purchased a seventy-horsepower Kirkham six-cylinder engine equipped with a handsome horseshoe-shaped radiator. Charles Kirkham would go on to design many excellent engines and a few delightful airplanes, but this engine was a lemon, splitting its crankcase after a fifteen-minute run. It was replaced by an eighty-horsepower Curtiss V-8.
The Lockheed G was the essence of simplicity, with wings of a type that could be "built by the mile and cut off by the foot," simple rectangular structures with no taper or dihedral. The fuselage used an economical triangular section (i.e., one longeron and attendant bracing eliminated) not unlike later Aeronca lightplanes. The single sled-type pontoon was augmented by stabilizing floats under each wing.
It was the largest seaplane yet built in America, and marginally larger than the two-place Curtiss Model F pusher flying boats being manufactured in New York. In Europe, the Sopwith, Short, and A. V. Roe Companies each constructed biplane seaplanes of similar size to the Model G, but all were two-seaters designed for the military by far larger, better-financed firms.
Finance loomed large with the Lockheeds, too--it always would. Allan was the more outgoing of the two brothers, and he was largely responsible for obtaining backing from the proprietor of the Alco Cab Company, Max Mamlock, who helped them form the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company with a $1,200 investment to supplement their own $1,800--and their sweat-equity. Other investors contributed an additional $1,000. Malcolm, more retiring than Allan, took the lead in the design effort. Neither brother had training as a designer or as a draftsman. The aircraft was built in a small wooden garage at the corner of Pacific and Polk Streets near the San Francisco waterfront. They had selected a seaplane for a number of reasons--a wider choice of landing fields, and, in San Francisco, proximity to a large, adventuresome boating community that would be tempted by a chance to fly. There were some disadvantages. A seaplane had to be strongly built to withstand the often choppy waters of San Francisco Bay, and this meant a heavier structure. A land plane could suffer a minor accident and be quietly gathered up for repairs, while a seaplane could have the same accident and sink beneath the waves.
Much was riding on the venture, for on June 1, 1913, Dorothy gave birth to Flora. Exactly two weeks later, on June I 5, the Lockheeds trundled the Model G onto a ramp at the foot of Laguna Street, near Fort Mason. Allan ran the engine up, bounced down the ramp, taxied out into the bay, and took off--the first flight of a Lockheed aircraft. Three flights were made, the second carrying Malcolm and the third with R. L. Coleman of the Alco Cab Company. The last two flights were twenty-minute tours of the bay, taking in Alcatraz and Sausalito and delighting the onlookers below in San Francisco. The Model G was not fast, with a top speed of 63 mph, but it cruised the bay at 51 mph and it was the only aircraft there to do it.
Later in the year, the Model G was damaged in a landing at a society gala in San Mateo. It was the last straw for Max Mamlock, who seized the aircraft and put it in storage. Allan resumed work as an auto mechanic, trying to drum up the $500 needed for repairs, until Malcolm dragged him off to the Yuba County goldfields for some more prospecting. With their quickly mined gold, they planned to redeem the Model G from Mamlock. Like most miners of the time, however, they made barely enough to live on, and Allan returned to turning wrenches for a living while Malcolm embarked on a series of adventures. In the last of these, he went to Mexico, where he served as an adviser to a one-plane air force. It belonged to General Venustiano Carranza, whose revolutionaries were fighting the federales of President Victoriano Huerta. Malcolm came back from Mexico with nothing to show for his efforts but a bullet-ridden Paige roadster that had served Carranza as a field car. The Paige would be literally the vehicle for Malcolm's greatest triumph--hydraulic brakes.
The Lockheed luck took a sharp turn for the better in 1915 at the Panama-Pacific Exposition. With help from Paul Meyer, an Alaskan pioneer who had made money out of the gold rush, not by mining, but by running a restaurant and bakery, the two brothers bought the Model G from the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company and refurbished it. Allan put his easygoing personality to work, talking up the joy of flying on the ramp and inducing people to fly. He was good. In just fifty days of flying passengers from the Yacht Harbor, they carried six hundred people at $10 a ride (and as Allan later expressed it "about an equal number of freeloaders"), grossing $6,000. They bought out their partner, Meyer, who had done well on his investment, and were able to place $4,000 in their account. The Model G had set a precedent for future Lockheed aircraft by earning money.
Back to Mom and Santa Barbara
Their mother now lived in Santa Barbara, where she worked for the Santa Barbara Independent, and her boys preoccupation with aviation suited her own adventuresome soul to a T, as did her two grandchildren.
It was a splendid time. Santa Barbara in 1916 was an idyllic California town of about sixteen thousand, complete with luxurious tourist magnets like the famous Hotel Potter, where room rates reached an astronomical $4 a day. The population was growing rapidly and there were many desirable neighborhoods where residential building lots could be purchased at prices ranging from $500 to $2,500. Making motion pictures was one of the primary industries, with two operating studios. Silent-film star Mary Miles Minter, of the Flying A Studio, was always available for publicity shots of activities at the factory. (Film fans will remember her performances in Dimples and Anne of Green Gables--or possibly her involvement in the still-unsolved murder of her lover, film director William Desmond Taylor.)
The one area of the city with which the Santa Barbara city fathers were not too pleased was State Street, which had become an ugly mishmash of small town architecture, much of it unsightly and dilapidated. Nonetheless, the Lockheed brothers found the neighborhood prices just right, and established the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company in the rear of William L. Rust's garage at 101 State Street, only three blocks from the waterfront.
This time, their plans were a little more ambitious, and they sought both financial and engineering help. In both instances they found remarkable success. Alvin Oviatt, an "Akron oilcloth king" who lived in an estate in Montecito, one of the posher neighborhoods, provided most of the financing, along with a local physician, Dr. W. P. Lindley, and sales manager James A. Farra. Burton Robert Rodman, a successful machine-shop and auto-rental-service owner, also backed the brothers and became the president of the firm. Allan was vice president, while Malcolm was secretary-treasurer.
By now a faithful old soldier, the Model G set some records, including the first flight to Pelican Bay in the islands across the Santa Barbara Channel. More important, it continued to generate income, carrying passengers at five dollars each for a ride over the Channel Islands, and doing film work for the local motion picture studios. The Model G would continue to earn its keep through 1918, when it would be broken up and its engine sold. It was almost certainly the most profitable flying boat of the era, establishing a rate of return on investment that would be difficult to duplicate in the future.
Yet the Lockheed brothers had an even more ambitious aircraft in mind, a twin-engine flying boat capable of carrying ten people, including the pilot. Their reasoning was simple: if the three-seat Model G could make money, a ten-seat aircraft would be even more profitable.
One day, as the small group labored on their new project, they noticed a young man walking back and forth, hesitating as if summoning enough nerve to enter. He finally came in and was greeted warmly by the Lockheeds, whom he later recalled as "pleasant people, easy to contact and become acquainted with." Hired on the spot to begin one of the most fruitful aviation careers in history, he was John Knudsen Northrop, a fair-haired, reticent young man who, with excellent high school training, proved to be a superb engineer. In a 1974 interview with historian Gerald Balzer, Northrop said that he "drew up the wing truss structure, designed and stress analyzed it and did every bit of the drawing including three-view drawings and all the detail fitting drawings and parts that were necessary for the airplane." His stated ability to do one of the rarest, most difficult, and most necessary of aviation tasks at the time, stress analysis, is most unusual. Stress analysis was not then (and of course is not now) taught in high schools, and requires a knowledge of calculus, also not a high school subject.
Northrop would go on to a brilliant career with Douglas Aircraft and the later Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, and often did freelance work for other companies. He eventually headed his own company, and would become forever identified with the flying wing. In later years, Northrop's fame for what he accomplished with the flying wing would be of grievous concern to his colleague Stadlman, who had conceived of the flying-wing concept himself, and went to his grave believing that Northrop had gained the fame that was due him.
Northrop designed and helped build the hull and wings of the new aircraft, which was designated the F-1. With a seventy-four-foot-span upper and forty-seven-foot-span lower wing, the F-1 was equipped with two 150-horsepower Hall Scott A-5a engines, another California product. The F-1's design was distinctive, having twin booms and a triple tail.
Norman S. Hall, advertising and sales promotion manager for the firm, had a keen sense of the value of publicity. A news release was issued when the keel of the F-1 was laid in 1916. Before the United States entered the war, both Malcolm and Allan publicly volunteered their aircraft plant and personal services to the government "in event of trouble with any foreign power." They even threw in their secret new method of rustproofing the metal parts of seaplanes, probably the most valuable offer they could make. Hall saw that their offer got wide coverage. The war reached out to touch them in other ways--John Northrop became a private in the Signal Corps.
After the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, Allan went to Washington to get a contract for the mass production of the F-1. He was able to impress the legendary Jerome Hunsaker, then a lieutenant commander running the Aircraft Engineering section, and managed to come home with a promise of a contract to build two single-engine Curtiss HS-2L flying boats and the agreement of the navy to test the F-1. It was the start of the always bittersweet relationship between industry and government. On the strength of the contract, Allan took two crucial personnel actions. He hired Tony Stadlman as factory superintendent and was able to secure Northrop's release from his $21-per-month job in the Signal Corps to return to Santa Barbara and a $1,800 annual salary.
The Lockheeds hoped to get big navy production contracts for their own aircraft, but work was slow, and the F-1 did not make its first flight until January 1918. Its performance was remarkable, being able to carry a useful load of 3,100 pounds. It seemed obvious to Allan and Malcolm that, once the F-1 was tested, the navy would buy it in quantity.
Norman Hall brought off a most sensational Lockheed public affairs triumph in the formal public "rollout" ceremony of the new aircraft. On March 28, 1918, a massive celebration was held at the launching ramp on West Beach between Bath and Castillo Streets as the F-1 was placed on view before a crowd of thousands lining the beach and boulevard, with speeches by Santa Barbara's mayor, H. T. Nielson, prayers by a minister, and a christening by the ubiquitous Mary Miles Minter (with a wine bottle filled with water in deference to the no-alcohol ruling of Josephus Daniels, the secretary of the navy). As a coup de theatre, nine white pigeons were released; they circled the aircraft quickly and then landed on its nearly nine-foot-long propellers.
Despite the hoopla--perhaps campy now, but then touching in its patriotic sincerity--the F-1 was ready for action, proving it in a record-setting delivery flight to the navy in San Diego on April 12, 1918, flying the 211-mile distance nonstop in 181 minutes. Allan, Malcolm, and Carl E. Christoffersen were on board; the last named made sandwiches for the group on the flight down, and so rates a mention as perhaps the first flight attendant in history.
The Lockheeds demonstrated another probable industry first, and an exceedingly advanced technique for the time: an aerial test bed for flight controls. The F-1 was fitted with the Deperdussin control system, which the armed services had standardized in August 1916. (It is the type still used today, with pedals to operate the rudders and a central stick or wheel to control the ailerons and elevators.) Allan was by now most familiar with the Breguet system used on the Model G. To prepare himself for the F- 1, he modified the controls on the Model G to conform to the Deperdussin system, and then practiced flying it.
While the navy tested the F-1, the company was humming, employing eighty-five men on a seven-day workweek. It did an excellent job turning out the two Curtiss flying boats, which were later praised by the navy for the quality of their fit and finish.
The average price for all 1,117 HS-2Ls delivered to the government was about $30,000; the larger firms like Curtiss, which produced 675 of the airplanes, naturally had a learning curve that permitted production economies. The Lockheed contract for 2 aircraft was for $90,000, and they still lost about $5,000 on the cost-plus-12.5 percent contract, for they expended funds experimenting with ways to improve the aircraft, for which the government felt no need for reimbursement.
When they realized that no production contract for the F-1 would be forthcoming, the Lockheed brothers determined to convert the flying boat to a land plane and make a sensational transcontinental flight to Washington, D.C. Jack Northrop supervised the conversion, which cost almost $10,000. One of his engineering techniques was to place redesigned parts in a large glass tube, then have cigar smoke blown in at one end, so that he could determine the airflow patterns.
His results were good; the top speed of the modified aircraft, now called the F-1A, was increased by 10 mph. Two pilots, Aaron R. "Bob" Ferneau and Orvar S. T. "Swede" Meyerhoffer, were tasked for the trip, along with a mechanic, Leo G. Flint. Meyerhoffer was reputed to be able to swear in seven languages, and he had the opportunity to use them all. With flashguns popping, they took off from what is now a factory site in Goleta, California, on the morning of November 23, 1918, but were forced to land six hours and ten minutes later at Tacna, Arizona, when an engine rocker arm gave way. The part was replaced, but a precautionary landing was made at Gila Bend to refuel. On takeoff, the F-1A again lost an engine and crashed into a riverbed, severely injuring Meyerhoffer and Flint. Luckily the aircraft did not burn, but Flint's life hung in the balance for three days. The letter they had been carrying from Miss Minter to President Woodrow Wilson was never delivered.
The plane was brought back to California and rebuilt to its original flying-boat configuration, and was used for carrying passengers and film work again. The latter was especially profitable, as the Lockheeds charged $150 an hour for flight time and $50 an hour for standby time. The F-1 had a brief moment of fame in October, when the State Department chartered the aircraft to give King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium a flight to the Channel Islands. The flight was successful, and Allan and Malcolm were awarded the Belgian Order of the Golden Crown.
This was almost the end of the flight path for the F-1, which was sold to another group to start a charter service to Catalina Island. The venture never materialized, and the F-1, a remarkable aircraft, was left to rot on the beach at Santa Barbara.
Malcolm was beginning to tire of aviation, for he had perfected his four-wheel hydraulic brakes on the Paige car he'd brought back from Mexico and extensively rebuilt. He tested the Paige on Santa Barbara's streets, boasting that he could "stop the car on a dime and have a nickel change left over." He proved it by roaring into a storage garage at 35 mph and screeching to a halt just before he crashed into the wall. His old fascination with automobiles had returned, but there would be one more venture with aircraft at Santa Barbara before he took his invention east.
The Lockheed S-1: A Look into the Future
Timing is everything. The F-1 came a little too late to find its way into the navy production scheme. The Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company's next--and last--airplane, the S-1, would come too soon after the war ended, with its merits submerged in the flood of war surplus aircraft that deluged the marketplace. Yet the S-1 was revolutionary in many ways, not least of which was the spirit in which its principals approached their task.
On July 28, 1919, Allan and Malcolm Lockheed, John Northrop, and Anthony Stadlman signed a lengthy formal agreement. They promised to share in all patents and inventions connected with aviation developed by any of them, and by majority vote, determine which patents and inventions would be developed. As the men involved had produced only four airplanes over a six-year period, the paper spoke volumes for their appreciation of one another and for their expectations of the future.
And for them, the future was the still undiscovered holy grail of aviation--"everyman's airplane." They wanted to create a safe, simple, inexpensive aircraft that would be the aeronautical equivalent of the Ford Model T. They arrived at a new method of construction that would produce a streamlined aircraft of great strength at low cost, when manufactured in quantity.
The Lockheeds developed a fuselage with monocoque (single-shell) construction, in which the structural strength stemmed from the outside skin rather than internal bracing. They used a concrete mold of the S-1 fuselage's desired size and shape, and laid up a shell using three layers of spruce plywood strips, all well laced with casein glue. Long discussions were held on the best way to apply a uniform pressure to the plywood so that it would cure properly, and without any weak spots caused by entrapped air. Stadlman was a proponent of applying pressure by means of an air bag, and his argument carried the day. The wood was pressed against the form by an air bag, which was held, in turn, by a cover bolted to the mold's framework. The rubber bag was inflated, placing a uniform pressure of fifteen to twenty pounds per square inch on the plywood strips for twenty-four hours, until the plywood shell had cured. Two such shells could then be assembled around a lightweight frame structure of formers and stringers to form a strong, lightweight, highly streamlined fuselage. The other three partners assisted in the development of Allan's idea, which would prove to be valuable only seven years later. Allan had preferred a circular fuselage, but Northrop held out for an elliptical shape as more efficient.
Northrop had turned to nature in the design of the wings, dumping bread near the waterfront, and studying the way gulls managed low-speed flight. The result was a lower wing designed so that it could be turned to a vertical position to act as an air brake. The lower wings were also differentially operated so that they eliminated the need for conventional ailerons. The rest of the S-1 was fairly conventional, with strut-braced biplane wings that could be folded parallel to the fuselage side, so that it could be easily towed or stored. The shape of the rudder and vertical surface would reappear, with the method of building the fuselage, on the later Lockheed Vega.
The depth of the group's talent was displayed in its reaction to the news that the S-1's planned Green engine from England was not going to be available. They simply designed and built a water-cooled, two-cylinder, horizontally opposed four-cycle, valve-in-head power plant of twenty-five horsepower. Called the XL-1 Aircraft Motor, it featured twin magnetos (unusual for the time) and two high-pressure oil pumps, yet weighed only 90 pounds. The compact engine fit within the S-1 s streamlined fuselage, with only the cylinder heads protruding. The radiator was neatly faired into the bottom of the fuselage.
The aircraft's performance was exactly on the mark. With an upper wingspan of 28 feet and a lower wingspan of 24 feet, it weighed only 375 pounds empty, and 600 pounds fully loaded. Although the top speed was only 70 mph, it could cruise at 52 mph, and had a stall speed of 25 mph. Strongly built, it was stressed for 6 gs. Fuel consumption was only one gallon per hour, remarkable for the time.
Allan had grown wary of test-flying his own products, and hired a veteran airmail and test pilot, Gilbert George Budwig, to test the S-1. Budwig reported that the S-1 was exceptionally pleasant to fly. The tiny little aircraft landed so slowly that rotating the lower wing to be an air brake would rarely be required.
Yet it transpired that not only did "everyman" not want an airplane, but those who did could find plenty of war surplus JN-4s for $350 or less. The S-1 was far more economical to operate but its initial price of $2,500 made it impossible to sell.
The firm had spent almost $30,000 in creating the S-1, and found absolutely no buyers. The lure of the four-wheel brake was too much for Malcolm, who took his invention east to Detroit, where he founded the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Company. Allan worked as the California distributor for the brakes, and also sold real estate. Jack Northrop moved to Santa Monica, where he worked for Donald Douglas, and, among other things, designed the fuel system for the Douglas World Cruisers of 1924, the first airplanes to fly around the world. Stadlman found other work, biding his time for Allan to come up with a new venture.
The only tangible part of the S-1 that remains today is its engine, owned by Monte and Patricia Groves of Sunnyvale, California. The intangible remains of the S-1 are enormous. It led in just seven years to the formation of the Lockheed Aircraft Company. Its most important feature, the molded plywood fuselage, would be found on the record-breaking aircraft in one of the most exciting periods of aviation.
--From Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story, by Walter J. Boyne. © December 1, 1998 , St Martins Pr used by permission.