Monday, October 11, 2010


Webster’s defines collaboration as: “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor”. Think of some great collaborations, Lennon and McCartney in music, Abbott and Costello in comedy. Husbands and Wives collaborate also. Sports teams couldn’t win without teamwork and collaborating with each other. Would Apple Computer be where they without Steve Jobs collaborating with someone? (another Steve, Steve Wozniak for instance). What about Microsoft? Did Bill Gates do it all by himself? Charities and grass-roots movements would not exist without collaboration. Curing diseases and inventing new technologies would not happen without collaboration. But I digress. In the relatively short history of aviation collaboration has played an integral part. Take the Wright Brothers for instance. The collaboration they had was phenomenal and has been written about extensively.

Charles Lindbergh was called the “Lone Eagle” but he did not make his historic flight in a vacuum. The “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane that he made his historic flight in was called the “Spirit of St. Louis” and it was designed by Donald Hall at Ryan Airlines and built by all of the hard work of the engineers and workers there. The engine that powered his airplane was the Wright J-5C “Whirlwind” from the Wright Aeronautical Corporation and the following were some of the people involved in creating it:
Charlie Lawrance – President (and one of the men who developed the Whirlwind engine)
Kenneth M. Lane – Chief Airplane Engineer
Richard “Dick” Blythe
Edward “Ed” Mulligan
Kenneth Boedecker
Thomas Kincaid

Not only that, but Charles Lindbergh had an organization of backers supporting his endeavor and it was called “The Spirit of St. Louis Organization”. Some of it’s members were as follows:
Harold M. Bixby
Harry H. Knight (and his father Harry F. Knight)
Major Albert Bond “Doc” Lambert
J.D. Wooster Lambert (Docs brother)
E. Lansing Ray – He ran/published the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Newspaper
Frank Robinson
William “Bill” Robinson
Earl C. Thompson

Would Neil Armstrong have been able to step off that ladder onto the moon and utter his most famous words without the collaboration of thousands of people? – Scientists, Engineers, and an untold number of workers who are just as much the heroes as Neil was. What about Jack Northrop, Bill Boeing, Chance Vought, Igor Sikorsky, Bill Piper, Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech (and his wife Olive), Clarence “Kelly” Johnson (and his Skunk Works Team at Lockheed), Donald Douglas, Glenn Martin, Leroy Grumman, Larry Bell, Glenn Curtiss, and many, many others. They didn’t all do it alone, they collaborated. With each other, with the military, with the government, with academia. Things get done when people collaborate.

Some collaborations are not always good or legal. When Julius Rosenberg (yes, that Rosenberg) and others in a spy ring gave the technology for an aircraft tracking radar (SCR-584), it’s analog computer gun director (M-9) and proximity fuse to Soviet Spy Alexandr Feklisov it gave the Russians the ability to track and destroy our fighter aircraft. The spy plane that Francis Gary Powers was flying on May 1, 1960 was tracked and shot down that way. William Perl (real name Mutterperl) who worked for the NACA (the predecessor of NASA) also gave advanced aeronautical data to Alexandr Feklisov which allowed the Russians to develop the unique tail-fin design used on the MiG-15 jet fighter. This plane was flown against American pilots during the Korean War. Aviation has had many, many collaborations, mostly for good, some not so good. But collaborations will continue.

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