The Orphan’s search for a new adventure led him to try the world of being a research engineer for a time, starting in 1963.
Into Boeing at this time -- from a small East Coast airplane company named Fairchild that went out of business – came an infamous leader named Sloppy Swan (so named because when he ate, crumbs of his food and dollops of his soup would soon cover his entire eating area).
Sloppy Swan was chartered to start a Power Plant Research Staff in The Mighty Boeing’s Transport Division so that The Mighty Boeing would be capable and poised to do all new airplane things.
Sloppy fit in well at The Mighty Boeing and was immediately initiated into that part of Boeing named The Land of Assassins. Sloppy Swan assassinated Rocky Rock and Tight-fisted Fred Brunton and elected himself Chief of the “Power Plant Research Staff” -- and gave it a much more dignified name: “Propulsion Research Staff.”
A part of Sloppy Swan was ready-made to be a Mighty Boeing Seer – but another part of Sloppy was being a visionary that knew The Mighty Boeing Transport Division was growing and would need a more sophisticated approach to ‘…looking ahead…”.
Sloppy Swan hired into The Mighty Boeing a lot of hot-shots with fancy credentials and collected a group of engineers from The Mighty Boeing in Wichita, Kansas. These hot-shots had repeatedly failed to win government fighter and bomber contracts, so they were to be re-indoctrinated in Washington State into something
Veterans of the already successful Mighty Boeing 707 and 727 Propulsion Staffs were concerned that the addition of these Windbags from Wichita to their team be gradual, so the windbags arrived in Washington State (not yet re-named The State of Taxes) in increments over several years.
Although the Propulsion Research Staff already included potential Mighty Boeing Seers galore, it also included a cadre of experienced real propulsion engineers who had actually accomplished things. The Wannabe Windbags from Wichita and other places were too ineffective and inexperienced to actually dilute the real talent – but
it was obvious that Windbags should be doing only research!
The Wichita Windbags were an arrogant lot and thought of themselves as the elite while acting as if The Mighty Boeing 707 and 727 Propulsion Staff veterans were a low class of misfits. The Orphan remembered this same attitude from the B-52 group during his orientation in
Chapter Two, when
“There was even an attempt by people from ‘…The B-52 Group…’ to entice ‘…new hires…’ to defect from the fledging Transport Division and join the only ‘…real…’ airplane program.”
The funny (funny “…weird…” not funny “…ha ha…”) thing about the Wichita Windbags was that they thought that their arrival raised the IQ of Washington State when the real truth was that their departure raised the IQ of Kansas.
When Sloppy Swan was recruiting for his new Propulsion Research Staff, Sloppy had disdained The Orphan for two reasons:
1) Swedish Jensen, Stolid Syltebo and Delightful Drew were not about to relinquish their champion of the 707B and
Delightful Drew advised The Orphan to continue to do useful things, and
2) Sloppy found he could not steal or entice The Orphan, so he proclaimed The Orphan to be a “…lowly Production
Program Type …” who would never be a “…Research Type…”
So The Orphan remained with the 707B program in a “sustaining” job. “Sustaining” was a job of maintaining a program and did not involve developing new processes or thinking new things. A “sustaining” job was a dirty word to the real doers.
Brilliant Bill was still lost in the Supersonic Transport program – somewhere in The Mighty Boeing Developmental Center – where the huge full-scale mural of The Boeing 2707 Supersonic Transport was displayed looking north up US Highway 99.
Since 1952, The Mighty Boeing had wanted to make a Supersonic Transport to compete with The British/French Concorde, and set up a permanent research committee in 1958. Brilliant Bill had gone to this program working on a prototype called the Boeing 2707 and later Model 733, designing delta
wings and later swing-wings in 1959.
The United States of America also wanted to make a Supersonic Transport to compete with the British/French Concorde, a project which had just been funded under President Kennedy in June 1963. Later, in 1966, The United States of America would choose The Mighty Boeing’s design and they would join forces on the prototype
Supersonic Transports (SSTs).
But Senator Proxmire from Wisconsin did not want the United States Government to be a part of a Supersonic Transport program and immediately declared war on the program. (America is a democracy, you see – so a Senator can tell The United States Government to screw off.)
(Proxmire was later famous for issuing his Golden Fleece Awards between 1975 and 1988, identifying wasteful government spending. But Proxmire also had an unfortunate tendency to issue his awards to basic science projects that led to important breakthroughs, and was heavily criticized for his overzealous
attacks on many worthwhile projects.)
Before the two prototypes were completed, The Mighty Boeing and The United States Government abandoned the project and the Senate cut off its funding in 1971. The war with Senator Proxmire had been compounded by an increasing outcry over the environmental effects of the
aircraft, notably sonic boom.
Its Seattle legacy is the name of the Seattle Supersonics basketball team, a name which remains to this day.
So the Concorde went unchallenged, made its first flight in 1969, and flew commercial flights from 1976 – production ceased in 1979 -- to its retirement in 2003. It was only allowed in a few airports because it was so large and very noisy. (The Orphan would later ride in one in 1994 as a 60th birthday present from
Alistair Cumming of British Airways.)
But back to Brilliant Bill.
Sloppy, meanwhile, took his hotshots and misfits and windbags and went on his way to become an even mightier Boeing Seer. But Sloppy was smart enough to know he needed real and competent help – so Brilliant Bill was returned from his adventure on the SST and Sloppy enticed him to join the Propulsion Research Staff.
Brilliant Bill settled in rapidly to his new Propulsion Research Staff tasks.
Brilliant Bill – who knew The Orphan as well as anyone could – noted that the 707B had been certified and delivered and saw The Orphan now in a “sustaining” job. Brilliant Bill sensed The Orphan needed ever new challenges to overcome so The Orphan could manage his inferiority complexes.
So Brilliant Bill captured the originally disdained Orphan to serve in the Propulsion Research Staff.
The Orphan was assigned a quiet stretch of Library Research on esoteric things like Vertical and Short-field Takeoff or Landing (V/STOL) Airplanes (but Brilliant Bill had told The Orphan that real things were coming that could best be accomplished with The Orphan’s talents).
The Orphan also posed for Mighty Boeing engineer recruitment brochures (with Germanic Gerend, who would become a lifelong friend).
And The Orphan did design and make clay models of ideas and things like a “dual-exit-rotating thrust vectoring nozzle” (this nozzle design eventually ended up in the V/STOL Harrier Marine Fighter Plane).
The Orphan with his clay model of the thrust vectoring nozzle
But The Orphan was bored!
Finally Brilliant Bill came through on his enticement to The Orphan that real things were coming to Propulsion Research.
The Mighty Boeing deemed it a good plan to make a flying test-bed out of the Dash 80 to study blown flaps and low speed control. To do this low-speed testing of blown flaps, a “modulating” thrust reverser was needed so that the engine could stay at high power to produce larger quantities of engine “bleed air” to “blow” on the
flaps for lift while the Dash 80 was at low approach speeds with thrust controlled by modulating the four thrust reversers.
Enter the highly experienced five-year-veteran Orphan. (Brilliant Bill indeed knew of this plan and had primarily wanted the skills of The Orphan to do these things that could not be done.)
The Orphan -- along with a crack team -- developed the damn things and they worked!
Once, a Pratt & Whitney JT3C-4 turbojet engine was spread all over the Renton test area and parking lot while the team was learning how much they could twist its tail!
One of the turbine discs, while spinning at 10,000 rpm and at 3600° Fahrenheit, broke its “axle,” burned its way through the turbine case, and followed by the other three discs, went spinning wildly around the test area while broken turbine blades were flying over several acres like shrapnel -- some even went through the fence
screens leaving perfect outlines of the blades as they went through the hole, like in a cartoon.
Somehow all of these flying deadly pieces missed The Orphan and his team.
The Orphan has seen many brave things but one of the bravest was the foreman in charge of the test site, Bill Peake, charging out with a fire extinguisher and plunging into the wrecked, torn and burning innards of the engine to safely extinguish the flames before fuel exploded -- all this while The Orphan and the test crew
were standing agog with bugged-out eyes.
There are many unsung heroes in The World of The Orphan.
Giant exhaust collectors surrounded the rear of the engines -- which also controlled noise -- somewhat. Since these collectors did not have to fly, they could be massive and heavy. The Orphan counted over eighty deep gouges in the concrete and the same number of dents in the collector as one of the wildly spinning discs spent
its energy bouncing from the concrete to the collector – all so fast it was a continuous sound!
Seeing the Dash 80 hung in the sky at about 60 knots with all four engines roaring at high power and the trailing edge flaps vertical at 90° to the wing was an awesome sight.
For a while The Orphan was not bored – but then that job was done and The Orphan was again bored.
The Orphan, for one of the few times in his enslavement to The Mighty Boeing, was now able to spend more time with his family and doing other things …