Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It really is over, isn't it?

Boeing has announced that the Long Beach assembly plant for the C-17 will close in 2015 and there are no plans to replace it with anything that looks like an airplane. So the Los Angeles Times tells us today.

It's been 20 years since I walked out of the gate for the last time and turned around for one long look at my home before I tiptoed hesitantly into an uncertain future that took me to law school and a home in Iowa. But I still think about it every day-like today when I was at lunch and retrieved my A&P license from my wallet to show a pal I was still current and had a toe in the field.

I can't help but think that the acquisition of McDonnell Douglas by Boeing was the doctor's verdict to the industry as a whole in the area: You're not going to get better, so get your affairs in order.

It wasn't all bad and I'm thankful for the things I learned, the good people I knew, and the things I saw and did. I can still look at a cargo door or a passenger door and know exactly what's going on under the skin, and I know just how long it should take for an aircraft toilet in an MD11 to flush, because I timed a lot of them. I sat in the boom operator's seat in a KC10, I watched as a couple tires detonated on a Delta MD11 because the brake lines were hooked up ass backwards, and I spent hours up in the cockpit doing nine hour environmental systems and pressurization checkouts. I also did a lot of homework up in what we called the bridal suite over the horizontal stabilizer, and I watched in horror as a cherry picker descended onto the first Finnair MD11 and punched a nice big hole in the fuselage while the customer rep was on board. I also spent a lot of time doing preflight inspections on the number two engine because a lot of the guys were scared of heights.

But it's all going to be consigned to the fading memories of 65 year old guys like me, and the young folks will neither know or care what dragons we slew, because they've got their own problems to deal with. Nobody will care about the boys at Convair and their bat-out-of-hell 880 and 990, or the boys and girls at Lockheed who built their beautiful and elegant Constellations, or the workers in Los Angeles who pushed out a P51 Mustang every six minutes at the old North American plant, or all the people at mom and pop machine shops and fabrication shops all over the counties who faithfully supplied the prime builders on time and on budget.

Nobody will hear the stories about the people behind the counter at the lunchroom at Garrett, who would deal up a grilled swiss on rye with an ortega chile buried within, either....these things are but shadows that live in the memories of old men.

And how can there be any Dougloids when there is no more Douglas?


At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a sad end to aircraft manufacturing in Southern California, but it was an amazing time, and I'm glad I was a part of it, albeit in the tail end as I witnessed the decline. There are still a few non-prime players there, including Honeywell and Parker, and new companies like SpaceX gives the area hope. Thanks for sharing.

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgot to add that I worked as an engineering intern at DAC Long Beach in the 1980s. Jim Worsham ran the place. I parked across Lakewood on Conant every day and walked to Building 36. Did some trade studies on a C-17 derivative but nothing came of that.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Robert Luedeman, attorney at law said...

Thanks. I was there from 1987 to 1992, started out in Building 2, moved along with the first MD11 and did hydraulic installation inspections, cargo and passenger door rigging inspections and environmental system checkouts. I finished up on the flight line. It was a great place to work, and had it held up I would have been there to this day. Airbus had a chance to buy the place and become a prime builder instead of this kit built charade they've got going in hillbilly scab country, and they could have been real competition in the market for the last fifteen years. They wouldn't even have had to design and build the A400M.
I'm pleased that a few people read this blog and remember the things I and others experienced.


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