October 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 6 
Main Feature
65 years of SPIRIT65 years of SPIRIT

Boeing St. Louis celebrates rich aerospace history


Separated by 17 years in age and thousands of miles, William Boeing, James McDonnell and Donald Douglas shared the same belief in the future of aviation.

Today, the spirit, the dedication and the drive for excellence of all three men continue to guide the people of Boeing St. Louis as they celebrate the 65th anniversary of the site.

"I started here in 1978, and I've always felt a part of something special," said Bruce Scheidhauer, senior manager, Tactical Aircraft Product Definition Integration. Scheidhauer's experience includes work on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, a program on which he's worked since contract award. "It was perhaps the proudest moment of my career," he said of the Super Hornet's first flight, "as I considered the privilege of being a part of aerospace history."

65 years of SPIRITResidents of St. Louis have a long, rich history in aerospace dating back as early as 1904 with the short, historic flight of the California Arrow during the World's Fair. But Charles Lindbergh made the city of St. Louis synonymous with aviation when he named his monoplane The Spirit of St. Louis and flew nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.

Darcy Smith One woman looks back at the early '80s days

Before Darcy Smith came to the company in the early '80s, she knew from experience that it could be tough for women working in a male-dominated business. "I was very young, had worked in other businesses and as a woman had been treated noticeably differently," she said.

At Boeing, she was hired into the contracts group and again was one of only a few women. On one of her early assignments, the F-15 Dual Role Fighter proposal, she was the only woman on a team working in a sequestered area for 64 days straight.

"That environment toughened all of us," said Smith, now a senior principal specialist in eBusiness Lead-Finance. "It encouraged me and the other guys to excel. It didn't matter that I was a woman. We were all equal. Just a bunch of hardworking, dedicated teammates determined to win a program. I felt honored to be a part of that group."

Then on Sept. 15, 1939, James McDonnell first opened his doors for work in a rented office at St. Louis' Lambert Field. Originally a subcontractor supplying parts to Boeing's and Douglas' companies, McDonnell also worked on his own airplane designs. In 1944, the XP-67 bomber destroyer was the first plane to roll off the St. Louis line. It was quickly followed by the FH-1 Phantom jet fighter, the first jet designed to take off and land on an aircraft carrier, and the XHJD Whirlaway, the world's first twin-engine helicopter.

The focus of the St. Louis business following World War II was supplying the U.S. military with faster, more capable jet planes.

It was the F2H Banshee that grew the production lines in St. Louis, with the production of 895 in just six years. The F3H Demon was next in line, followed by the F-101 Voodoo, the fastest tactical fighter of its time. By the end of the 1950s, St. Louis led the nation in combat aircraft production.

65 years of SPIRITThe introduction of the St. Louis-built F-4 Phantom II in 1958 captured the imagination of aviation enthusiasts worldwide. The supersonic jet served the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and saw combat in both Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. A total of 5,057 F-4s were built in St. Louis by the time the last one was delivered in 1979.

"McDonnell took a chance on the F-4 Phantom," said Boeing Senior Historian Michael Lombardi, "during a period when planes were built primarily to do one specific mission, whether it be bomber, fighter or interceptor. McDonnell built a plane that could do all of these missions and do them as well if not better than any other plane."

In an effort to diversify after World War II, McDonnell had expanded his St. Louis business to include rocketry. He introduced a series of glide bombs known as Gargoyles (1944), missiles called Katydids (1945) and anti-ship missiles named Kingfishers (1949). B-52 bombers carried the fourth air-launched missile, known as the Quail or GAM-72 (1958), used to confuse radar and divert enemy fire from the targetbound bombers.

Dave SwainFor Dave Swain, it all began in St. Louis

Dave Swain, chief operating officer for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, joined the company in 1964 as an engineer on the Gemini program. Over the next 40 years he played major roles in the development of many new missile technologies. He also headed the C-17 program, served as Phantom Works president and was Boeing's chief technology officer.

"We have a great history in St. Louis. There is a pioneering spirit and a tradition of innovation here that has helped get us to where we are today," said Swain, who will retire this month.

"We put the first Americans in space with Mercury and Gemini. We developed the U.S. Navy's first cruise missile, and a whole family of Harpoon missiles followed. SLAM [Standoff Land Attack Missile] was the world's first GPS-guided missile. JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition] became a model for low-cost, precision-strike weapons systems, and it has performed well beyond our expectations. It is this capability for the totally new that has set us apart and provided 65 years of continuous business in the St. Louis region."

However, the "race for space" was just around the corner. In 1959 NASA selected McDonnell in St. Louis to be the prime contractor for Project Mercury, America's first manned spacecraft. Two years later, astronaut Alan Shepard boarded the St. Louis-built Mercury spacecraft, aptly named Freedom 7. Shepard became the first American in space; and less than a year later, also aboard a Mercury spacecraft named Friendship 7, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.

The program had to tackle many challenges, because no vehicle had ever been built that would enable a human being not only to live, but also to function effectively in space. Because of all the unknowns about operating in a weightless environment, Mercury had to be designed so all the control systems would be automatic. But because a study of human capabilities in space was basic to the program, there was another system allowing astronauts to have manual control. A third system of control linked the spacecraft to a network of ground stations all around the globe. Although nobody used the term back then, this was really a network-centric design.

65 years of SPIRITProject Gemini, featuring a two-person spacecraft built in St. Louis, followed with 10 crewed missions between 1965 and 1966. It allowed for astronauts to practice techniques for docking, rendezvous and operating outside the space vehicle.

In the 1970s and '80s, as the United States faced the end of the Vietnam War, the continuation of a cold war, a recession and an energy crunch, the St. Louis site maintained its focus on meeting the customers' need for multi-mission planes. By 1978, St. Louis was home to the AV-8B Harrier II, the F/A-18 Hornet, the F-15 Eagle and the F-4 Phantom II.

By the 1990s, the T-45A Goshawk came online in St. Louis, as did advanced versions of the F-15 and F/A-18. From aircraft with exotic names such as Phantom, Voodoo and Banshee to today's stalwarts such as the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Joint Direct Attack Munition precision-guided weapon (manufactured in nearby St. Charles, Mo.), the St. Louis facility has played a major role in defending freedom around the globe.

65 years of SPIRITSpace exploration again became a key component of the Boeing St. Louis portfolio in July 2002, when the Boeing Military Aircraft & Missiles division merged with the company's Space & Communications unit to form Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. With annual revenues of $27 billion, IDS provides systems solutions to its global military, government and commercial customers.

Today, the St. Louis facility of Boeing, one of the top employers in Missouri, is home to many Boeing businesses and programs including The Center for Integrated Defense Simulation, the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems, the Baldrige Award-winning Aerospace Support business and the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (X-45).

Early this month, Boeing will open its doors in both St. Louis and St. Charles to family and friends of employees in celebration of 65 successful years. On display will be future, current and historic aircraft and weapons such as the X-45, the JDAM and Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response munitions, the F-15 Strike Eagle, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the F-4 Phantom II, and the B-17 Flying Fortress.




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