Saturday, August 05, 2023

The OTHER all time aviation genius

Most aviation enthusiasts, and probably most military history enthusiasts, and a lot of engineers and other geeks, know who Kelly Johnson was, and what the Lockheed "skunkworks" were.

It's a shame... almost a crime against aviation history... but I'd wager most of those same people have no idea who Ed Heinemann was.

What Kelly Johnson was for Lockheed, and the Air Force; Ed Heinemann was for Douglas, and the Navy.

Heinemann took over as Chief Engineer for Douglas in 1936, and shared duties as Chief Designer with Arthur Raymond ( the designer of the DC3, who had been chief engineer before Heinemann); leaving Raymond to focus primarily on large transport aircraft, and Heinemann to focus primarily on small and medium military aircraft... Fighters, attack planes, and light bombers.

His first aircraft as Chief Engineer for Douglas was the SBD Dauntless (which Heinemann had begun at Northrop, before Douglas took them over), and he went on to be the Chief Designer of all the Douglas fighters, light and medium bombers, and attack aircraft, not just for WW2, but for the next 25 years.

Those included the Invader, the Havoc, the Skyraider, the Skyhawk... and really, about half the aircraft the navy flew for about 40 years.

In his long and accomplished career, he was chief designer for more than 40 aircraft (including more than 20 combat aircraft), and contributed to the designs of many more; including most Douglas aircraft designs between 1936 and 1960 (and many Northrop designs, which shared engineering resources with Douglas).

After leaving Douglas, he became the Chief Engineer, Vice President of engineering, and director of new aircraft development, at General  Dynamics; contributing to most GD aircraft designed between 1962 and 1976.

After a full 50 year career designing aircraft, Heinemann retired in 1976; his last major role having been to head the development of the F16 at General Dynamics.