by, William Lloyd Stearman
It was my very great privilege to have been invited to represent my father, Lloyd Carlton Stearman, at the December 11, 2003 opening of the National Air and Space Museum’s new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the Dulles Airport. I owe this honor to my old friend, Donald Lopez, deputy head of the NASM and a World War II (China Theater) P-40 pilot who learned to fly in a Stearman.
Those who spoke at this occasion included Vice President Cheney and Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist. All the speeches were, mercifully, good, brief and to the point; A highlight of the ceremony was a prerecorded video from a space station featuring two English-speaking Russian Cosmonauts holding a model of the first Wright Brothers plane which was floating around their hands. At this point, a full-scale replica of the “first plane” slowly moved on tracks above us clear across the hall. The effect was quite dramatic.
There were a number of us “honored guests” including John Glenn; Neil Armstrong; Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, who piloted the Enola Gay; Burt Rutan who, inter alia, designed the Voyageur which, in 1986, made the first round-the-world flight without refueling; Norman Augustine, former Lockheed-Martin CEO, now Chairman of its Executive Committee, who wrote that great book Augustine’s Laws. which everyone in a management position should read; Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of the Wright Brothers (who never married). Chuck Yeager was also invited but couldn’t make it. I was sorry he wasn’t there because I have always wanted to ask him if, as reported, and why, if true, he said that soloing in a Stearman was a bigger thrill than breaking the sound barrier which had to have been a very dicey and hair-raising experience.
One by one, each of us was marched up to the front and introduced. I was introduced as the son of Lloyd C. Stearman, first president of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and designer of the Stearman primary trainer. In this latter connection, some in the past have doubted by father had much to do this plane, since it took its final form and went into production well after he had left Stearman, which was taken over by Boeing (from United Aircraft) in 1938. In the Flying Wire’s SRA predecessor, my father’s very knowledgeable old test pilot “Deed” Levy, in a well-documented article, described how the prototype of the primary trainer Boeing finally produced was essentially a modified version of the Model 6 my father designed before leaving Stearman. Deed’s article contained, for example, photos of Model 6 design features as specifically modified by engineers Harold Zipp and Jack Clark with their drawings superimposed right on the original design. The photos clearly showed that most of these changes were minimal. The NSAM, which has at its disposal a great store of aviation history documentation, came to the same conclusion.
All Stearman fans will be delighted to hear that the “Boeing-Stearman N2S5” exhibited at the Center is in an ideal location, on the floor in a central corner position.with no other planes close by. (Most of the other biplanes are suspended from the ceiling.). It is right across the aisle from the Enola Gay to which I probably owe my life. I was to be in the first wave of the first assault landing on Kyushu, November 1, 1945. Intelligence data made it clear that our chances for survival were very slim indeed. Unfortunately I couldn’t thank General Tibbets personally because he is stone deaf. I must say I have little patience with those who are upset by the Enola Gay’s presence. The atom bombs not only saved countless American lives, they no doubt also saved millions of Japanese lives.
Don Lopez told me that, before long, my father will be represented at the Center by two more aircraft: the Stearman-Hammond which he co-designed (with Dean Hammond) and the Lockheed Electra of which he was the lead designer. In fact, he began designing it in our living room. The Electra has, of course, become best known as the plane in which Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937. Less well known, however, is that in the next year, it was the plane in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet with Hitler and sell out Czechoslovakia to attain “peace in our time.” The Electra was later modified to create the Hudson Bomber which the RAF quite successfully used in World War II.
I won’t take time to describe the other exhibits, that include even the giant Concorde, which by now have been well publicized, but I must note that the Center’s P-40 has Don Lopez’s old tail number. The Center is beyond impressive. It is a genuine triumph!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you in the Stearman Restorers Association for keeping these great planes flying and in such impressive numbers. I keep hoping to get to some of the Stearman fly-ins, but I usually wind up relying on my sister Marilyn Carr of Kansas City, MO to represent the family at the big Galesburg Fly-in. My daughter Elisabeth: ”Betsy” Stearman of Seattle, WA tries to make it to fly-ins in the Pacific Northwest. In any case, I always read with great interest about all these great gatherings in the Stearman Flying Wire.
William Lloyd Stearman, PhD Executive Director, United States Naval Fire Support Association
BA University of California, Berkeley
MA and PhD Graduate Institute of International Studies, University of Geneva (Switzerland.)
Graduate, Armed Forces Staff College
World War II –Naval officer, 7th Amphibious Force SW Pacific 1944-1945, seven assault landings; 1946 CO USS LSM 67 (then one of the Navy’s youngest ship captains). (USNR 1942-1965).
Vietnam – 1965-1967 Directed psyops against North Vietnam and its army. Saw some combat.
1972 (TDY) Surveyed the situation on the ground in Western II Corps during the 1972 “Easter Offensive” for the President (as an NSC staffer). Saw combat (the whole time).
U.S. Foreign Service 1950-1978. Retired as a Senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer with the [flag] rank of Counselor (O-7). Overseas posts: Vienna, Berlin, Bonn and Saigon (see above). Domestic: State
Department (East Europe–USSR and Indochina); Deputy Assistant Director and Acting Assistant Director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Federal Member, the President’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. NSC Staff.
The White House (NSC Staff): Indochina,1971-1976. Kissinger’s main advisor on the enemy, 1971-1973; headed the NSC Indochina Staff, Jan. 1973 to Jan. 1976; Soviet and East European affairs, 1981 to 1993.
Georgetown University Adjunct Professor of International Affairs 1977 to 1993;
Director, Russian Area Studies Program (MA and PhD program). 1980 – 1981.
Writing books presently, including one on Vietnam, “From the Rice Paddies to the White House.”
Executive Director, United States Naval Fire Support Association. The USNFSA is a not for profit (501 [c] ), all-volunteer (no one on a salary) public service association dedicated to the cause of ensuring adequate life-saving naval surface support (NSFS) for our soldiers and Marines. We have an affordable, highly effective NSFS solution which can be available in the near term as a bridge to future systems. We have several associates as expert non-paid consultants (e.g. naval architects) and our staunch supporters include former Secretaries of the Navy John F. Lehman Jr. and William L. Ball III as well as former Commandant and “father” of CENTCOM, General Paul X. Kelley.. Our briefings have been well received by past Chairman Bob Stump and other HASC members, later Commandant Lt. General James Jones, Navy Secretary Gordon England and others. We provide well-researched NSFS briefing material and we maintain a well-visited website (www.usnfsa.org).
The Soviet Union and the Occupation of Austria (book); Articles in: Naval Institute Proceedings, Armed Forces Journal International, Marine Corps Gazette, Defense News, Navy Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Washington Times and others. Honors: Who’s Who in America, Knight of the Holy Sepulchre (papal order)
Footnote for aviation buffs only: Son of Lloyd C. Stearman, World War I naval aviator, designed the WWII Stearman trainer, first President (and, in effect, founder) Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, National Aviation Hall of Fame.