Segments in this Video

Kelly Johnson: Introduction (01:42)


Johnson wanted to design aircraft from an early age. He earned a Master's degree, was hired at Lockheed, and developed the most important aircraft research and design facility in the world.

Johnson's Early Years (02:22)

Johnson was born in Ishpeming, PA in 1910. He designed his first airplane at age 12, worked in construction, enrolled in the University of Michigan, and made use of the wind tunnel. He got a job at Lockheed in 1933 as a tool designer.

Early Designs (02:26)

Johnson developed a new flap system and suggested a twin tail to improve the Electra's stability. He became a flight test engineer, advised Amelia Earhart, and continued to improve the Electra. Lockheed won the competition to build a new fighter with Johnson's design of the XP-38.

Lockheed Military Aircraft (02:48)

The P-38 was the start of military aircraft production. In 1938, Johnson and his crew re-designed the Electra for a British purchasing commission. He joined Lockheed executives for a conference with the British Air Ministry and redesigned the plane again to meet specification changes.

Program Manager (02:17)

In 1939, an increased defense budget increased the production of P-38s; Johnson mastered the art of manufacturing and production streamlining. He was put in charge of advanced products research and established Skunk Works.

Skunk Works (03:24)

Skunk Works developed advanced aircraft including the P-80 Shooting Star; see footage of testing. The P-80 evolved into the T-33. After WWII, world powers separated into the Communist East and Democratic West.

Aeronautical Engineering (03:23)

Johnson designed over 40 aircraft throughout his career including the Constellation, F-104 Starfighter, and the CL-282— later known as the U-2.

Advanced Military Aircraft (02:47)

In 1956, engineers continued to make modifications to the U-2. In 1960, Johnson received Air Force approval to build the A-12; it paved the way for the SR-71 Blackbird.

Johnson's Legacy (01:26)

Johnson retired in 1975. Schools teach his 14 rules of program management and Lockheed sought his consultation on the F-117 Stealth Fighter. His greatest contribution was his ability to convince others to commit to his dreams; Johnson died in 1990.

Credits: Legends of Air Power: Kelly Johnson (00:31)

Credits: Legends of Air Power: Kelly Johnson

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Legends of Air Power: Kelly Johnson

Part of the Series : Legends of Air Power
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Joining Lockheed as a tool designer, Kelly Johnson became one of America’s foremost aircraft designers. He developed more than 40 aircraft, from the U-2 to the F-104, and was the head of Lockheed’s advanced development projects, known as the “Skunk Works.” When he retired in 1975, this tool designer had become Lockheed’s Senior Vice President.

Length: 24 minutes

Item#: BVL129017

ISBN: 978-1-64023-384-3

Copyright date: ©2001

Closed Captioned

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