Famed Lockheed Martin Engineer and Designer Willis Hawkins Dies At Age 90
MARIETTA, Ga., 04-OCT-04 -- Famed aerospace engineer and designer Willis M. Hawkins, whose career with Lockheed Martin’s [NYSE: LMT] legacy companies spanned nearly 50 years, passed away at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif., on Sept. 28. He was 90.
“Our industry has lost a true titan,” said Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. President Dain Hancock. “Willis was a superb engineer, program manager and leader. He was a person of great dignity and depth who made true and lasting contributions to aerospace and national defense.”
Among many career highlights, Hawkins oversaw development of the Polaris, the U.S. Navy’s first sea-launched ballistic missile, and headed the then-classified Corona reconnaissance satellite program. In 1963, he briefly left Lockheed to serve as assistant secretary of the Army, and he started development of what became today’s M1 Abrams main battle tank.
In 1951, Hawkins led the team that designed the C-130 Hercules airlifter in a little more than two months. This past August 23 marked the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the YC-130 prototype. Since then, more than 2,260 Hercules aircraft of all types in more than 70 different variants have been delivered to 60 countries. Today, 67 countries, counting those that bought used aircraft, fly the Hercules. Today’s C-130J is the latest version to come off the longest, continuous, active military aircraft production line in history. Not surprisingly, Hawkins considered the C-130 one of his greatest successes.
Hawkins began his career with the then-Lockheed Aircraft Corp. in 1937 after graduating with a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan. He served as a structural component designer on the P-38 Lightning fighter as well as the Hudson bomber and Lodestar transport. He headed Lockheed’s preliminary design group that produced the P-80 Shooting Star fighter, XF-90 experimental fighter, XFV vertical takeoff and landing prototype, F-104 Starfighter supersonic fighter and the Constellation transport/airliner. In fact, it was Hawkins who was responsible for the Connie’s distinctive three-tail configuration. In 1947, he organized and led the X-7 ramjet test vehicle development team. Later in his career, he directed the X-17 reentry test vehicle program and pioneered analytical anti-submarine warfare studies.
Hawkins started the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company and served as president. He was elected a vice president of the corporation in 1960 and later served on the corporation’s board of directors. He retired in the early 1980s but was later brought back to run the then-Lockheed-California Co. on an interim basis. He retired a second time in 1986, but was frequently called on as a consultant, including during the development of the C-130J in the mid 1990s.
Hawkins held several patents on complete aircraft and five major patents on aircraft component designs. He also held an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan. His many decorations and awards included the U.S. Navy’s Distinguished Public Service award in 1961 for his work on the Polaris missile; the National Medal of Science; the U.S. Army Distinguished Civilian Services Award for 1964 and 1966; the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and the 1982 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, awarded annually by the National Aeronautics Association for significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States. Hawkins was scheduled to be inducted into the National Management Association’s Hall of Fame at that organization’s upcoming convention.
This summer, Hawkins was interviewed in Code One, Lockheed Martin’s quarterly airpower magazine. That profile, which includes additional career and background information, can be found at: http://www.codeonemagazine.com/archives/2004/articles/aug_04/hawkins/index.html.
Lockheed Martin Background
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., a business area of Lockheed Martin, is a leader in the design, research and development, systems integration, production and support of advanced military aircraft and related technologies. Its customers include the military services of the United States and allied countries throughout the world. Products include the F-16, F/A-22, F‑35 JSF, F-117, C-5, C-130, C-130J, P-3, S-3 and U-2. The company produces major components for the F-2 fighter, and is a co-developer of the C-27J tactical transport and T-50 advanced jet trainer.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 130,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2003 sales of $31.8 billion.