Howard Hughes Memorial Award Ceremony

Howard Hughes Memorial Award Ceremony
February 07, 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and members of the Aero Club of Southern California….

It is a privilege to be here tonight to accept the Howard Hughes Memorial Award.

It is a tribute to the entire Lockheed Martin team.

This honor is made even more special by the long and distinguished list of past awardees – men and women who have reshaped the future by what they have done in the skies and in space.

I am also proud to join a list of honorees that includes five former leaders of Lockheed Martin and our legacy companies.

I thank the Aero Club of Southern California for hosting this event at the beautiful Jonathan Club – and for your ongoing efforts to keep our nation’s eyes on the far horizons and possibilities of human flight.

At Lockheed Martin, we share your dedication to the advancement of aviation and aerospace.

And we share your commitment to promote science, technology, engineering, and math education in the lives of generations that follow.

We know the power of ingenuity. 

Throughout the past century, our scientists and engineers have imagined the concepts that have defined new eras in flight and created technologies that have transformed the human experience on a host of frontiers.

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

He recognized that knowledge is “limited,” but that imagination “encircles the world.”

The progress and prosperity that defines our lives today flows from the imagination and unbridled curiosity of the brilliant minds in our past.

One of these brilliant minds is the namesake of this award: Howard Robard Hughes.

Few names in aviation history evoke more respect than Hughes.

He was a bold entrepreneur who had an immeasurable impact on the spirit and advancement of aerospace technology at the dawn of the age of aviation.

It was during this Golden Age that Hughes set his sights on completing the fastest airborne journey around the world.

After failed test flights with two other aircraft, Hughes turned to

Lockheed Aircraft Company … then based in nearby Burbank.

He wanted the most-cutting edge aviation technology in order to complete his mission to circumnavigate the globe.

Hughes selected the twin-tail Model 14 Super Electra.

He and his crew safely completed the round-the-world journey in under four days in the vaunted Electra, shattering the previous record of just over one week. 

One of the designers of the Electra was another giant of aviation history, and a former winner of this prestigious award – a Lockheed engineer by the name of Kelly Johnson.

Years before Hughes selected the Super Electra for his unprecedented voyage, 23-year-old Kelly Johnson stepped in during the design process to point out a critical design flaw.

While conducting a series of wind tunnel tests, he had a hunch.

He sensed that the original design’s single vertical tail was affecting the airplane’s stability, so he proposed instead an iconic, twin-tail design.

This modification stabilized the Electra’s aerodynamic qualities – and solidified the twin-tail design as a signature feature on Lockheed aircraft for years to come.

Over his four decades with the company, Kelly Johnson built a legacy of firsts with Lockheed.

Perhaps one of his most distinguished accomplishments was the founding of the legendary Skunk Works.

Under his leadership, the Skunk Works team designed and produced revolutionary aircraft such as the SR-71 Blackbird, U-2 Dragon Lady, and F-117 Nighthawk.

To this day, our Skunk Works team continues to push the boundaries of the possible and create game-changing technologies.

In fact, I’m proud to say that we have a table of visionaries from Skunk Works here with us tonight.

The success of Lockheed Martin would not be possible without their incredible work, and that of their 100,000 colleagues around the world.

Today, more than ever before, America needs innovative thinkers like those at the Skunk Works to keep us on the cutting edge as technology advances at an exponential pace.

We are experiencing one of the most complex and unpredictable security environments in decades.

And as we look ahead to the threats we will encounter in years to come, it is clear that those  challenges will come from a vast array of domains – land, sea, air, space, and the cyber realm.

At Lockheed Martin, we’re proud to provide our customers around the world with a broad portfolio of technologies and services that helps maintain global security and press forward the frontiers of human discovery.

Our dedication to this long-term mission is also why we believe we have a special role to play in creating and maintaining a STEM talent pipeline, to encourage the youth of today to become the problem-solvers of tomorrow.

Like the Aero Club, we are working to inspire young people to pursue education in STEM fields through engagement and internships that open the doors of opportunity.

And there is certainly no shortage of technologies to inspire future scientists, engineers, and innovators to join us.

At Lockheed Martin, some of our most exciting frontiers include autonomous vehicles and aircraft, hypersonics, and laser weapons systems … just to name a few.

Consider autonomy.

Recent advances in aircraft autonomy are expanding the envelope of applications across civil and military services.

In a test demonstration, the K-MAX, our autonomous helicopter, flew with the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft, or SARA, and two other small unmanned aerial systems.

Together, the systems were able to locate and extinguish a fire, and conduct a search-and-rescue mission to retrieve a missing person.  

Another intriguing technology we are working on is hypersonics.

Our team continues to advance and test technologies that could someday support hypersonic flight.

Eventually, these aircraft could shatter the SR-71’s record of Mach 3 speed by traveling faster than Mach 5.

And hypersonic flight could forever change our ability to deter and respond to conflict.

In the field of directed energy, or laser weapons systems, we recently conducted a successful test in which our Advanced Test High Energy Asset system, ATHENA, brought down five drone targets.

In the future, systems like ATHENA will be used to defend against aircraft, drones, and missiles.

And we’re exploring ways to incorporate these systems into planes, ships and ground vehicles to be used as defensive and offensive weapons.

None of these remarkable technologies would be possible without the dedication and hard work of the men and women of Lockheed Martin.

So, I will close by again saying …on behalf of our entire company, thank you for this special honor.

And thank you to all those who have been recognized by the Howard Hughes Award – and for what their service, sacrifice, and daring have meant to building a better world.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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