Boeing - 37 years

When  the day came to report to Boeing, I drove to Renton, went  to the 10-85 Building on Park Ave. where I was supposed to meet my supervisor, Bill Jensen. Together with my escort, we found Bill, not in his office but in an open area occupied by a sea of workers at their desks and at their drawing tables. Before I was shown where my desk would be so I could lay my stuffs on it and take a breather, I was informed that I would be escorted, shown and introduced to the personnel at the Propulsion Lab, which was located at the Northend of Boeing Field, to assist in the calibration of the nozzles Boeing was testing. Without explaining what the test was all about and giving me an introductory background educational course, I was suddenly plunged into the unknown. The urgency of my introduction to my new job  indicated to me the existence of a chaotic situation in which one can be infected right away without realizing it. So, this was how informal and unusual I was introduced to my new job at Boeing and from there on my engineering career at a new company began.

I was able to rent a one room apartment in an old house on Beacon Hill as my temporary residence where I could hole-in temporarily until Mary can be with me. It was a convenient place and not too far from work. The supervisor at the Propulsion Labs wanted me to work for him to provide technical assistance in the design of a larger wind tunnel. I accepted his offer as that would be a new design experience and an opportunity to be able to work with engine/propeller sizing combination that would provide the required wind tunnel velocity. After several weeks, a Filipino electrical engineer hired fresh from the Philippines joined our group and he became sort of a conduit where I was able to meet and associate with the other newly hired Filipino engineers from the Philippines. Most of these guys, 5 or 6 of them, were staying at the Acena’s boarding house on 12th Ave in Seattle and the others with families were staying in an apartment building located on 14th Ave.

In June of 1958, Mary decided not to continue her nurse’s training and joined me in Seattle. I moved out of my rental place and we rented a one bedroom apartment on College St. in Beacon Hill.

The job at the Propulsion Labs was interesting and involved varied assortments of testing related to jet propulsion and allowed opportunity for hands-on experience with hardware and instrumentation. I stayed with the Labs for 3 years, from March 1958 thru  March 1961, becoming a lead engineer in the latter part of this period. It was during this period that  our first son, Vincent Anthony, was born on July 31, 1959 followed by  Allen Godfrey who was born in  October 30, 1960. Before Allen was born, we moved to a new three  bedroom  spec house located in Burien which we purchased for $5,000!

After three years with the Propulsion Labs, the work was becoming repetitious and sort of monotonous  and  the yearning for doing something else different that was more closer to the physical airplane began to nudged me to explore other vistas  The 727 airplane was on the drawing board and management was seriously considering to launch it. This was an opportunity to be part of the team that will develop and produce  the 727.  I transferred to the 727 Propulsion Staff organization  in Renton which had the responsibility for the 727 propulsion system.
In 1961, the race to the Space was on, spurred by the Russian Sputnik that orbited the earth. Boeing was awarded a NASA contract to build the first stage of the Saturn moon rocket that would send two astronauts to land on the moon. This was President Kennedy’s answer to the Russian technological accomplishment in the race to outer space. Boeing was scrambling, looking and hiring all sort of engineers to work on the on the first stage rocket and shipping these people to Hunstville, Alabama. Most people were reluctant to move South, especially in an era when race, between blacks and whites, were still segregated. Black Boeing engineers abstained from going South as they would ride in the back of a public bus, use segregated toilet facilities, not welcome in white restaurants, cannot be accommodated in white motels/hotels, etc. In order for Boeing to induce white engineers to move South, Boeing offered liberal increases in pay, offered better job responsibilities, promotions and liberal moving allowances.
I was hooked by these inducements, thought this was a good opportunity to see the South, to be involved with a new propulsion concept, rocketry and to expand the experience horizon in propulsion technology. I took a one semester class course on rocketry at Purdue so this was also a practical chance to apply what I learned from the text book. I accepted a job offer with a 15% increase in pay. Boeing sold our house in Burien and was reluctantly released from my 727 job.
Family Portrait 1961-62
Allen, Mary, Fred, Tony
The big plan was for Mary to live in Wichita with the boys and to finish her nurse schooling at St. Francis Hospital. We rented a house not very far from the hospital and hired someone to take of the boys while Mary was attending school. This did not work because Tony developed some kind of a social disorder (spoiled), not wanting to be left alone with a baby sitter. In the end, the big plan was not workable, so Mary and the boys joined me in New Orleans to which my Boeing contingent had moved to from Huntsville. We bought a ten to fifteen year old house on Lancelot the eastside suburb of New Orleans which used to be a marsh land where big nasty mosquitoes roamed before. When new housing developments replaced the marsh land, these mosquitoes had never left the area and bred in canals built to drained the marsh land. The human population that came to replaced the vegetation now became the food chain for the mosquitoes. The Boeing workers were located in downtown New Orleans, occupied several floors in a high rise building. Our living in New Orleans didn’t last long because of unexciting job, which was typical of a new starting program, high humidity, the mosquito problems which made recreating outdoors unbearable, and landscape of the region was just plain dull. However, while we were in New Orleans we enjoyed some of the cultural events celebrated in that region, like the wild Mardi Gras parade. The South, including New Orleans, at that time was still segregated, where there were separate toilets in public places for the whites and the blacks, the blacks sat in the back of the bus, the blacks not welcome to dine in restaurants that catered to whites, etc.
We lived in New Orleans for nine months, felt like a long vacation, and it was time to end the vacation. Boeing did not favorably entertain the idea of requesting relocation to Seattle as Boeing was already finding it hard to transfer employees to the South, since most of them didn’t want to live in the South, even though transfer was promised to be temporary. Boeing was firm and did not grant relocation transfer to Seattle before completion of the project for fear that it would establish a precedent to other employees wanting to relocate.

The family found themselves travelling across the vast land on the way to Los Angeles, California as I terminated my employment with Boeing and accepted a job offer with North American Aviation to work on the second stage of the moon rocket. We found a house to rent in Lakewood, near Long Beach, which was not too far away from Downey where I worked. The plan was to work at North American Aviation for a while until Boeing in Seattle would open up their employment and start to hire again in the Airplane Commercial Division. During this period, Matthew was born at the Long Beach General Hospital on September 26, 1964. We enjoyed our stay in Lakewood, the climate was nice, almost every afternoon after work we went to the park to have our picnic dinner. Lakewood and the surrounding communities didn’t seem to be overcrowded, the traffic was relatively light, communities were typically American, hardly any Asian populace, didn’t felt like over ran and overwhelmed with Hispanics, the light smog was mostly concentrated in Los Angeles. There was hardly any traffic gridlock and fewer freeways cress-crossing the Los Angeles landscape.

One morning, while working at the Rocketdyne Test Site in Santa Susana Mountains, north of the San Fernando Valley, getting the second stage boilerplate rocket ready for its first test firing, I received a call from a Boeing personnel manager who offered me a job to work in Preliminary Design staff in the Commercial Propulsion Department. This offer was what I was waiting for and for the family to be able to move back to a rural-like living in Seattle. After eight months of temporary living in a rented house and savoring the sunny and mild climate of Southern California, it was time to pack up and head north to Seattle.

Upon arriving in Seattle in December 1964, we first rented an apartment in the Burien Apartment Complex to give us time to decide which part of the city where we would prefer to settle and purchase a house. We decided to live east of Lake Washington, near Bellevue, as the eastside was noted to be more like the bedroom community of Seattle. A real estate agent found us a suitable house with a daylight basement at 12695 S.E. 59th St. in Newport Hills.

My job was to support the PD efforts in the development of the thrust reverser for the 707-500/600 which was a stretch version of the 707-320. After several months, the PD efforts began to shift to the development of a much larger four-engine airplane, dubbed as the 747. After a few months, an engineering go ahead was launched to develop and market this airplane to the airlines. Work moved from Seattle to Everett when the new site was ready to accommodate the employees who were connected to the 747 program. First flight took place in February 1969. During this period, Mark was born in November 3, 1966, Susanne in May 1, 1969, Michael in May 1,1971, Melissa in April 4, 1972, Thomas in February 27, 1975 ( while I was in Derby England supporting a full scale engine test at Rolls Royce). Work on the 747 began to taper off in 1976 as most of the 747 teething problems were resolved and the engineering jobs became sustaining efforts. So, it was time to explore other interesting opportunities within the company.

757 wind tunnel testing
In November 1976, I landed on a new PD efforts to develop a new airplane program dubbed as the 7X7 in Renton. An engineering go ahead to develop and market the 757/767 airplanes to the airlines was launched. Our group was split into two teams; the 757 stayed in Renton while the 767 went to Everett. I was lucky to be assigned to the 757 team, because as it turned out during the 767 thrust reverser full scale engine static test, the 767 thrust reverser hardware was beset with humiliating problems. The 757 thrust reverser design was superior and performed very well.

It was during this period, Elizabeth was born in April 25, 1977 and James in March 25, 1979. At this time period, we were living in Donegal, at 12635 S.E. 75 St., near Newport Woods, which was an adjoining community to Newport Hills in Bellevue. When we bought the house in 1977, the construction was not completed yet, it was only 60% complete, but we like the floor plan which was similar to a model home built across the street from where we lived a few blocks down the street. We liked how the house was positioned in the lot and how it faced over a cul de sac.
Thrust Reverser Test in Florida

In July of 1988, I joined the newly formed 777 new airplane program to support the design and development of the propulsion system, in particular the thrust reverser system. This airplane was to be powered by either the General Electric GE90 or the Rolls Royce Trent 800 or the Pratt &Whitney 4084 engine, depending on the airline customer’s choice. It was a good and challenging program and, as far as the thrust reverser system was concerned, there was no unexpected problem for their development of each of the engine installation. The sailing was smooth for the FAA certification of each engine installation.

In 1995, Boeing, for the first time in its company history, offered a ‘golden handshake’ retirement incentive to its employees who were 55 years old and older that would like to take advantage of the “perks” that went along with it. If I remember correctly, there were 13,000 plus employees who were eligible and about 9000 plus took the bait. Since I was at that time 2 months shy from turning 65 and was previously toying with the idea of retiring at age 65, I didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the once-in-a-life-time offer. So, in July1, 1995, I was officially retired from the Boeing Company after37 years of service. Years later, when Boeing embarked on a new airplane program, it was reported that Boeing regretted the golden handshake inducement because Boeing found itself immersed deeply with engineering problems on the 787 airplane program because of the exodus of thousands of engineers with a wealth of knowledge and experience.