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NAVAL AERONAUTICS LOSES NOTED ENGINEER.

Next year the first F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons will deploy, bringing their extended payload radius to carrier strike fighter missions. Unfortunately, a long-term Navy Department civilian aeronautical engineering leader dedicated to meeting this goal will not be able to appreciate the achievement. George A. Spangenberg, Director of the Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIRSYSCOM) Evaluation Division and defacto chief aircraft engineer at the time of his 1973 retirement, succumbed to automobile accident injuries last fall at 88 years old. Taking into account aircraft extended service lives and continued E-2 Hawkeye production, almost all current Navy/Marine Corps carrier and shipboard aircraft, as well as P-3 Orions, came under his engineering leadership.

Spangenberg's career as an aeronautical engineer and Navy civilian began in the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pa., in 1935, following his earning bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Michigan. A major assignment there was with a small group of experienced Navy petty officers converting obsolete biplane trainers to radio-controlled target drones, precursors of today's cruise missiles. In 1939, he was transferred to the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics (BUAER) in Washington, D.C., predecessor of NAVAIRSYSCOM. In the Evaluation Division his tasks included coordinating design requirements for all naval aircraft, conducting design competitions and selecting the best design for contract acquisition, and working with the BUAER team, as well as with Army/Air Force, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (predecessor of today's NASA) and aircraft industry engineers. As his experience grew during WW II he became a spokesman for naval aircraft design. He played a major role in the Navy's firs t supersonic carrier fighters, including the Vought F8U (F-8) Crusader day fighter, along with both heavy and light jet carrier attack aircraft and early shipboard-based helicopters.

Promoted in 1957 to Division Director, he was soon caught up in the 1958 congressionally directed competition between the McDonnell F4H (F-4) Phantom II and Vought F8U-3 (a new design) Mach 2+ all weather fighters. His recommendation of the F-4 based on its two place configuration defined the winner, but he frequently lamented the F8U-3 as the "best airplane we never did buy." Extensive U.S. Navy and Air Force use and wide international service followed.

Next came the Secretary of Defense-directed joint Air Force! Navy TFX (advanced tactical fighter) competition, and an equally controversial Tri-Service Transport VSTOL (vertical, short takeoff and landing) program to build an aircraft similar in size and mission to today's Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey. Spangenberg drew Pentagon, congressional and media attention as controversies led to congressional investigations. Cancellation of the Navy's TFX, the General Dynamics F-111B, led to a new competition for a carrier fighter/bomber with the F111B's Phoenix missile system. Grumman's variable-sweep-wing winner became the F-14 Tomcat. In parallel, a carrier antisubmarine warfare aircraft competition was won by Lockheed to produce the fan-powered S-3 Viking. Another joint service thrust, this one for a heavy-lift Army/Marine helicopter, got Spangenberg's action for a heavier lift CH-53 Sea Stallion, yielding the Marine CH-53E Super Stallion.

Retired NAVAIRSYSCOM historian Lee M. Pearson, whose career years overlapped Spangenberg's, expressed his effective characteristics: "Throughout his career, Mr. Spangenberg was noted and respected for his insistence upon adherence to rigorous engineering standards, particularly as utilized in assessing aircraft performance and utility to the Navy. On occasion this involved efforts to identify and correct unrealistic assumptions that underpinned technological decisions involving naval aircraft made by higher levels within the Department of Defense."

After Spangenberg's 1973 retirement, his outspoken objection to abandoning the long-range strike fighter for the short unrefueled radius of the F/A- 1 8A Hornet involved him in internal Navy conflicts. But his stand did not keep him from receiving Navy recognition to add to his civil service and professional awards. Honorary Naval Aviator wings in 1975, enshrinement in Naval Aviation's Hall of Honor at Pensacola, Fla., in 1990, and election as an honorary Golden Eagle recognized his continuing active support of Naval Aviation as well as his career contributions.
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Title Annotation:George A. Spangenberg
Author:Andrews, Hal
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:661
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