Meet: Jack Cherne
Chairman, Wright Flyer Project, Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Eventually, Martin could no longer get me a deferment and arranged for my employment at National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (predecessor to NASA) doing structural research. The Army caught up with me and I was lucky to wind up in the Air Corps because they needed a supply of gunners to fly in the bombers. Luck was again on my side, and instead, I was assigned as an engineer at Wright Field working on instrumentation, flying trainers and guided missiles.
After the war, I worked for a short time at Republic Aircraft as a stress analyst on their aborted attempt to build a commercial airliner. When the airlines cancelled the effort, I wound up at Sikorsky Aircraft as Assistant Chief of Stress for nine years. Here, I developed new methods of fatigue analysis and use of new materials. I earned a Bachelor's of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Bridgeport. On a trip to a Helicopter Society meeting, I was enticed by Hughes Tool Company to come to California to head up the development of their new two-place helicopter. While working at Hughes, I attended the University of Southern California for graduate studies. After the FAA certification was completed on the helicopter project, I became Chief Engineer of Vard, Inc., a manufacturer of helicopter gear boxes, ball screws and nuclear control rod drives. When they merged into Royal Industries, I became Assistant to the President of Shur Lok Corp., who made specialty fasteners for the aerospace industry.
The space industry had just started and in 1961, I joined a number of my former Hughes associates at Space Technology Laboratories which quickly became TRW. In my 22 years as an employee, I experienced working on a wide variety of fascinating projects. The most memorable one being in charge of the mechanical design of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) Descent Engine which landed our astronauts on the surface of the moon. (Apollo 13 astronauts appreciate this one!) Other projects included the Minuteman Missile System, Vela Spacecraft for detecting nuclear explosions, Pioneer 10 and 11 which became the first satellites to leave our solar system, being TRW's Chief Engineer and Architect of an industrialized housing business, and being in charge of our TRW solar thermal energy programs.
In the 15 years that I have been retired from TRW, I have continued to work full-time at TRW in a number of new areas, such as the Launch Facilities for Air Force satellites, several nuclear, biological and chemical reconnaissance vehicles and others.
The past eighteen years with the 1903 Wright Flyer has been an exhilarating and fun task, working with many interesting people and seeing our goals approaching completion.