Meet: Jack Cherne
Chairman, Wright Flyer Project, Los Angeles Chapter of the American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
I graduated from the Academy of Aeronautics
with a specialty in Aircraft Design and Construction in 1942. Since the
war was on, finding a job was no problem, and I chose the Glenn L. Martin
Company in Baltimore, Maryland. I quickly rose in responsibility and was
assigned to help in the design of the Mars Flying Boat and the Northrop
XB35 flying wing at the Otis Elevator Company in New York. Engineering
was subcontracted to Otis because they had civil engineers who could be
trained to do aircraft design under close supervision.
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
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.