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a photo of Chuck Thomas

Meet Chuck Thomas


Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Youth
During 1918 young Charles Thomas (Later know usually as Chuck) hung pictures of Allied and German WW I aircraft on the walls of the San Diego basement room where he played. In the same room, he made his first attempt at building a model airplane!

While in school in Pasadena, Thomas built and successfully flew a number of rubber band powered planes and was a charter member of the Pasadena High School Glider Club whose first project was a training glider. (He graduated before it was finished)

Career
After 4 years at Caltech studying basic sciences and humanities and specializing in aeronautics (including research on thin sheet metal structures), he worked during the summer of 1934 as a mechanic at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica. It was here that he developed an appreciation of the fact that design engineers would benefit greatly by having to attempt to build the product of their ideas!

With a BS in Aeronautics from Caltech in 1935 and membership in the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, he joined the Engineering Department at Lockheed Aircraft ­ and on that day, doubling the size of the Stress Analysis Department! In late 1935, he traded stress analysis on a small airplane for flying lessons in an OX-5 powered Waco at Monrovia Airport, and on July 16, 1937, soloed in a Fleet biplane at Mines Field (Now LAX)!

Lockheed positions included working in Amsterdam to obtain Dutch approval of the Model 14 aircraft, project engineer on a new transport, serving nearly one year as engineer in Lockheed's European office, opening a Dayton office to give Lockheed a presence at the Army Air Materiel Command, serving for 2 years as Assistant Contract Officer during the war, then heading Sales Engineering, and from 1948 to November 1960 serving as Director of Military Sales for the Corporation.

Aircraft with which Thomas was involved in engineering or sales included Amelia Earhart's Electra for her 1937 around-the-world attempt, the XC-35 first successful pressurized air transport, the P-38, F-80 and F-104 fighters, the Constellation as transport and Airborne Early Warning planes, the C-130, initiated in 1948 and still being built in quantity production.

Leaving Lockheed in 1960, Thomas worked 3 years at RCA as Marketing Manager for Major Systems and head of Overseas sales of Military products.

In February 1964, he joined Raytheon and during 19 years acted as Manager of Military Sales, Sales Manager of Space and Information Systems Division and Manager of the Western Regional Office in Los Angeles. He is retired from Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon.

In January 1984 Bud Chamberlain introduced Chuck to Howard Marx who talked about the AIAA Wright Flyer project. As a long time Associate Fellow of AIAA with great interest in aircraft, Chuck filled out the info sheet and joined the Project. What did he work on?

  • Built/repaired wing ribs

  • Made fittings for canard

  • Analyzed and repaired wing spar

  • Prepared parts and tools database

  • Photographed lots of stuff

  • Static test section captain

 

 
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