Albert Masetti & Associates,  Consulting Engineers


August 1995


  • Engineering Tips of the Month
  • Calender Pad: Giant Air Show
  • Free Offer
  • Book Review: Skunk Works
  • Reader Feedback: The Ozone Hole


Nine all-aluminum bridges were built in North America between 1946 and 1963. All have performed well and are still in service. Five are in New York State. The first aluminum bridge deck was installed on the Smithfield Bridge in Pittsburgh in 1930; after 38 years it was replaced by a new aluminum orthotropic bridge deck that is still in service. Although first costs for aluminum bridges are higher than for steel or concrete, there are virtually no maintenance costs and they last "forever". Replacing a bearing is easy because of the light weight of the structure.


To avoid future lawsuits, perform a formal due-diligence review of new CFC-free refrigerants. The real-life impact of the ozone hole scare will manifest in refrigerants with flammable components and ingredients that may be "environmentally acceptable" but poisonous to humans and corrosive to components.


Giant Air show: August 12-13; McGuire AFB; 10 am; 609-724-2273


Send for a free copy of "Five Proofs of the Natural Causes of the Ozone Hole".


Is there such a thing as an exciting real-life book? If you are excited by things like the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 Stealth Fighter and the U-2, you will be excited by "Skunk Works" by Ben Rich, 1994 (Little, Brown & Co). Library catalog number 565.R53

Rich not only worked on all of them (he was the Project Manager for the F-117), but also headed the Lockheed Advanced Development Company for 15 years - direct successor to the legendary Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. His book published in 1994, Rich died on January 5, 1995.

The real story of the Skunk Works is fascinating and is alone worth the price of the book. But as a bonus, you get the management approach of what makes the Skunk Works work.

Skunk Works is more than one of those "guy thing" aviation war thrillers. It does have black projects, political intrigue, moles, strategic deception, a spy flight over a Soviet nuclear weapons test, and lots of airplanes. [No sex.]

ItŐs also the description of an approach to project management. A "how-to" book ... how to develop a project in 1/3 the time anyone else can do it, with comparable savings in cost, while at the same time pushing into new technology.

Yes, you too (no pun intended) can cut project costs by 50% or more. The management "secrets" are revealed for all to copy. But be warned: the techniques result in an unusually stimulating, creative, and fertile environment.

Most Skunks Works competitors could not deal with it, could not let go and were unable to benefit. [The book includes case studies, the good and the bad.] [By the way, if you get REALLY interested, you can get an interlibrary loan of the 1985 autobiography: "Kelly: More Than My Share of it All", Smithsonian Institution Press, which includes many more examples.]

YOU can adapt the rules to your own non-military, non-aviation, situation with spectacular results. The Skunk WorksŐ inventions include:

P-80, first successful jet fighter, 143 days, 1945;
U-2, reconnaissance plane, 8 months, 1955;
SR-71, Mach 3, all-titanium, 30 months, 1964;
(all of the above were done with slide rules!)
F-117, stealth technology, 20 months, 1979

[They also built the C-130 (which is still in production after 40 years - circa 1955) and the F-104]

As Ben Rich wrote: "We lived and died by fourteen basic operating rules that Kelly had written forty years earlier ... They had worked for him and they worked for me:

1.) The Skunk Works program manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should have the authority to make quick decisions regarding technical, financial, or operational matters.

2.) Strong but SMALL project offices must be provided both by the military and the industry.

3.) The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people.

4.) Very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided in order to make schedule recovery in the face of failures.

5.) There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.

6.) There must be monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed, but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. DonŐt have the books ninety days late and donŐt surprise the customer with sudden overruns.

7.) The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontracts on the project. Commercial bid procedures are often better than military ones.

8.) The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and the Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push basic inspection responsibility back to the subcontractors and vendors. DonŐt duplicate so much inspection.

9.) The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages.

10.) The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to in advance of contracting.

11.) Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesnŐt have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.

12.) There must be absolute trust between the military project organization and the contractor with very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum.

13.) Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled.

14.) Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other ways, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised."

If you want to read another real-life thriller in which the good guys win and describing the geo-political stage for Skunk Works, try "Victory" by Peter Schweizer, 1994, Atlantic Monthly Press, library catalog 327.973.


The last issue of the newsletter was met with great animation by readers: mostly hostile. Some said I was challenging their BELIEFS.

But within the limited physical confines of the world of engineering and science (excluding the spiritual "inner self", the meta-physical, the philosophical, the transcendental [God], there REALLY is objective reality. Engineering and science have an ethical obligation to be concerned and accurate with those physical things that are different from "beliefs".

The specific impetus for this column occurred when on December 19, 1994, NASA held a widely reported press conference at which they announced unequivocally that "hydrogen fluoride has no natural sources; it is not produced by volcanic eruptions or salt spray." NASA stated that they had discovered hydrogen fluoride at high altitudes and that this was the final piece of evidence proving that the ozone hole was man-made and not the creature of any natural phenomenon.

Data and information that contradict NASA abound. For example, a 1988 paper states: "In gases from most volcanoes HCl and HF are the overwhelming dominant species of Cl and F. ... Thus volcanoes should be regarded as a significant natural [emphasis added] source of tropospheric and stratospheric HF." (R.B. Symonds, W.I. Rose & M.H. Reed, "Contribution of Cl- and F-bearing gases to the atmosphere by volcanoes", Nature, Vol 334 4 August 1988, pp 415-418.] The paper provides measurements of hydrofluoric acid from nine volcanoes. [In addition, Dr. Gordon W. Gribble has identified over 2,000 naturally occurring organohalogens. More about Dr. GribbleŐs work in a later issue.]

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