Air Force Plant No. 6
The area's largest aircraft manufacturing facility, Air Force Plant No. 6 in Marietta, was constructed in 1942-43 for the Bell Aircraft Corporation (also known as Bell Bomber) of Buffalo, New York. In this mammoth, 4.2 million-square-foot facility, Bell's Georgia division built and delivered to the U.S. War Department some 663 Boeing-designed B-29 long-range bombers. After the war, the military canceled the B-29 contract, and Bell closed its operations in Georgia.
For the next five years the government used the huge B-1 assembly building merely to store surplus machine tools. However, the outbreak of the Korean conflict in 1950 created a new need for warplanes. In 1951 the Lockheed Corporation of Burbank, California, formally announced that it would reopen the plant. Unlike Bell, Lockheed stayed permanently in Marietta. By 1969 the workforce reached an all-time peak of 32,945 employees, and Lockheed had become the catalyst in the growth of modern Cobb County and the north Atlanta suburbs.
Lockheed and the C-130
The first general manager of the Georgia division, James V. Carmichael, was chosen for his experience in running the old Bell Bomber operation and for his ties to the Atlanta and Cobb County business communities. While Carmichael would remain on the Lockheed board until his death in 1972, he soon turned over the operation to his assistant manager and successor, Daniel J. Haughton, an Alabama native who had risen into the top management of the corporation in Burbank. Haughton ran the Marietta plant from 1952 to 1956 and presided over the development of the C-130 Hercules, a modern transport plane that guaranteed the company's continued presence in Georgia.
A remarkably serviceable aircraft, the C-130 is still being built as of 2006, more than fifty years after the air force awarded Lockheed a contract to build the first two prototypes in 1951. The Pentagon wanted a medium-weight transport plane that could carry troops and equipment to the front and then take off again from short, dirt runways, even with the loss of an engine. The C-130 was initially engineered in California, but Dan Haughton lobbied Gross and the Lockheed board to assemble the plane in Marietta. In September 1952 the company agreed. Within a year the corporation moved project engineer Al Brown and his professional staff to Marietta. Thus, the production design work on the aircraft was completed in Georgia.
The C-141 and the Desegregation of Lockheed-Georgia
With the C-130 contract the Marietta facility was no longer merely a branch assembly plant, building planes designed elsewhere. The South now had its own complete manufacturer. Lockheed's next transport plane, the C-141 Starlifter, was entirely designed and built in Georgia. In 1961 the administration of U.S. president John F. Kennedy announced an initial billion-dollar contract for 132 Starlifters, planes roughly twice the size of the C-130s.
In recognition of the plant's growing importance, the corporate executives in Burbank reorganized the Georgia division as the Lockheed-Georgia Company. As the Marietta plant hired more and more engineers, the composition of the labor force changed dramatically. In the 1940s Bell's Georgia branch had twenty-seven hourly workers for every one salaried employee. By the 1960s the ratio at Lockheed-Georgia dropped to 2.7 to 1.
The C-141 project was also significant for its role in desegregating one of the South's largest
The C-5, Controversies, and Financial Difficulties
Before Lockheed could recover from this debacle, it experienced another crisis in 1971 that almost drove it into receivership. The corporation had invested a considerable amount of money in its California-built passenger plane, the L-1011 Tri-Star, but the profit margin was always razor thin. Then its engine manufacturer, Rolls-Royce, filed for bankruptcy. Dan Haughton, by now the chairman of the corporate board, flew to England to help save the venerable British company. The English government agreed to take over ownership of Rolls-Royce, but only if Lockheed guaranteed the continued purchase of its engines. To keep the L-1011 program alive, Lockheed needed a sizable loan, which banks were reluctant to provide. Fortunately, Congress agreed that Lockheed was too vital to national interests to go under. In August 1971 U.S. president Richard Nixon signed into law the Emergency Loan Guarantee Act, providing assurance to private bankers that the United States would pay back the loan if Lockheed could not. In the end, everyone benefited. Lockheed received the loan it needed to buy Rolls-Royce engines and stay afloat. The British government assumed ownership of Rolls-Royce, which continued to play a major role in the aircraft industry. Lockheed retired its debts and eventually paid the American government a $31 million fee for insuring the loan. The deal cost taxpayers nothing and actually proved to be a moneymaker for the American people.
Recovery and Merger into Lockheed Martin
Although Lockheed-Georgia survived these crises, its workforce would never be as large again. From almost 33,000 in 1969, it dropped to 8,400 by the end of 1977. Through these challenging years, the Pentagon's continued purchases of C-130s provided a measure of stability. During the presidency of Robert B. Ormsby (1975-84) the company also received two important contracts for upgrades of its other transport planes. In 1978 the air force asked the Marietta plant to "stretch" the entire fleet of C-141s by some twenty-three feet and to add an aerial refueling system. Four years later Lockheed-Georgia won a contract to build fifty slightly larger, more powerful C-5Bs. By 1989, when the last of these Galaxies was delivered to the air force, the company was clearly back on its feet.
The end of the cold war presented Lockheed with a new set of challenges. In the early 1990s U.S.
Shortly afterward, Tellep initiated negotiations with Martin Marietta, another venerable company that traced its roots back to aviation pioneer Glenn Martin. By the 1990s Lockheed, America's second-largest defense contractor, and Martin Marietta, the nation's third-largest, were similar in size. Unlike Lockheed, however, Martin Marietta had abandoned aircraft manufacturing, choosing instead to focus on aerospace engineering and missile technology. In March 1995 stockholders of the two companies approved a $10 billion merger, creating the Lockheed Martin Corporation, with headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. The Georgia operation was renamed Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems Company (LMASC).
In 2000 Lee E. Rhyant, a Georgia native and the first African American to head the Marietta plant, became the general manager of LMASC. In the early twenty-first century the facility was able to stay in business through Pentagon contracts for C-130Js and F-22 fighter planes. It also had a contract to modernize all 111 of the air force's C-5 fleet. In 2005 the workforce stood at 7,800, and on May 16, 2006, the company held a ceremony in Marietta to display the first of the C-5M Super Galaxies. Under the leadership of retired Lockheed president Bob Ormsby, local leaders established in 2003 the Aviation Museum and Discovery Center at Marietta, which is scheduled to open in 2010.
Walter J. Boyne, Beyond the Horizons: The Lockheed Story (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 1998).
Richard S. Combes, "Aircraft Manufacturing in Georgia: A Case Study of Federal Industrial Investment," in The Second Wave: Southern Industrialization from the 1940s to the 1970s, ed. Philip Scranton (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001).
Joseph Earl Dabney, Herk: Hero of the Skies, 3d ed. (Fairview, N.C.: Bright Mountain Books, 2003).
Jeffrey L. Holland, Under One Roof: The Story of Air Force Plant 6 (Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio: Aeronautical Systems Center, Acquisition Environmental, Safety, & Health Division, 2006).
Thomas Allan Scott, Cobb County, Georgia, and the Origins of the Suburban South: A Twentieth-Century History (Marietta, Ga.: Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, 2003).
Thomas A. Scott, Kennesaw State University
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