John A. Erickson

  Garrison Keillor, the well know Lake Woebegone story teller, generally, and correctly portrays his Scandinavian characters as being genetically predisposed toward a somewhat self-effacing manner of expression. Since my genes are fully traceable to Swedish origins, it suggests that I should be naturally quite reluctant in relating any of my “Life After Lowry” story. However, upon receiving a bit of encouragement, and in turn wanting to encourage more of the former and current Lowry residents to share some of their story as several others have done, I decided to submit some  highlights of my life after Lowry, and something of life while still in Lowry. Actually, a goodly part of these highlights come from material put together several years ago for the benefit of my children and grandchildren, and now edited for the Lowry web site.

Public School Years

Our family left the farm and moved into Lowry in 1935 (see Erickson Family History), this being the year of my 1st grade in school. I had started 1st grade in Rural School District 76, a one room school about five miles west of Lowry, attending District 76 for six to eight weeks before moving on to District 30 in Lowry. I recall my first day of school in Lowry. My parents had, no doubt, brought me to school and I was then to walk home for lunch. It was a wintry day and our home was a house located at the present Aurora Ave. apartments (We called it the Rosengren house, the then owners). In any case I got lost walking the alleys from school to the house. Fortunately, Lloyd Bjorklund came along and rescued me; we were thereafter best friends until Lloyd moved away while in the 8th grade. Our grade started out with a goodly number, reaching at least eight kids; however, by the time of 8th grade graduation the class membership was down to three: Johnnie Bosek, Johnny Erickson and Frankie Shermak (Our 1st grade teacher Margit Anderson decided who was Johnnie and who was Johnny); the others had moved away. Only Johnny went on to High School; Johnnie and Frankie went on to farming on their family farms.

Grade school was largely uneventful. However, with the war coming on we saw a change in the school principal. The 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teacher had always been the principal of the school, and was always a man. Now for our 8th grade, Carl Nelson, who had been the principal was drafted, and he was replaced by Miss Woodbury. I did not particularly enjoy school, enjoying it less with each passing year, much preferring the time on Saturdays or any vacation period out at my aunt Elizabeth’s farm, which she operated with her sons Harold and Cornell Erickson.

While I was in the 5th grade (1940) we moved into the house at 336 Drury (we called it the Hoplin house, they were the owners). Initially we rented the house, but somewhat later Ole Hoplin, the owner, came by and offered to sell the house to my parents. Our parents were without spare cash and Ole Hoplin, no doubt aware of this, kindly offered to loan them the money for a down payment so that a bank loan could be obtained. This turned out to be the family home for the next 38 years.

At two earlier houses, the Rosengren house and the house at 413 Aurora Ave (we called it the Magnuson house, the owners), our family had kept a cow as the source of our milk. At the Hoplin property, there was a large outbuilding, part of which had been and could be used as a barn, and part of which could be used as a chicken coop. It was here that brothers John, Ted, and Daniel became chicken farmers, long before the era of big chicken farms. For several years, during the war, we raised chickens. We bought baby chicks (the big Plymouth Rock variety), successfully keeping them warm as chicks with a combination of a kerosene stove and electric light bulbs used as heaters. As they grew larger, they were kept in a fenced enclosure, and when big enough to eat, the roosters were butchered for our Sunday dinner. The hens were kept over winter, collecting, and selling the surplus eggs. I believe we had about 25 hens and would get 20 or more eggs per day, and thus sold most of them.            

The gradual transition to a Life After Lowry started with  high school. Having graduated from Lowry Public School in the spring of 1943 it was time to spend school days at Glenwood High School starting in the fall. Being the only one graduating in my 8th grade class who intended to go on to high school, I’m sure that I would have been perfectly happy to work on a family farm as the other two Lowry graduates were planning to do, had we had a family farm. Of course, that was an impractical fantasy. Lowry had a 1934 Studebaker bus that left the Lowry school at 8:15 each morning for Glenwood and returned about 4:30 each afternoon. There were three other farm kids who had rooms and stayed in Lowry during the week (at least during the winter months) to be able to catch the bus. They were: David Quitney, Dorothy Molander, and Esther Overgard, who had completed 8th grade in one room schools west of Lowry.

Taking all of the math and science courses that were available as electives, i.e., Advanced Algebra, Trigonometry, Solid Geometry, Chemistry, and Physics, in addition to the normal English, History etc., the classwork seemed to be quite easy and I had no particular problem with any of the classes. Practical courses included shop and typing, typing having been particularly useful.  Not finding the courses to be too difficult, being  on the honor roll was always within reach, getting all my work done in ”home room”. I certainly could have worked much harder in high school. Even so, my education at GHS was good, particularly in the math and science area; I was well ahead of most others in these areas when starting to take college courses.     

It was my good fortune to have jobs while growing up in Lowry - starting as a youngster of 9-10 and on through high school and early college years. My aunt Lizzie, together with my cousins Harold and Cornell were active and growing farmers in the Lowry area, and I got plenty of opportunities to work on their farms. Also, Hoplin & Nelson Hardware was located in Lowry, and they were major electrical, plumbing, and heating contractors in the area. When I was fifteen I was offered a job to work as a helper with the electrical crew. This was the time when rural electrification was being introduced into the farming areas, and there was a lot of work involved in the electrical wiring of the farm houses and barns. 

Farm Work

Early farm jobs took place during the summer haying, grain harvest, and threshing seasons. During the haying season the job evolved from driving the horses, to catching the hay from the loader, to spreading the hay in the loft. This was a very dirty job, with dried leaves and hay in your face and down your neck.            

The harvesting operation involved cutting the grain and tying it  into bundles, using a tractor pulled grain binder; combines were not yet used in our area.  This was generally a two person operation. When I was eleven, I had the chance of being the tractor operator for the harvest; the binder was operated by Harold, this requiring more continuous observation and adjustment. This was, of course, a very enjoyable job. After two years, I was assigned at times to operate the binder and my brother Ted was assigned to operate the tractor. This was not quite as much fun, since the binder is a fairly complicated piece of machinery, and there were frequent problems and malfunctions that had to be cleared and corrected, such as getting plugged up with grain and failure to tie bundles properly.            

An early job during the threshing season involved leveling out the grain in the grain wagon  to make sure it did not spill over at any point. This was a fairly easy job. Related to this was the job of helping to shovel the grain out of the wagon - through the end gate - and into the grain elevator, and on into the granary. As I got older, my  assignments became much heavier and more demanding. A next step was  shocking of the bundles; this was a heavy manual process, and was done to enhance the drying of the grain. The next step was bringing the bundles from the field to the threshing machine where the grain was separated from the straw. Generally, the bundles were loaded (pitched) into a bundle wagon, pulled by a team of horses. Typically, it required 3-4 bundle wagons to keep the threshing machine operating continuously. For several years I had the assignment of operating one of the bundle wagons with its team of horses. This was heavy and fast  paced work, consuming all of the energy of the big thresher crew meals.

The farm operation required rather frequent trips to town - Lowry or Farwell - to get machinery repair parts, to grind feed, to bring grain to the elevator, and to  pick up other supplies. One day when I was eleven, having had Harold’s ‘37 Ford out in the hay field, I drove the car back to the farm yard with Harold in the passenger seat. Based on that, Harold felt that I could drive well enough to be driving to town. Thereafter, I was sent on many of the trips to Lowry or Farwell to carry out the above type errands. Those were days when there was not much attention paid to driver’s licenses; there was probably no concern about auto insurance.            

Other enjoyable tractor operating activities included cultivating corn as well as plowing the fields after the harvest. I also had my tasks as part of the morning and evening chores, including feeding pigs and chickens - and chores had to be done before and after the other work of the day. The earlier years were before aunt Lizzie and Harold had a milking machine, and I was assigned to participate in the milking operation, being assigned three cows to be milked by hand. With the arrival of a milking machine the job was of a somewhat different nature.

The yearly summer months and school year Saturdays, when working on the farm, were very enjoyable for me. This went on through the 10th grade. The work was long and hard; work days generally were from 6 AM to 9 PM. Nonetheless, it was exciting to be driving the tractors, operating machinery, and working with the animals. There was excellent camaraderie with my cousins; in addition to working together, occasionally there would be the chance to go on a quick hunting or trapping stop to a field or a slough on the farm

Hoplin & Nelson Hardware

When school let out for the summer vacation after the 10th grade, I was offered a job as an electrician’s helper by Ole Hoplin, one of the owners of Hoplin & Nelson Hardware. A contributing factor may have been that my mother was doing secretarial work for Ole Hoplin at the time, preparing the forms that the government required for each farmer to get his farm wired for electricity. Also, Ole knew our family, my parents having bought their house from Ole Hoplin a number of years earlier.            

The REA (Rural Electrification Administration) would bring electrical power lines to the farmstead, terminating them at a yard pole somewhere in the center of the farm yard. It was then the job of the Hoplin & Nelson electrical wiring crew to run power lines from this pole to the various farm buildings, terminating the lines at the respective buildings. At each building the entrance cable would be run into the building switch box, and the building wired to accommodate the various power receptacles, switches, outlets, and  lights and fixtures installed. Each farmstead project would take from 3 to 5 days depending on the size, and number of buildings,  and size of the work crew.  

There were generally three, and sometimes four, people in the work crew. Clarence “Erick” Erickson was the journeyman electrician; he knew all of the code requirements and was the experienced electrician on the crew. In addition, Clarence Anderson, a retired farmer from Lowry was a helper, and I was also a helper. Occasionally, Hank Grondahl, another journeyman, was a part of the crew. Ole Hoplin was a master electrician and was the person responsible for all the work, the government requiring that a master electrician be responsible. Ole, however, never felt it necessary to show up on most jobs; he trusted his crew to do the right thing.

I worked for Hoplin & Nelson for four summers, together with Saturdays while school was in session, and on school holiday vacations during these four years. The work week was generally ten hours per day, six days per week. My assigned tasks gradually increased to cover most of the job tasks: cutting holes in walls and ceilings for receptacles, switches and lights; removing and restoring second story flooring in the process of drilling holes in joists for concealed wires; stringing wires in ceilings and walls; connecting up receptacles etc.; plaster patching around the outlets; making hookups at switch boxes; stringing outside wires between the center pole and the buildings; and installing the entry cables into the buildings. It was usually my job to do any required work in the hot attic or upstairs crawl space, a very hot location during the summer months. When working during the winter vacation, it was also seemingly my job to make the outside installations; an extension ladder against a wall can just accentuate the subzero temperature.

Hoplin’s good reputation in the area was enhanced in that they had a second Hoplin & Nelson Hardware store in Brandon, about 20 miles north of Lowry. The farm projects worked by Ole Hoplin thus covered quite a wide area - from south of Starbuck to well north of Brandon, and from Elbow Lake on the west to Villard on the east - an area with 40-50 miles on a side. In addition to farm projects, Hoplin also did some commercial work. I recall being involved in the electrical work for a new movie theater in Elbow Lake and for a new grain elevator in Kensington. The code requirements for such installations was much more demanding than for the farm installations. All wires had to be installed in metal conduits, some had to be explosion proof etc. In the theater, again I drew the duty in the workspace above the theater ceiling. Spending most of one day in the sweltering heat of this area, my belt and billfold had both essentially been ruined by the salty perspiration

Hoplin & Nelson was also involved with plumbing and heating work, although not to the extent of their electrical work. Ole Hoplin himself, and his son Glenn were the principals involved with this work. This work was usually done in connection with a new home or a major remodeling of a home, with the territory covering the same as their electrical projects. In any case, I frequently had the chance to work with Glenn or Ole in such installations. This would involve cutting and threading pipes, sweating copper joints, packing and pouring lead into sewer pipe installations, running ductwork for furnace installations etc.            

Ole Hoplin was “Mr. Outside” in this business but Dave Nelson was “Mr. Inside”. Dave not only ran the store, but handled all of the billing, paying, and other finance matters. At the start of my employment with Hoplin & Nelson, Dave told me that my pay would be $0.45 per hour. After working for some period -1 or more seasons - I recall asking Dave for a raise. After a few days, he came back to tell me that I would be raised to $0.70 per hour. The last season at Hoplin & Nelson, I believe the pay was $1.25 per hour.          

Working  for Hoplin & Nelson was a great opportunity and a wonderful experience. Not only did it provide money that could be saved toward college expenses, it was a great practical learning experience for several of the building trades. It was, no doubt, a big motivating factor in my choosing - or falling into - electrical engineering as a college and career choice.


In the Senior year of high school, there was the question of what to do next. Although not enjoying High School when entering the 9th grade, I got to enjoy it more and more, and was certainly enjoying it a lot by the Senior year. My natural inclination was to go on to college, and we probably took some college aptitude, or equivalent, tests. Since I had been working vacations, holidays and Saturdays as an Electrician’s helper, and since math and science subjects seemed quite easy for me, I seemed to fall into the choice of Electrical Engineering as a major to pursue in college. At this time there were four Lowryites who were currently attending North Dakota State School of Science (NDSSS) at Wahpeton, ND. These Lowryites, Hartford Holden, Paul Hoplin, Roy Robieson, and DeWayne Johnson, were a few years older than I was, and had been in the Navy as part of the WW II effort. In any case, they convinced me to look into NDSSS as having a good pre-Electrical Engineering curriculum. Actually, NDSSS was three schools; a trade school, a business school, and a junior college, with the pre-Engineering being part of the junior college. There was a total of about 750 full time students at the time.

So, one day in early summer, I was able to use my parent’s panel truck  to drive up to Wahpeton to explore the curriculum, explore part time job opportunities, and talk to the registrar. One of my GHS classmates from Lowry, David Quitney, and I went together, and as it turned out he also later registered at NDSSS, and eventually graduated in Dentistry from the Univ. of Minnesota. In any case, we were impressed with the school and opportunities, Dave being also interested in the opportunity to play  football. We did register and were accepted.

When the time came for the school session to start in the fall, there were four students from Lowry who drove up together using Ole Hoplin’s pickup truck. Paul Hoplin and Roy Robieson were second year students and rode in the cab of the pickup. Dave Quitney and I, together with suitcases and trunks, rode in the back of the pickup on this, a beautiful sunny September day. This was one of the few times that I relied on a planned ride to or from college. In those days hitchhiking was not considered a risky option, either for the rider or the vehicle owner, and I almost always hitchhiked back and forth between Lowry and Wahpeton on the weekends when going home. There  generally was very little wait time in picking up rides, and two or three rides generally got me either home or back to school. The same practice of hitchhiking and ease of getting rides continued when later going to school in Fargo.

During the first year at NDSSS, the six Lowryites lived in the second floor of a private home, sharing three rooms and a bath. This house was 6-8 blocks from school and was a pleasant walk, except for the long winter months, when the snow and winds blew across the North Dakota prairie. During the second year three Lowryites (Dave Quitney, first year student John Weaver and I) shared a room in an on-campus dormitory. We ate in the on-campus dining room-three meals a day, seven days a week- and ate well.

The majority of the students during this time period were veterans attending school on the GI Bill, and as such the vast majority of the student body consisted of males. The GI Bill paid for tuition, books, etc., plus an adequate living allowance; thus, very few of these students had part time jobs during the school year. Those of us who didn’t have this source of support were given priority in part time work opportunities at the school. I was fortunate the first year to be assigned a job as a library assistant,  shelving and stacking books, filing magazines, etc. I don’t recall the hourly rate, but was authorized to earn $15-$20 per month. The second year I was even more fortunate, getting an assignment as the dining room “cashier-record keeper”. This required being on duty three meals a day, seven days a week. The earnings here were substantially more due to the added hours; it may have been in the order of $60 per month. Another source of income was found in joining the National Guard. Here we drilled in the Armory one or two evenings a week, and may have earned in the order of $5 per week for this duty. I was thus a member of the North Dakota National Guard in Wahpeton for two years, but was able to resign when moving to Fargo to attend North Dakota State University. This was a very fortunate resignation in that during my time in Fargo, the Guard unit was called up to go to Korea to serve in the Korean War. The part time earnings were not high, but NDSSS was also not a high cost school. Nonresident tuition was $22 per quarter for a full class load; room and board was perhaps less than $75 per month; books at that time were not expensive. So together with prior savings, there was no real financial problem.

The class load was quite full, including the normal first two years of a college Engineering curriculum. There were also some specific Electrical courses, which were probably identical to those taken by vocational students. These had to do with circuits and electric motor repair. Again, I did not find the courses particularly difficult and got top grades throughout this time. The first two years were fully transferable  to North Dakota State University (NDSU) at Fargo. Incidentally NDSU was called North Dakota Agricultural College (NDAC) at this time. The school tended to be a small friendly community, made up of a lot of rural and smaller town students, and I thoroughly enjoyed living and going to school in Wahpeton. 

Together with six others from NDSSS, I enrolled in the Electrical Engineering program at NDSU for my Junior and Senior year. Although the courses from Wahpeton were accepted for transfer, I soon found out that some of the course work was really not up to senior college level. As a result, I initially had considerable difficulty with an electrical circuits course, as did all of the transfer students. Fortunately, the acting head of the EE Department, Prof. Bob Faiman, was very willing to help us and spent several hours tutoring a number of us, helping us to catch up. This was extremely valuable help, and after that I managed to get top grades at NDSU. The work pace at Engineering School was much more intense than anything I had previously experienced. It’s been said that one of the most important things you learn in Engineering School is to work hard. And that was my experience, as work seemed to go  from 8:00 AM until midnight  every day. The drop out rate was well above 50%; out of seven EE transfers to NDSU from NDSSS, only three graduated. And the overall drop out rate in the EE Junior year was at least this high.

In the transfer to Fargo, I lived with two, or sometimes three, other transfer students from Wahpeton. We lived in the finished basement area of a residence, which  was about 12-14 blocks from our class building. The rent may have been $12.50 per month, and with limited financial resources we did our own cooking. This was a pleasant walk to classes during the early fall and spring season. However, it was a cold and windy walk across a flat North Dakota area during the winter months. The temperature during every January morning of the senior year was -30 deg. F or colder. The average overall temperature for the month was -13 deg. F. We got plenty of exercise with the morning, lunch and afternoon walks.

The College of Engineering at NDSU at the time had roughly 500 students. The number in the Electrical Engineering class of 1951 included approximately 30 graduates. This was a close knit community of full time students and faculty. The faculty was  a hardworking and dedicated group - most of them young and having served in the war. There were four Andersons that were included in my group of faculty members: Ed and Ernie Anderson in the EE Department, and two Andersons (C.O. and A.W.) in the Mechanical Engineering Department, teaching some of the required ME courses. Again, it was not an expensive school; nonresident tuition at the time was $33 per quarter. I was able to graduate on schedule in June of 1951, getting the BSEE, owing no money, and even having a little residual. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying college experience, and I was very fortunate to have been part of this program. It served me very well in my subsequent working career. Roy Robieson has mentioned that he is the first person from Lowry to have obtained an Engineering Degree; I must then be the second, and the first to obtain a Degree in Electrical Engineering. My brother Ted would be the third Engineering degree and the first Mechanical Engineering Degree.

Following graduation from NDAC I wanted to pursue a Masters degree, and was fortunate in having received some scholarship help that enabled acceptance at the University of Minnesota,  The plan was to use  this scholarship to pursue a masters degree at the University of Minnesota, starting in the fall of 1951. But wanting to earn some money, I got a job for the summer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in their Bismarck, ND office. This was my first engineering job, and was really a civil engineering job as my assignment involved doing preliminary design studies of dams, roads, and recreation areas on the Missouri River. I learned a good deal about tradeoff studies involved in the preliminary design process, specifically, if you don’t get the result the boss wants, you do it over again with different assumptions.            

Moving to Minneapolis, it was my good fortune to move into a rooming-boarding house in the U of M area. It was called Fridhem (Peaceful home) Hall, run by two wonderful Christian women. I found a number  of lifelong friends at this place and continued to live there until our wedding. While attending graduate school at the U of M for the fall quarter, I found that it was not as enjoyable as NDSU; the camaraderie was missing. The majority of the EE graduate students seemed to be employed part time students. So I decided to discontinue the life of a full time student and instead obtained employment as an  engineer with Honeywell in Minneapolis. While in the early years at Honeywell, I did complete, on a part time basis, all of the course work required for a MSEE degree, never writing a thesis and thus not getting the degree. This was supplemented by many after hours courses taken at the Honeywell plant.

Our Family

Having met Janet Soderberg sometime in late ‘51 or early ‘52 in connection with a church college and career group activity, it was at the instigation of a mutual friend that a date was set up sometime in the spring of ’52. This went well, but it was later in the summer, when I had a week’s vacation in Lowry and Janet was spending some vacation time at Alexandria’s Lake Darling with her parents, that we started spending more time together. Our courtship progressed and we were married in Minneapolis in September 1953.

Janet was a nurse, having received her training at Miller Hospital in St. Paul, and was employed as a Doctor’s office nurse, thus getting a lot of good experience. Our children, John Paul, Nancy, and Beth were born in ’55, ’57, and ’61, respectively. Janet continued working until our son John was born and was thereafter a stay-at home mother, until our children moved on, when she worked for many years as a hospital volunteer. Her medical knowledge and nursing skills kept our family healthy through the children’s growing up years and up to the present time. Thankfully, we have had no major illnesses.

Our family life had the usual kids activities and school events of that era. After our marriage we lived in two different apartments in south Minneapolis before moving out to a northern suburb, Brooklyn Center, after John  was born. We lived in two different Brooklyn Center houses, and the children had some of their public education while living in Brooklyn Center. We did spend a year in Canoga Park, California in ‘64 - ‘65 while on Honeywell assignment, so John and Nancy spent one year of schooling in that district. In 1971 Honeywell transferred their Space Systems activity (including about 150 families) to Florida to merge with their facility in the St. Petersburg - Clearwater area. We built a home in St. Petersburg, and thus our children completed their education through High School in St. Petersburg schools.

Following High School graduation, our children all went north to North Park University in Chicago to continue their education. As it turned out, John met and married a Chicago girl, Andrea Couzin, and has stayed in Chicago, living in one of the suburbs. Nancy and Beth both met Minneapolis boys while at college and ended up marrying them, Nancy marrying David Nordenson and Beth marrying Tim Holmgren; they all now live in the Minneapolis area. John owns a business that supplies products and equipment primarily to contractors and builders (Erickson Decorating Products, Inc.; http:/ with locations in Chicago and Bolingbrook, Illinois. Nancy completed training as a medical technologist and is now engaged in the researching and preparation of educational materials  for Doctors and Physicians, working with clients who conduct such training throughout the USA as well as Europe. She has an office in her home. Beth completed her training as a nurse and is employed part time as a psyche nurse at the University Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, while being a part time stay-at home mother. Andrea is a stay-at home mother in addition to being involved in John’s business. David and Tim are both in the health care and benefits field. We have six grandchildren, with each of our children giving us two (John: Christine and John Nicolas; Nancy: Erick and Alex; Beth: Elsa and Bergren); the oldest is a college freshman, the youngest is in fourth grade. Incidentally, each of our children has a soft spot in their heart for Lowry, coming from their visits as youngsters. Even our grandchildren have enjoyed their visits to Lowry.

Some time after my Honeywell career started, my readings of the Scriptures resulted in a more confident commitment to the Christian faith, and Janet having a similar commitment, we have chosen to be active participants in the churches of the various communities in which we lived. While living in Minnesota, this has been the Covenant Church (the same denomination as the Ben Wade Covenant Church in Lowry). While in Florida it has been the United Methodist Church. Janet has been active in music and in the Women’s groups, and it has been my privilege to hold many of the leadership positions in the local church, particularly while in Florida. In 1991, with our children all being married and having their own families, we decided to sell our home in St. Petersburg. We then bought a condominium in the St. Petersburg area and one in Edina, Minnesota, with the intent of using this as a holiday and vacation destination until retirement.

Honeywell Years           

The start of my Honeywell career was on December 27,1951 and closed on May 30, 1993.  Honeywell in 1951 was basically divided into two segments: 1) The Main Plant which produced controls for homes and buildings; and 2) The Aero Division which produced controls type products for military airplanes. When writing this material in 1998, Honeywell has three primary business areas: 1) Homes & Buildings, 2) Industrial Controls and, 3) Space and Aviation. The entity called “Aero” in 1951 has undergone a number of name changes, expansions, and subdivisions since then, but continues as a part of the current  “Space and Aviation Business” area. (Since the 1998 writing Honeywell has merged with Allied Signal and the business mix in now substantially different. There has, however, been no spin-off of the basic “Space and Aviation” Business).            

The nature of the business at the Aero Division was such that it typically relied on specific development and production of products tailored for a specific aircraft, but generally included some unique Honeywell elements, such as sensors and system design capability. Generally, there was a competitive proposal phase wherein Honeywell was: either competing with other subcontractors for a role on a particular aircraft development; or was teamed with a prime contractor in competition with other primes for the chance to develop and build the aircraft. The period of competition could involve a period of several months up to several years. Following an award, a contract “win”, the development and production phase then involved a multi year effort.

However, by the mid 1950s the product opportunities were expanding beyond aircraft to cover applications in missiles for defense, boosters for sending satellites into space, satellites, and manned space vehicles. And since the 1980s, the Space and Aviation business has had a major role in supplying instrumentation and controls for commercial aircraft.            

Having told something of the nature of Honeywell-Aero work and projects, I am going to discuss some of the projects and programs that it was my good fortune to be associated with over a period of almost 42 years. The assignments were varied and challenging, with increasing responsibility; moreover, they all seemed to be associated with projects that had some national significance in terms of national defense or, in the case of the space programs,  with national capability or mission. There were generally classified aspects associated with many of these projects, requiring plant security with guards at the doors. However, as of this writing this material has all been declassified.

F-100 & F-107 U.S. Air Force Fighter Aircraft

The F-100 was the first of the so called Century Series of USAF Fighters, and was the first airplane to fly at supersonic speeds. It was being developed by North American Aviation (NAA), and Honeywell had won the contract to develop the autopilot, which came to be called the MB-3 Autopilot. Honeywell developed the entire system, starting with the pilot’s control stick, the air data and other sensors, the hydraulic motors that moved the surfaces, and all of the processing electronics.            

Having spent some time testing Honeywell built gyroscopes and cockpit display devices for the F-86 Fighter, my initial assignment to the F-100 program came in 1955 when I was offered a job as a Systems Engineer in the Design Engineering Dept. by Pete Lundquist, who was the overall Systems Project Engineer. Pete was an extremely bright, hardworking, no-nonsense type who had an outstanding reputation, and was leading the biggest project at Honeywell. I considered myself very fortunate to get this assignment.

As a systems design engineer on the F-100 project, an assignment that went on for several years, I was given a number of tasks related to improving the function and performance of the system. One task concerned the stability (getting rid of damaging oscillations) of the airframe. NAA had a structural simulator in their facility that duplicated the finished airframe. With our system installed, the control surfaces were easily going into oscillation, being very unstable. Four of us, a hydraulics engineer, a circuits engineer,  another systems engineer  and me, were sent to NAA to solve the problem. After a good deal of structural measurement, we finally were able to determine the flexibility of the structure, and then to design filter circuit networks to stabilize the system. I learned a good deal about stabilization from that experience. The MB-3 Autopilot was the most comprehensive, largest selling (in the order of 2000 systems) system during my working years at Honeywell, although it clearly was not the most dollars.            

While assigned to the F-100 project, NAA was awarded a contract to design yet another, more advanced fighter airplane - the F-107,  and Honeywell was again selected to design the autopilot. A nucleus of 6-8 people were selected to go start design of this new system, and I was included in this group. We were given a small remote and isolated room, and this was to me a very exciting project. Unfortunately, the project was canceled by the Air Force after some time, and it was back to work on F-100 tasks. This was the first of  many such experiences at Honeywell, of projects being abruptly canceled and of scurrying to reassign (or lay off ) people.

Titan - Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)

Titan was the first booster to use a liquid fueled propellant, and became the real mainstay of the U.S. defensive strategy in the later 1950s, continuing thru the mid 80s. The Martin Co. with its new Denver, Colorado facility was the developer of this missile for the USAF. Honeywell was awarded the responsibility of developing the Guidance Control Unit (GCU) for the Titan. The GCU had the job of providing steering signals such that the Titan would roll, pitch, and maneuver to get to the correct location and pointing attitude at the time of engines burnout. The system contained precision floated gyroscopes, an accurate timer function, programming command relays, and associated electronics. Actually, there was an auxiliary radio tracking and  guidance function, supplied by another contractor, that could make small vernier corrections, and could command self destruction should that be necessary.            

At a small Engineering facility in West Los Angeles, California, Honeywell had done the initial design of the GCU. However, since it had many performance and reliability problems, the decision was to transfer responsibility to Minneapolis, and institute a redesign to correct all of these problems. With the transfer to Minneapolis, I was assigned to the project as a systems engineer. As a part of the redesign, there was an extensive test program, which, due to the time pressure and the urgency of the overall ICBM program, ran 24 hr. per day, seven days a week. Since Design Engineering was responsible for the project, around the clock surveillance and direction was required, and I had my share of 2nd and 3rd shift schedules. A significant share of the problems involved elusive and intermittent malfunctions that would occur, and that had to be found and corrected. In a system such as the GCU for an ICBM, the cause of intermittents must be found, fully understood, and corrected to make sure that they don’t happen again.

While on this assignment, I started going with Project Engineer John Bancroft to Denver for program reviews with Martin. I learned a good deal on this program about precision floated gyros, something about missile guidance, and also the need to understand and solve the obscure and intermittent phenomena that could lead to disaster if not resolved.            

Advanced Orbiting Solar Observatory (AOSO) -

Somewhere in the F-100-Titan sequence of programs, I was assigned to a project, using Honeywell investment funds, directed at developing new system business opportunities. Following this, there was the opportunity to work on several major proposals, including NIMBUS, the first earth resources satellite, where we were teamed with our West Los Angeles facility to develop the entire spacecraft. We did not win, losing to General Electric, but learned a good deal about space satellite issues.    

But continuing with the space programs, we teamed with Republic Aviation of Long Island, New York to develop the AOSO. The customer was NASA-Goddard, located in Greenbelt, Maryland, in  the Washington D.C. area. This program was initiated early in the Apollo time period, circa 1961. The concern was that solar flares would harm the astronauts while in orbit, and the purpose of AOSO was to make accurate measurements of solar flare activity on the solar disk, using a TV raster-scan approach, so as to predict dangerous outbursts. Honeywell had a major role on this program, and we made many trips to Long Island and Washington D.C. during the proposal phase, and subsequently, having won the contract, I was the project work director until leaving the project in early 1964, when assigned to the Blackbird program. The program was later canceled, when it was determined that the solar activity would not be as hazardous as originally thought. 


Blackbird is the name of a super secret spy plane, wherein development was started in 1956. It is a reconnaissance airplane whose purpose was to fly over enemy territory and take pictures of any suspicious military installation or changes in the installation. The airplane could fly at a speed in excess of 3000 miles per hour at an altitude of 85,000 feet (16 miles), and thus avoid shootdown by an enemy. It was developed by the Lockheed “Skunk Works” operation in Burbank, California. The ultimate customer was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Being a super secret project meant that unless one had a definite need-to-know, you were not even to be aware of the project’s existence. The secret was kept extremely well until 1964 when Lyndon Johnson was running for President, and wanting to boast of his tenure in office, he announced the plane. The plane had gone by several designations, initially the A-12, then the RS-71 (Reconnaissance  System 71); however, Lyndon got the letters transposed, and announced it as SR-71. So, thereafter it became the SR-71; it became operational in 1966.

Honeywell was given major responsibilities on this spy plane, with Minneapolis being responsible for Flight Control, and Florida being responsible for the Inertial Navigation System. The airplane was completely unstable without a properly functioning flight control system; it could abruptly yaw out of control and then crash. Flight Control had to be extremely reliable. This was accomplished by having four (4) systems operating in parallel, with comparative voting between systems such that a malfunctioning system could be voted out. Also, Honeywell had major responsibility for installation and maintenance of the equipment in the field, including support of the flight program. With the project being secret, the Honeywell team was housed in a secluded area, where one didn’t ask what was going on.

But Lyndon Johnson hadn’t told the whole story. In the early 1960s, the Skunk Works, under CIA contract, had begun development of another vehicle. This was a single engine, unmanned drone, which was mounted on top of the SR-71. Together they would fly to a given location; the drone would then be ejected and fly to penetrate further over enemy territory, taking pictures that may not be accessible with the SR-71. The vehicle designations for this mission were changed,  with the combined vehicle called the MD-21; M (Mother)-21 and D (Daughter)-21 for each of the respective vehicles. Again, Honeywell had responsibility for Flight Control and Inertial Navigation.

In early 1964, I was given the opportunity to be assigned to the MD-21 program as a Design Supervisor, located at the Skunk Works in Burbank, supervising a team of 10-12 engineers and technicians. Assignment to this project did require a security background check by the Agency, and  being granted a security clearance at the appropriate level. One of the responsibilities of this team was to complete the design of the in-flight system test function - tests to insure the readiness of the D-21 by doing in-flight tests prior to its commanded separation from the M-21. Other responsibilities included the installation and checkout of the Flight Control System in the D-21, and modification work to the M-21 mother airplane in order to accommodate the D-21 daughter.

This was a very interesting assignment, but never talked about beyond the workplace. The main SR-71 and M-21 design work was carried out at the Skunk Works main facility in Burbank. The D-21 design work was housed in a separate, unmarked, fence-surrounded building about four miles away. The flight test program was conducted at a remote site known only as, “The Area”. More recent publicity about this program has identified it as Area 61 and as the Groom Lake facility; it is located out in the desert, about 75 miles northwest of Las Vegas. A passenger airplane flew between Burbank and the Area every day; however, many of the workers stayed at the Area for the entire week. Even though Janet knew the location of the project in Burbank, she never knew the destination when going out of town, only that I would return more suntanned than usual.            

There was much pressure on the Skunk Works to get this project flying on time, and there were very difficult technical problems. The flight also was  risky. The D-21 was mounted between two vertical stabilizers on the M-21, and when the D-21 was separated there was the risk of bumping into one of the stabilizers. And, indeed, that caused the cancellation of the program. It happened well after I had left the program, but in a separation event out over the Pacific Ocean, reportedly there was such an accident, and both M-21 crew members were tragically killed. Kelly Johnson, the head of the Skunk Works operation, immediately shut down the MD-21 program as being too risky. One of the crew members had been Kelly Johnson’s son-in-law.

The SR-71 fulfilled it reconnaissance role from the early 1960s through, perhaps, the late 1980s. Gradually, its mission was being more and more supplanted by reconnaissance satellites, as being a more economical and effective way of gathering the required information. The culture within the Skunk Works operation was very different than most organizations. There was a minimum of paperwork or documentation. People were depended on to do things correctly, and the assumption was that they knew what they were doing. The technical accomplishments of the Skunk Works team, and the ability to keep this operation secret was truly amazing.    

Our family moved to the Los Angeles area in August of 1964, renting a  home in the city of Canoga Park within the San Fernando Valley. We moved back in August of 1965, when I was asked to take another assignment back in Minneapolis. Our time in California was a very enjoyable and beneficial experience.

Burner II

While still in California, Jim Olson, who had been my Section Head and still was a Section Head in Minneapolis, wanted me to come back to take over as the Project Engineer on the Burner II project. Burner II was a Boeing program, and even before leaving California there were program coordination trips to Seattle and back to Minneapolis.

Burner II was an upper stage rocket, which was mounted  on top of another large booster, and provided the final increment of thrust and velocity to send a payload into orbit. Honeywell’s role was to provide attitude measurement and control; as such we supplied a number of electronic boxes, as well as a unit which contained precision floated gyros.            

A unique aspect of this program was that it was a fixed price contract; most development programs during this era, and for years to come, were cost type contracts. This led to a financial problem, and a financial loss for Honeywell. It was largely precipitated in that the original Project Engineer did not control the design; he had allowed the design to become much more elaborate than the proposal to Boeing had stipulated. As a result, the ongoing work and spending had to be tightly controlled. Also, there were numerous briefings that had to be prepared and made to higher levels of management at Honeywell, as to the reasons for the cost overruns and steps being taken to contain it. In the end, even though Honeywell lost some money on this program, the system performed well in tests and in operation, and the customer was satisfied.


The Athena program was initiated in 1962 or 1963 by the USAF; first as a means of developing the ability to detect and track incoming missiles that the enemy might direct against the United States; and secondly as a means of  developing the reentry bodies and penetration aids that might assist the U.S. in sending missiles against our enemy, should this ever be necessary. The program involved a two stage booster, which launched an upper stage, with its reentry body, out of the atmosphere. The upper stage was then pitched over and ignited, driving the reentry body back into the atmosphere at speeds of 18,000 miles per hour, resulting in its burning up in the atmosphere. The launches took place from a site in the vicinity of Grand Junction, Colorado, and the reentry bodies were targeted at the White Sands Missile Range at White Sands, New Mexico.            

The prime contractor team that won this contract was comprised of a small handful of very smart people - formerly from the USAF and the Aerospace Corp. (technical consultant to the Air Force). The small company was later  bought out by a large Virginia based company, becoming one of their divisions and was then called, “Atlantic Research Corp.” (ARC). In any case, this organization was able to do the overall system design and system management; they relied on other companies to develop and supply all of the major system elements. Thus, there was an opportunity for Honeywell to develop and supply the complete attitude measurement and control system for this vehicle, as well as to support the launch operations. Jim Olson and I wrote the original proposal for the Honeywell system, resulting in Honeywell being awarded the contract to supply this system. However, I was not a part  of the team developing the system, since I continued to work on AOSO and then Blackbird

My assignment to the program came sometime in 1966. While at an offsite training class,  I got a call from Jim Olson, who was still my Section Head. He said that the present Program Manager was being transferred to another department, and that effective immediately, in addition to the Burner II assignment, I was assigned as the new Athena Project Engineer and Program Manager. Also, he said that there was a launch scheduled for that evening, but there was a problem in that the Honeywell factory had just found some loose screws in a rate gyro similar to that used in the Athena system. Thus, he said that I needed to get back to the plant, call the customer, introduce myself as the new Program Manager, report the problem, and recommend scrubbing the launch that evening.            

Our customer manager termed this a “Lord, let this cup pass from me” type of problem. It launched a big investigation, involving ARC, the USAF, Aerospace Corp., and Honeywell, to ensure a process that would find any loose parts in units already built, and prevent any future recurrence. The problem was solved; the program continued in a very successful manner. Later, we participated with ARC in proposing a much larger vehicle to the USAF. This time, after 4-5 years, the paperwork demands of the government had grown. Rather than our original half inch thick proposal, our total proposal was now over a foot thick, and together with ARC we were awarded this program called Athena-H (for heavy). By the time of program wrap-up there were 120 or more launches, with no flight failures attributed to Honeywell.

This was an interesting and successful assignment. We interacted with a very small cadre of excellent people at ARC, that pretty much relied on Honeywell to do their job, and thus help them keep the overall program successful. Visits to their facilities, first at Pasadena, and then at Costa Mesa were always pleasant.            


Somewhere in the circa 1967 era I was appointed Section Head of the Space Flight Systems Section, with most of the ongoing space control projects assigned to this section. This included the Burner II and Athena programs mentioned above, as well as products for other booster, and classified and unclassified satellite applications. Jim Olson was the Chief Engineer and my boss during this assignment. One program assigned to this section, a program recently awarded to Honeywell, was the P-95 program. Lockheed in Sunnyvale, California was our customer, and P-95 was the designation that they gave to this project. The program, although not our specific product, was highly classified, and at my level we were never briefed as to the exact project mission. (I don’t know to what extent Honeywell executives were cleared on the project. It was one of those black programs, where you didn’t ask questions without a definite need-to-know.) The February 1998 issue of Scientific American in an article entitled “Scientists in Black”, suggests that P-95 was no doubt part of the Keyhole(KH) series of photo reconnaissance satellites, including KH-7, KH-8, and KH-9, wherein well over 100 satellites flew in the 1970s and 80s. The mission was photo reconnaissance of targets in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Scientific American reports that the U.S. government has yet to declassify data about the high resolution satellite systems that flew during this era.

Scientific American further describes the classified nature of these satellite programs. It says that these satellites were designed and operated under the auspices of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The office was once so secret that its name or acronym could be mentioned only in documents handled through a security system above the “Top Secret” level. Not until 1992 did the Department of Defense publicly acknowledge the existence of the NRO.            

Honeywell’s role was to supply the attitude reference system that enabled the satellite to be pointing in the desired direction for the photo targets of choice. This involved a package containing precision gyroscopes and all associated electronic circuitry. The earlier  mission discussion indicates the importance of our product, and the pressure applied to get the properly performing equipment delivered on time.            

Shortly after contract award, Honeywell’s performance was not measuring up to expectation, and I was thus assigned as full time program manager on the program, responsible for the development of this product. Our initial results were then excellent, and our initial deliveries were made on schedule. However, we subsequently ran into problems with gyro failures. The gyro contained a rotating wheel element running on a gas bearing (called a gas-bearing gyro), running at 24,000 revolutions per minute with a gyro life that should be essentially infinite. The problem involved contamination in the very small bearing support area, causing the gyro wheels to fail to start.

The gyro department conducted extensive investigations, incorporating many “fixes”, none of which were completely successful. These problems caused delays in subsequent system deliveries, loss of delivery incentive awards to Honeywell and Lockheed dissatisfaction. As a result, this was one of my more frustrating assignments at Honeywell.  

As the product went into production, other program managers were assigned, and the program was transferred to Florida in 1971. With continuing gyro problems, Lockheed ultimately went to another supplier for this product.            

Application Technology Satellite (ATS)

At some point in the latter 60s, circa 1968, Honeywell teamed with Fairchild Corp. to pursue the contract for developing the ATS. The ultimate customer was NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Fairchild had moved its space operation to Germantown, Maryland. This positioned them close to GSFC, located in Greenbelt, Maryland, in the Washington D.C. area. The Honeywell engineering team pursuing this contract were then a part of the Space Flight Systems section.

The ATS concept called for a large, 30 foot diameter, deployable, umbrella shaped antenna. In the initial application the satellite was to be launched into a synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles above the equator. It would then broadcast televised educational and health care information to Americans living in isolated areas of the Rocky Mountains, Appalachia, and Alaska, where conventional TV is not available. The spacecraft would then be moved to a spot over equatorial Africa. Its large antenna was then to be tilted at an angle to focus on a ground transmitting station in India. This ground station was to beam instructional television programs in several dialects to the satellite, which would retransmit them to 5000 isolated Indian villages equipped with simple, low-cost antennas. The programming would consist of topics such as birth control, improved farming methods, and hygiene.

Honeywell’s role was that of supplying the Attitude Control Subsystem (ACS). The ACS consisted of electro-optical and inertial sensors, digital and analog computers, momentum exchange actuators, and mission software, performing the function of stabilizing and pointing the spacecraft to specified targets as required in each of its experimental and operational mission modes. Honeywell eventually supplied a total of 20 individual pieces of flight equipment, plus the flight software, with a number of the items being procured by Honeywell on a subcontract basis. This was all installed in a self contained service module, roughly 6x6x2 feet, and the entire module was tested at Honeywell before delivery to Fairchild.            

As part of the pre-proposal and proposal effort, the Fairchild-Honeywell team made numerous briefings to GSFC concerning all aspects of the proposed system. In many instances, there was rather severe criticism by GSFC of our system understanding and implementation. With the work being done by Space Flight Systems engineers, I spent a good deal of time helping to correct deficiencies and bolster our systems presentation to GSFC; the reaction jet control system,  in particular, needed much help. Eventually, perhaps in mid 1970, the Fairchild-Honeywell team was awarded the contract, defeating General Electric as the other competitor.

With the contract award having been made sometime in 1970, I was assigned as the Technical Director/Engineering Manager consistent with the transfer of all Honeywell-Minneapolis space activities to Florida in the first part of 1971. Cal Senechal had been the Proposal Manager and continued as the Program Manager. The schedule was very tight, with the ACS needing to be delivered in mid 1973. The customer surveillance over our activity was extremely intense, with our giving daily status rundowns,  daily schedule and action plans. In particular, the GSFC contingent was very demanding. GSFC was staffed by New York City Ph.D. types, and they were in our plant early and late. We recognized that they were usually correct, although their approach was not always appreciated. We all worked very hard on this project - many evenings each week, many weekends with test activities running 2 or 3 shifts.            

We did succeed; we delivered two systems on schedule. The first spacecraft was successfully launched in May 1974, and accomplished its planned operational life. The second spacecraft was held on standby and never launched

An interesting outcome of this project involved the spacecraft use after completing the planned NASA-GSFC two year operational life. After this time it was still performing as planned, and a Christian organization got approval from NASA to use the spacecraft for purposes of broadcasting a Christian message to remote areas of the world. The Christian group was headed by Dr. Jeff Weibe, a Minnesota native, then a member of St. James United Methodist Church, where we were also members. This group called the project, “Project Lookup” and continued its operation for several years, starting in 1977. 

Space Shuttle

Sometime in the 1967-68 time period, the NASA started preliminary studies of a class of launch vehicles which had the objective of greatly reducing the cost (per pound) of lifting humans and payloads into orbit. The name given to such a vehicle was Space Shuttle. In the later part of 1969 Honeywell decided to invest substantial resources in its pursuit. There were, moreover, some NASA contract funds available for the preliminary design studies.

In pursuing the opportunity, Honeywell established a teaming relationship with Rockwell International (RI). RI had formerly been North American Aviation, Honeywell’s Apollo customer. In pursuit of this opportunity, Pete Smith was named as Program Manager, and in the fall of 1969 I was assigned as Engineering Manager. Honeywell sought the largest possible role with RI, and we were chartered to work the areas of: Flight Control, Guidance, Navigation, On-board Displays, and Data Processing. There were two other major teams pursuing the program at this time; one team led by McDonnell-Douglas; and one led by Grumman.            

This phase of work - called Phase B - went on from the fall of 1969 through early 1971.  The work here was tradeoff studies and paper designs, examining alternate system and equipment configurations in terms of performance,  reliability, availability, power, weight, and cost. There were numerous study reports to be prepared and submitted each month. There were also many briefings and presentations that were given to RI and to NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. At times, in order to save travel costs, I found myself briefing several of the subject areas (It required a good deal of learning details in order to avoid stumbling).

In July 1972, NASA announced its selection of RI as the prime contractor for Phase C/D - the development and operational phase of Space Shuttle. There was then a period of time, when NASA and RI “split up the pie”, allocating pieces of work to various subcontractors that had been on the loosing teams. In this process, Honeywell’s role was reduced to the flight control system, thus loosing some of the systems we had worked on during Phase B. However, as it turned out, flight control itself turned out to be a very big program for Honeywell. Finally, Honeywell was awarded a Phase C contract in mid 1973.

Our role involved establishing the requirements for the flight control elements, then doing the design and build of these elements. This included the electronics boxes that control the engines hydraulic motors, thereby controlling the thrust direction of the big engines. It included the electronic boxes that drive the jets, thereby controlling the Shuttle attitude while in orbit. It included three different Hand controller types, enabling the crew to steer the Shuttle while still in the atmosphere, while in orbit, and to control the speed brakes used in landing. It also included the programming requirements for the software which was coded in the IBM computers. The ability to withstand potential failures was very important for this critical system. Hence, most of the boxes had two to four identical boxes operating at the same time, with voting to de-select any malfunctioning unit. In all, Honeywell supplied 25  flight control electronics boxes for each Shuttle, in addition to software requirements. It was my good fortune to serve as the Engineering Manager on this program until leaving for the next assignment in 1978. Pete Smith was the Program Manager.

The initial flights were approach and landing demonstration flights, with the Shuttle Orbiter being carried aloft on top of a Boeing 747, then released and landing at Edwards AFB in California. These flights took place in 1977. The first orbital flight was on April 12,1981. As of this writing (November 2002) there have been 112 Shuttle Orbiter flights without any failures attributed to Honeywell Flight Control.            

A major tragedy took place in January 1986, when the Shuttle exploded during the launch, killing all the astronauts. This was caused by a defective seal in the Solid Rocket Booster (SRB), allowing hot gasses to escape and the SRB to explode. This illustrates the attention that must be paid to the smallest detail. Subsequent to this, an extensive review of all aspects of Shuttle was carried out - resulting in a standdown for a year or more. Honeywell also participated in this detailed review, which included software requirements and their relationship to performance.

Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE)

When Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, he (and/or his advisors) had the vision of implementing a defensive system, which could shoot down any incoming enemy missile warheads, thereby shielding our country from enemy attack. This vision came to be called “Star Wars”, and substantial government money was spent researching and experimenting with this idea. This vision may well have had its origin with earlier studies and experiments conducted by the Army’s Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Agency. As a part of such experiments, in 1977 Honeywell teamed with Lockheed Missile & Space Corporation (LMSC) to pursue a program which would demonstrate the ability to shoot down an incoming missile warhead. The government customer was the Army’s BMD organization in Huntsville, Alabama. The concept involved launching a “target missile” from Kwajalein Island in the South Pacific; the demonstration defensive missile was to be launched from Vandenberg AFB on the west coast of California. The “shoot down” would then occur out over the Pacific Ocean.

The LMSC-Honeywell team was awarded the contract, and we started work in the fall of 1978. Our role was to be the supplier of the “Tracking, Guidance & Data Processing System” and our products comprising this system included: an inertial measurement unit; a platform gimbal assembly to carry an infrared optical sensor and a laser range finder; a general purpose and a special purpose computer with their software; and an interface electronics box. Honeywell’s Electro-Optics Division (EOD) in Boston supplied the optical sensor and the range finder. In addition, Honeywell’s Defense Systems Division (DSD) of Hopkins, Minnesota, supplied a fragment launching device; this device was to send out a field of metal fragments, which would impact the incoming simulated warhead, causing it to self destruct. (EOD and DSD have both since been divested by Honeywell.) Being an experimental demonstration program, it was a fairly low budget program, and LMSC relied heavily on Honeywell to establish the detailed requirements for the product, as well as to properly design, build, and test it. The operation of our system was to guide and control the defensive missile in the general direction of the incoming simulated warhead, until the optical sensor picked it up. The optical sensor would then command vernier steering corrections to get close to the target. The laser range finder would then measure the distance to the target, and at the proper distance command firing of the metallic fragments from its launching device. I was the Engineering Manger on this program; again Pete Smith was the Program Manager.

There were two or three unsuccessful flight shootdown attempts made in the 1983 time period. A year later, on June 10, 1984, there was another attempt, resulting in a successful shootdown over the Pacific - the first non-nuclear intercept and destruction of a simulated missile warhead. The missile defense concept had thus been successfully demonstrated. There was never a funded follow on program to develop such a defensive system; the government apparently not considering the benefits to justify the cost. However, with the election of George W. Bush in 2000 the idea of implementing Missile Defense has been reactivated.            

Later Years

In 1981 I was appointed Chief Engineer of the Space Systems Engineering Dept. in Clearwater, Florida, and was fortunate to be able to work in that job until retiring in 1993.  This involved oversight responsibility for as many as twenty or more active programs in the Department, programs assigned to the various Engineering sections and Engineering managers. Some of the major programs included: Shuttle Engine Control, Shuttle Flight Control, Space Station Control, Weather Satellite Attitude Determination, Agena Upper Stage Guidance, and applying Ring Laser Gyro (RLG) technology to Centaur Space Booster Guidance and Titan Launch Vehicle Guidance.  In addition, there were many smaller guidance and control programs; there were some small advanced development demonstration programs, and some paper studies. In addition, there may have been ten or more active Honeywell funded investment projects.

Since the business always depended on winning new programs, a considerable amount of  time was spent reviewing and critiquing our proposals, as well as the overall proposals at the customer’s facility. Our “wins” during this period included: Space Station controls; new RLG based guidance systems for Centaur and Titan; an RLG based guidance system for a new transfer orbital stage; and the start of an ongoing program to develop space based data processing for missile launch detection. Time was spent in program reviews, trying to help out on programs with problems, helping define and monitor Honeywell funded investment programs, program staffing and de-staffing. Time was spent in strategic plan activities, process improvement team activities, as well as all the personnel activities.            

It continued to be an interesting and rewarding assignment. Throughout my Honeywell years, I always had excellent and honorable bosses, excellent associates, and generally excellent subordinates. Looking back we tend to remember the pleasant things, and forget about any unpleasant things. My almost 42 years at Honeywell represented a good and pleasant career that passed quickly, and I’m grateful that it turned out that way.  

Post Honeywell Years

Having retired on May 30, 1993 we left on the next day for Minnesota to spend the summer and fall season, returning to Florida for the winter season where we usually get a winter vacation visit from one or two of our children and their families. This has been our pattern since that time, with some uncertainty in the future seasons, having sold our Florida residence this past summer. We have thus been able to be more involved in our grandchildren’s growing years and to attend the various sporting events, concerts, and plays in which they have been involved. We have made a number  of trips within the lower 48, and also some trips outside of the lower 48. including: Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Sweden and Norway, Jordan, Israel and Egypt, with some planned trips yet to be made.

I have been working as a hospital volunteer one or two days a week, a stress-free job after all these years. I’ve enjoyed reading and learning in several subject areas, including: genetics and the human genome; the evolution of species; the history of each of the areas we’ve visited; church history, American history; biblical text commentary and interpretation, the Swedish language, and some other good books not read during working years.  Janet enjoys cooking, baking, and reading and learning in the areas of nutrition, health, and wellness. Our health has continued to be good with no major illnesses.  

Life has been, and continues to be good, hopefully for many years to come; moreover, as Christians, our faith sees the ultimate future as promising to be good. In the words of Swedish hymn writer Nils A. Frykman (as translated into English).

"We have a future all sublime, beyond the realms of space and time,
where our Redeemer we shall see, and sorrow never more shall 

A precious heritage is mine (ours), in heaven kept by love divine;
what serves us best, while here below, our Father will provide we know.

Now peace and joy within us dwell, we sing with gladness, “All is well!!”
Protected, guided by his might, he leads us to the land of light.  

Dear Lord, we pray that we may be more wholly yielded unto thee,
while on the way we yet remain, before our heavenly home we gain.

November 2002