Kelly Johnson

Clarence Leonard Johnson; born February 27th, 1910,

Clarence was 13 years old when he won a prize for his first aircraft design. While attending grade school in Michigan, classmates teased him by calling him "Clara". One morning a classmate chose the wrong moment to call him "Clara". Johnson tripped him, and the boy ended up with a broken leg. From that moment forth, they started calling him "Kelly". The nickname came from the popular song at the time, "Kelly With the Green Neck Tie". Henceforth he was always known as "Kelly" Johnson.

"Kelly" went on to become an aeronautical and systems engineer, who earned the reputation as being one of the most talented and prolific aircraft design engineers in the history of aviation. Notably the Lockheed A-12, U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird. As a member and first team leader of the famed Lockheed Skunk Works, Kelly was said to have been an "organizing genius", and played a leading role in the design of over forty aircraft, including several honored with the prestigious Collier Trophy.

In 2003, Aviation Week & Space Technology ranked Johnson 8th on its list of the top 100 "most important, most interesting, and most influential people" in the first century of aerospace

"If it looks ugly, it will fly the same"
Kelly Johnson
Johnson is sometimes cited as the originator of the KISS principle, and his famed "down-to-brass-tacks" management style was summed up by his motto, "Be quick, be quiet, and be on time."
 " Kelly Johnson's 14 Rules of Management":
The Skunk Works manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher.
Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry.
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 (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems).
A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided.
There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.
There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. Don't have the books 90 days late, and don't surprise the customer with sudden overruns.
The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial bid procedures are very often better than military ones.
Sr-71 Blackbird Decal
The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don't duplicate so much inspection.
The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn't, he rapidly loses his competency to design other vehicles.
The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to well in advance of contracting. The Skunk Works practice of having a specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore is highly recommended.
Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn't have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.
There must be mutual 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.
Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures.
Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised.
Johnson had a 15th rule that he passed on by word of mouth. According to the book "Skunk Works" the 15th rule is: "Starve before doing business with the damned Navy. They don't know what the hell they want and will drive you up a wall before they break either your heart or a more exposed part of your anatomy."



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