The Online Blackbird Museum
Save the Skunk!
last updated February 16, 2000
February 16, 2000: The vote by the Antelope Valley Press is over; support was overwhelming in favor of saving the Skunk. Unfortunately, this was just a public opinion poll, and the final decision rests with the powers that be at Lockheed.
||Save the Skunk!
Following are 2 emails we received regarding the demise of the Skunkworks
logo, and a poll the Antelope Valley Press is conducting to see how people
feel about the potential loss of this symbol and what it represents. All
text is offered as it was received verbatim; all sources have been credited although we have
not contacted them to ask their permission to republish them. Please
send any correspondence regarding this material to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 13:27:34 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Save the skunk survey
On the Antelope Valley Press's page they are doing a reader survey on
wether to save the skunk logo. I don't know how long they will be
doing it, but I put a link from my page to it. A couple hundred yes
votes wouln't hurt I fig. ;)
Here is their page with the link:
You can see it on my main page:
Just a thought.
F-117A: The Black Jet
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 14:53:39 -0600
From: Allen Thomson (email@example.com)
To: Skunk Works (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: The demise of SW
The URL for the AVP story is http://avpress.com/n/westy1.hts [webmaster's note: This is a dynamic URL that changes content weekly. The original article is no longer at this link, but is quoted verbatim below.]
Because this is a limited distribution, not-for-profit, kinda educational
mailing list, I'm going to take a chance that the copyright police won't
kick in my door and post the whole thing:
Lockheed dumps the Skunk?
Vice President Paul Martin ousted
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press February 9, 2000
By MICHAEL BITTON
Valley Press Staff Writer
PALMDALE - Has the little skunk that graced the logo of Lockheed Martin's
legendary, once top-secret Skunk Works division been sacked?
Company insiders say it is so, and add that one of the firm's top
executives also is going.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works' sly skunk logo, and the very name of the
company, don't fit the new image of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., so
they are apparently being discarded - a shocking development for a
once-secret aerospace titan whose brand has been synonymous with
excellence since the U-2 emerged from its black world hangar at the
threshold of the Cold War 1950s.
Even the famous "rules" of Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, the outfit's first
leader, have been removed from the Palmdale headquarter's walls. The rules
were a kind of Grail - the highest of high standards.
Company officials say the rules have changed.
"The Skunk Works will revert to being a nickname," company spokesman Gary
Grigg said. "Palmdale is now one of three Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.
Paul Martin, former Skunk Works executive vice president, apparently has
to go as well. Sources told the Valley Press that Martin is being forced
out by Dain Hancock, new president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.
Grigg characterized Martin's departure as part of the streamlining of the
three companies under the new company's umbrella, which has sites in
Palmdale, Marietta, Ga., and Fort Worth, Texas.
"We have management hierarchy in three companies we need to consolidate
into one," Grigg said. "Otherwise you don't change anything."
In making the change, it is a ditching of tradition and an emblem of
pride. That same emblem once required secrecy. The Skunk Works begat a
legacy of historic aircraft that continues to this day.
This symbolic development occurs as Lockheed stock prices have been
teetering, accompanied by turbulence and change at the top of the defense
contracting giant. Lockheed announced Jan. 28 that, effective immediately,
it had consolidated its aircraft operations in Palmdale (advanced
projects) with Marietta (C-130J and F-22) and Fort Worth, where the F-16
The move was designed to eliminate 2,500 jobs, with about 800 of those
from the Antelope Valley's Skunk Works, which are no more.
The cuts are expected to be equal across the three sites and occur over
the next 18 months. The cuts are also expected to save the new company
$200 million. Grigg said Tuesday the cuts will come largely from the
"We've got good people but fewer slots available," Grigg said.
The realignment climaxes what could only be described as a trying year for
the legendary aircraft research and development division.
Last year, the Defense Department canceled Dark Star, an unmanned aerial
spy aircraft. Also, the X-33 project - intended to serve as prototype for
the Venturestar space shuttle craft - encountered significant design and
test delays, including the rupture of a fuel tank in test.
The Boeing Co. recently unveiled its prototypes for the joint strike
fighter at Air Force Plant 42 where Lockheed Martin is building its own
prototype. The two aircraft giants are locked in a duel for history's
Late last year, Jack Gordon, who was the Skunk Works chief, announced
abruptly that he was retiring. And now, the firm is apparently ousting
Martin, who has been at the apex of the company's tradition of
Asked about the skunk ouster, Martin said he knew "quite a bit" but was
not free to discuss it. Asked about his own departure, Martin responded,
"I really don't want to comment on that."
In a recent Valley Press interview, Martin exuded confidence about the
company's future in developing futuristic aircraft. He noted that if
concepts appeared to be science fiction, the Skunk Works was the company
that could transform the concept into science fact.
Hancock is a former corporate executive vice president for Lockheed Martin
Corp. His background is in the General Dynamics Corp.'s F-16 Fighting
Falcon n program in Fort Worth.
Lockheed bought General Dynamics in 1992, and Hancock has risen through
Lockheed's corporate structure.
Grigg said Tuesday that Hancock's new management team for Lockheed Martin
Aeronautical Systems will be announced in about a month. Martin will not
be on that team, Grigg confirmed.
Martin is the former tactical aircraft vice president for the Skunk Works.
In that role, he was responsible for all engineering, financial,
operational, planning and control functions on the joint strike fighter,
the F-117A Nighthawk, the F-22 Raptor, the A-4 upgrade and all classified
tactical programs at the Skunk Works.
Martin joined Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company in 1981 as chief of
the Engineering Flight Test Division. He joined the Advanced Tactical
Fighter program at the Skunk Works in 1984, and participated in the
preliminary design and proposal activities that led to the contract for
the YF22 in 1986.
In 1987, Martin was appointed chief engineer for system integration. He
left the ATF program in 1988 to become deputy program manager for the
SR-71 Blackbird. He was named F-117A program manager in 1989 and in
January 1993 was appointed vice president of the F-117 programs.
Sources told the Valley Press on Tuesday that new President Hancock and
Martin don't get along. The rift dates back to the days when the Skunk
Works fought General Dynamics in bids for military aircraft.
Regarding the retirement of the Skunk Works mascot, Grigg said it had not
yet been entirely banished from the corporate identity.
"You're still going to be able to buy T-shirts with the skunk on them,"
Grigg said. "There may not be as many skunk logos on the buildings when we
The Skunk Works, formerly based in Burbank, took its name from "Li'l
Abner" cartoonist Al Capp's "Skonk Works," a moonshine factory in the
bygone comic strip.
Grigg said there will be a tendency at the company to want to consolidate
mentally, and that a lot of direction will be coming out of Fort Worth.
Fort Worth doesn't have a skunk, or any logo other than the Lockheed star.
During the Cold War, the skunk was a secret badge of pride. Husbands
couldn't tell their wives what they did at work. Company officials,
including Kelly Johnson, traveled under aliases and cover names.
Projects within the Skunk Works had code names, such as Oxcart and Have
Blue - projects that later became known as legendary airplanes such as the
SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.
When the Skunk Works moved from its Burbank headquarters to the Antelope
Valley in 1994, the fact that one of the world's historic aircraft firms
was headquartered in the "aerospace valley" became a point of pride and
prestige and an eventual signal of economic revitalization for the area of
California most hard-hit by post-Cold War defense downsizing.
But now, consolidation as the aeronautics division will help what was
three companies become one unified organization with stronger direction,
"There will be other management changes, there's no question," he said.
Regarding the removal of Kelly Johnson's "rules" from the walls, Grigg
said some of them do not apply today.
"The way you handle suppliers, testing and quality issues have
changed," he said. "The black program initiatives, you don't see them
coming along that much anymore," Grigg said. "Now it's more of a hands-on
and collaborative customer. It's not 'here's the specs; here's the
contract; here's the money; go build it.' "
Grigg conceded some moves won't be greeted with joy.
"Change is tough," he said. "People react to it differently. We've got a
pretty senior work force with generally higher salaries. Ideally you like
to have a nice mix. We tend to be older."
Changes at the Skunk Works used to happen slowly. But in the past four
months, the company has lost its then-president, Gordon and, with the
departure of Martin, its executive vice president as well. They were the
Kelly Johnson, the first leader of Lockheed's advanced development
projects department, led the revered shop from 1943, when it dreamed up
the XP-80, one of the earliest jet fighters, until 1975.
Johnson's successor, Ben Rich, was in charge from 1975 through the 1980s.
Sherm Mullin took the helm after Rich, and stayed until March 1994.
Then came Gordon, who stayed until October 1999.
Some say Gordon was forced out because the Skunk Works hadn't lived up to
The current president, Robert T. "Bob" Elrod, came to town from Fort
Worth, where he was executive vice president of Lockheed's Tactical
Aircraft Systems Division. He came with the task of making the Skunk Works
a leaner and more efficient company, one that could win the joint strike
The ascension of Elrod, whose experience is in managing production of
F-16s, was a departure from the Skunk Works' corporate culture.
In the past, Skunk Works leaders rose from the engineering ranks, in the
tradition of Kelly Johnson.
It's a shift from top-secret, "hands off" management to a very visible,
stockholder-driven culture that not all in the still largely secret
organization are comfortable with. After serving 21 years in the Air
Force, Elrod joined General Dynamics Co.'s F-16 program in 1978.
"He brings together a wealth of program-management experience" spanning 21
years in the Air Force and another 21 years with the F16 program, Grigg
said at the time of Elrod's appointment.
Elrod's education is in business, not engineering. He holds bachelor's and
master's degrees in business administration from the University of
Oklahoma and Ohio State University, respectively.
Grigg downplayed the idea that Fort Worth is "taking over" what was the
Skunk Works. "I know, I know; it's not Fort Worth's president who
retired," Grigg said. "And it's not Fort Worth's executive vice president
who retired. It's Palmdale's."
Grigg said the changes are part of making Lockheed more competitive as a
Gordon took over the Skunk Works as the division became a company, and
made a shift from working in the nearly all "black world" of top-secret
government projects, into working in the "white world" of competitive
aerospace project development.
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