RE: [asa] The father of the F-16 dies

From: Dick Fischer <>
Date: Mon Mar 02 2009 - 11:12:53 EST

I flew F-111's in England from 1971-76. When the F-16s came out one of the
pilots came to the base where we were stationed and gave us a talk on all of
its advantages. He was treated like a rock star. As a high speed (mach 2.4
at altitude), low altitude (supersonic capability below 500 feet), swing
wing, bomb deliverer, we were king of the hill, but everyone wants to be a
real fighter pilot and our plane and our mission didn't put us in that
category. The F-16 was and still is a great aircraft.

Nice tribute, Preston.

Dick Fischer, GPA president
Genesis Proclaimed Association
"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Preston Garrison
Sent: Monday, March 02, 2009 6:03 AM
To: ASA list
Subject: [asa] The father of the F-16 dies


Someone told me Saturday that the guy who invented the F-16 died 2
weeks ago in Fort Worth. It triggered some memories and I googled
some things.

Harry Hillaker was the head of the little team that dreamed up the
F-16 in secret. I was in school with his son Eric from first grade
through high school graduation in 1969. I never really knew Eric at
all, but I just now found out that the Hillakers went to Holy Family
Catholic Church in Fort Worth. My best neighborhood friend from the
time I was about 5 went to Holy Family Church and school and was the
same age as Eric and I.

I spent a year as the only Protestant in the Catholic boy scout troop
at that church. I don't remember if Eric was a scout or not.

Sometime in the 60 or 70s when the F-111 was in the middle of big
controversy about it's failures, Harry Hillaker and a few others
started dreaming up a simple, highly maneuverable, cheap, easily
maintained fighter. When the brass found out, they tried to kill it,
but someone recognized the genius in it.

They had a competition and two fighters came out of it, the F-16 and
the F-17, which became the F-18.

When the 80s came, as part of a conscious strategy, Reagan decided to
pit the production capacity of a free economy against the planned
economy of the Soviets. General Dynamics cranked out thousands of
F-16s at $20 million apiece, improving them continuously, with Harry
Hillaker running the team. And McDonnell-Douglas cranked out the

It worked, along with the prayers of millions and the efforts of the
pope and lots of other things. The evil empire fell. Lockheed is
still in business, and everyone in the world still wants an F-16,
including me.

(I don't mean to start a political argument, but I won't back down
from that characterization. I once sat across the table from Anthony
Flew at a small meeting. Anthony Lewis, the New York Times columnist,
had just published a column excoriating Reagan for calling it an
"evil empire." Anthony Flew said, in his inimitable way, "I'd like to
ask Tony, does he think it's not evil, or that it's not an empire?"
My father and I laughed about that for years after hearing it.)

And I just drove over and looked at the little house where Harry
Hillaker lived, and where his widow still lives.

No one did more to bring down the most evil and destructive political
system that the human heart has ever devised than this guy whose
family called him Daddy-O. Many did just as much, but no one did more.

Harry did his part. I said thank you to him tonight, but he wasn't
looking down at me, he was looking up.

What's most amazing in this story? This guy waited until his 6th
child before he named one after himself. He must have said to the
family, "O.k., alright, I'll name one after me, just to get you all
to give it a rest."

The other day I was walking the dog and a beautiful little storm
tumbled over me with lightning in it, but no thunder that I could
hear. I said, "Hey, where's the thunder?"

Then 2 F-16s came up from the naval air station and thundered by.
This happened before I heard about Harry.


Remembering Daddy-O

Feb. 16th, 2009 by Sarah (Harry's granddaughter)

Harry James Hillaker, 89, father of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, died
peacefully at home Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009, with his wife, Betty J.
Hillaker, holding his hand and surrounded by 29 family members.

Funeral: 11 a.m. Friday at Holy Family Catholic Church. Interment:
Greenwood Memorial Park. Visitation: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at
Thompson's Harveson & Cole Funeral Home.

Memorials: The family requests donations to the Ovarian Cancer
Research Fund ( to support research for a cure of the
ovarian cancer that lead to the untimely death of Harry's daughter,
Stephanie Hillaker McDaniel.

Harry was born May 9, 1919, in Flint, Mich. A graduate of Flint
Northern High School, he studied aeronautical engineering at the
University of Michigan. He began working for Consolidated Aircraft
(later General Dynamics) in San Diego in 1941 as a draftsman/design
engineer. In 1942 he was transferred to the company's newly
established Fort Worth division, where he was involved in the
preliminary and advanced design of every major aircraft produced
until his retirement in 1985. He married Betty Jo Devaney of Fort
Worth on Oct. 2, 1943, and they raised six children.

To the world, Mr. Hillaker will be remembered mainly as an
aeronautical engineer. He was one of the main members of the "Fighter
Mafia" that conceived and developed the F-16, and he led the design
team at General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) for the innovative
lightweight fighter jet. He was the chief project engineer for the
advanced versions of the F-16 and became vice president and deputy
program director for the F-16 XL in 1980. He was elected to the
National Academy of Engineering in 1990 and served two terms as
chairman of the aerospace vehicles panel of the U.S. Air Force's
Scientific Advisory Board.

To his friends and family, Mr. Hillaker will be remembered as a warm,
friendly, kind and generous man with sparkling blue eyes, bushy
eyebrows and a keen sense of humor. He was known to his family as
Daddy-O. He loved golfing and traveling, and his close-knit family
remained the most important thing in the world to him.

Mr. Hillaker's eldest child, Stephanie McDaniel of Albuquerque,
preceded him in death in 2007.

Survivors: His beautiful bride of 65 years, Betty; son-in-law, Dillon
McDaniel of Albuquerque, N.M.; daughter, Victoria Harrell and
husband, Howard, of Conroe; daughter, Deborah Currier and husband,
Phil, of Del Mar, Calif.; son, Eric Hillaker and wife, Susan, of Fort
Worth; daughter, Missy Gillespie and husband, Jack, of Fort Worth;
son, Harry Hillaker Jr. and wife, Michele, of Des Moines, Iowa; 27
grandchildren; 16 spouses of grandchildren; 32 great-grandchildren;
and brother, John Hillaker of Fort Worth.

San Diego Union-Tribune

Harry J. Hillaker; military jet engineer was 'Father of F-16'

By Bob Cox
2:00 a.m. February 15, 2009

It was a chance meeting in a bar with a loudmouthed Air Force fighter
pilot that set Harry J. Hillaker on a path that led to the design of
the F-16 fighter jet, arguably the best military airplane of the jet

Mr. Hillaker, an aeronautical engineer at General Dynamics for 44
years and known to many as the "Father of the F-16," died last Sunday
at his home in Fort Worth. He was 89.

As a senior engineer at General Dynamics' Fort Worth aircraft plant
in the 1960s, Mr. Hillaker led a design team that worked, secretively
at first, with a small group of Pentagon insurgents to turn a
collection of ideas, theories and concepts into what would become the

Their success is evident in that four decades later, the plant, now
part of Lockheed Martin, is still producing F-16s. More than 4,400
have been built and delivered worldwide. At the peak of production in
the 1980s, close to 25,000 people were working on the program.

"Harry's legacy is an incredible aircraft that has become the
mainstay of 25 nations and continues to be in demand today after 30
years of production," said Ralph Heath, president of Lockheed Martin
Aeronautics Co. "The early F-16 versions paved the way for tens of
thousands of jobs, over $100 billion in sales and customer
relationships that are the cornerstone for Lockheed Martin's
transition to the future with our new aircraft programs."

Any success has numerous fathers, and the F-16 is no different. But
people close to the F-16 program say Mr. Hillaker's engineering
expertise, open-mindedness and loyalty to a concept originally known
simply as the "lightweight fighter" were critical.

"Without Harry, I don't think anything close to the F-16 would have
come to fruition," said Jay Miller, an Arlington, Texas, aviation

Mr. Hillaker, born in Flint, Mich., and educated at the University of
Michigan, went to work for Consolidated Aircraft in San Diego in
1941. A year later, he was sent to the company's Fort Worth plant.
With Consolidated, which became General Dynamics, Mr. Hillaker worked
on most of the company's major projects, including the B-36, B-58 and
F-111 bombers built in Fort Worth.

One night in 1962 at the Eglin Air Force Base officers club, Mr.
Hillaker was introduced to Maj. John Boyd, an abrasive and cocky but
highly intelligent fighter pilot. Informed that Mr. Hillaker had
worked on the F-111, then under development, Boyd launched into an
expletive-laden tirade about what a poorly designed, underperforming
aircraft it was fated to be.

According to numerous reports of that meeting, Mr. Hillaker quickly
realized that Boyd knew far more about airplane design and
performance than most pilots and invited him to sit. Soon, the two
men were exchanging ideas and formulas on cocktail napkins.

In the years that followed, Boyd, assigned to the Pentagon, argued
the cause for a lightweight, highly maneuverable and affordable
fighter plane, the polar opposite of the F-111. He gained a few
adherents, notably fellow fighter pilot Col. Everest Riccioni and a
civilian Pentagon official named Pierre Sprey.

The Fighter Mafia, as the three became known, concocted a scheme to
covertly begin work on just such a plane. Covert, because top Air
Force brass were largely opposed to the concept and were spending
billions to develop the new F-15 jet.

In 1969, Riccioni wrote a vaguely titled budget request and received
$149,000 for performance and design studies. General Dynamics and
Northrop were selected to work on competing design concepts.

Mr. Hillaker, who since getting to know Boyd had quietly guided some
internal lightweight fighter design work, was General Dynamics' point
man for the program. On numerous occasions over the next two years,
he secretly flew to Washington and met with Boyd, Sprey and a few
others to hash out theories and share data and design concepts.

Mr. Hillaker, Sprey said, meshed well with the mercurial Boyd and
"was very open-minded. Among designers in the aircraft business, that
was very rare."

The lightweight fighter incorporated a number of advanced
technologies, in particular fly-by-wire controls, all aimed at making
it the most agile and lethal aircraft and capable of winning
one-on-one dogfights against the best Soviet-bloc aircraft of the day.

Top civilian Pentagon officials, at the urging of Boyd and Sprey,
eventually gave their blessing to the program, and contracts were
given to two teams to design and build prototypes. A fly-off, under
stringent conditions demanded by the Fighter Mafia, was held in 1974.

General Dynamics' YF-16 was a clear-cut winner over Northrop's YF-17.
Sprey says Mr. Hillaker and his team were due a large share of the

"I can practically run down the things that wouldn't have been in the
airplane if it wasn't for Harry," Sprey said.

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Received on Mon Mar 2 11:13:26 2009

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