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

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Mon Mar 02 2009 - 11:47:34 EST

Funny how things connect. One of the personally most satisfying designs
in my engineer/physics career was the very high resolution, high
luminance cathode ray tube embodied in the right and left panel
multi-function displays on the earlier F-16s. That plane was quite an
achievement in so many technology ways. It's nice to hear some of "the
rest of the story" [with a nod to recently departed Paul Harvey].
JimA [Friend of ASA]

Dick Fischer wrote:
> 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
> All,
> 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
> F-18s.
> 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.
> Preston
> -------
> 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
> age.
> 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
> F-16.
> 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
> historian.
> 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
> credit.
> "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 11:47:57 2009

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