The Air Force Brake
On June 28, 1967, Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) Aerospace Corporation contracted to purchase 202 aircraft brakes from B. F. Goodrich for the A7D, a new plane that Ling-Temco-Vought was constructing for the Air Force. B. F. Goodrich, a tire manufacturer, agreed to supply the brakes for less than $70,000. According to Mr. Vandivier, a Goodrich employee who worked on this project, Goodrich had submitted this "absurdly low" bid to LTV because it badly wanted the contract.1 Even if Goodrich lost money on this initial contract, the Air Force afterwards would be committed to buying all future brakes for the A7D from B. F. Goodrich. Besides a low price, the Goodrich bid carried a second attractive feature: The brake described in its bid was small; it contained only four disks (or "rotors") and would weigh only 106 pounds. Weight was of course an important factor for Ling-Temco-Vought, since the lighter the Air Force plane turned out to be, the heavier the payload it could carry.2 The four-rotor brake was designed primarily by John Warren, an engineer who had been with Goodrich for seven years. As senior project engineer, Warren was directly in charge of the brake. Working under him was Searle Lawson, a young man of twenty-six who had graduated from engineering school only one year earlier. Warren made the original computations for the brake and drew up the preliminary design. Using Warren's design, Lawson was to build a prototype of the four-rotor brake and test it in the Goodrich laboratories. By simulating the weight of the A7D plane and its landing speed, Lawson was to ensure that the brake could "stop" the plane fifty-one consecutive times without any changes in the brake lining. If the brake "qualified" under this indoor laboratory test, it would then be mounted on airplanes and tested by pilots in flight. Kermit Vandivier, though not an engineer, was to write up the results of these laboratory qualifying tests and submit them as the laboratory...
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