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Theodore Salvatore Spatrisano
Lockheed Skunk Works


Theodore Salvatore "Ted" Spatrisano was born on April 9, 1934, to Rafaele and Marie Spatrisano in Belleville, New Jersey. The official birth certificate, issued by the city, shows that Diodato Salvatore Spatrisano was born on that date. At the age of five, Diodato was enrolled in the kindergarten class at Public School Number Four in Silver Lake, New Jersey. The kindergarten teacher advised Marie that to make things easier, we need to translate Diodato's name to English, thus from that moment on Diodato was known as Theodore. Although, for the remainder of their long lives, his parents addressed him as "Dioda."

He had a normal childhood growing up in Silver Lake, and successfully completed his grade school education through the eight grade at PS4, and one year of high school at Belleville High. In February of 1950 he relocated, along with his parents, to Southern California. Upon his arrival in California, Theodore became Ted to everyone except those he left behind in New Jersey. He completed his high school education and graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in Highland Park (Los Angeles).

It was 1953, and days before his nineteenth birthday that Ted was employed by the then Lockheed California Company in Burbank, California. Feeling that he had a natural bent for working on things mechanical, he soon requested assignment to the second shift, at Lockheed, so that he could attend school during the day at Los Angeles Trade Tech specializing in auto mechanics. He completed the program, and armed with his certificate of completion was accepted into the Lockheed Apprenticeship Program for Aircraft, Flight and Development Mechanic. He was one of ten accepted into that phase of the program in 1956.

An integral part of completing the four year apprenticeship program was the opportunity to earn Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) certificates in aircraft engine overhaul, and in wood fabric and doping. Ted earned these certificates plus an Associate of Arts Degree in Management, from Valley Junior College, also under the sponsorship of the apprenticeship program. Following graduation from the program in 1960, he was assigned as a new development mechanic in the Advanced Development Projects department of Lockheed, also known as the Skunk Works.

After a year or so of working in the shop, an opportunity arose to join the Lockheed Field Service Department. The company had been selected to produce its F104 Starfighter for most of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, and other of our allies around the world. Lockheed was now in need of field service representatives to support these customer air forces to transition into and maintain this advanced aircraft. Italy was one of the countries purchasing the F104 for its air force and Ted saw an opportunity to possibly satisfy two of his lifelong goals. To travel and to become familiar with Italy, his ancestral home. The apprenticeship program paid off once again, and his acquired experience qualified him for a promotion to the salaried position of field service representative in late 1961.

Following a period of formal classroom training pertaining to the F104, Ted was sent on his first assignment. As he had hoped, he was assigned to a team responsible for the support of the Italian Air Force during their transition into the F104. He arrived in Rome in March of 1963, and following a transition and briefing period with United States Air Force personnel continued on to Grosseto Air Force base. It did not take long to settle in and make Grosseto, a city of sixty thousand, his home where he would live for nearly the next year and a half.

The years of preparation to qualify for this once in a lifetime assignment seem to have had a purpose unknown to the individuals involved. Ted's long range plans revolved around moving from one foreign assignment to another into the foreseeable future. But then Ted met Giovanna, in August of 1963, in what appeared to be a chance meeting, or was it destiny. The two dated, and in May of 1964 were engaged with serious intentions of marrying in the near future. Giovanna's family readily accepted Ted, but were somewhat perplexed at the reality that their daughter and sister would eventually be leaving Italy for who knows where. With the family's blessing, the two were married on July 26, 1964, and agreed that they would travel the world together until the assignments ran out. (MAAG = Military Assistance Advisory Group)

A short time prior to their wedding, Ted received a telegram from his home office, in Burbank, advising him that he was being assigned to Taiwan. The assignment was to follow a one week stay in Burbank to receive update briefings and a physical exam. The physical exam included shots to protect against yellow fever and whatever other diseases were found in that part of the world. Once again, he was assigned to the U.S. Air Force to give technical assistance to the Chinese Nationalist Air Force, whose pilots were now also flying the F104 aircraft. Meanwhile, Giovanna had to make her own preparations to allow her to join up with Ted in Taiwan. In addition to applying for an Italian passport, she also had to acquire the litany of shots to protect her from the various diseases she would be exposed to. Shortly after his arrival on the island, Giovanna joined him, and they spent their first year of marriage there.

In mid 1965, at the completion of the Taiwan assignment, the couple returned to the United States, and Ted accepted an assignment with the Lockheed Aircraft Service Company and relocated to Glendale, Arizona. Lockheed had won a contract with the German Air Force to train and transition German Air Force pilots into the F104G fighter aircraft. The pilot training program was located at Luke Air Force Base where weather conditions permitted training flights to be scheduled virtually every day of the year. Ted's responsibility was two fold, the first to debrief pilots returning from training flights to determine the condition of the aircraft. And second, as an instructor for formal classroom training of ground maintenance personnel.

The German Air Force was pleased with the results of the training program, and contracted with LAS to put together a team of "experts" to incorporate its system of maintenance management into their squadrons. Ted was one of thirty four LAS personnel selected to form the team. His prime responsibility was to introduce and establish the LAS approach to pilot debriefing procedures. The customer selected Norvenich Air Force Base, Germany, for the team to attempt to improve aircraft maintenance and in-commission rates for the GAF, F104G flying squadrons. At the time of the team's arrival, in July of 1966, Norvenich's in-commission rate was the lowest of the entire GAF, and they had lost more aircraft then any other of the GAF squadrons. Within six months, with the help of the LAS team this situation was completely reversed and negotiations were started to extend the assignment to allow the team to introduce the system into other F104G squadrons throughout Germany. Ted and Giovanna made Duren, Germany their home until July of 1967.

For the follow-on contract, which lasted from August of 1967 until October of 1968, Ted was assigned to a three man LAS team whose responsibility it would be to incorporate the LAS maintenance management system into three GAF bases, and at the same time train a half dozen German industry personnel to replace the team at the end of the contract. A total of three teams were established, thus nine GAF bases were converted within the term of the contract. During this period, Ted and Giovanna lived for short periods of time in Bad Godesberg, Jever, and Emstetten, Germany.

At the end of the assignment, the entire team was effectively out of a job. The handwriting was on the wall, thus several months prior to the termination of the contract; Ted updated his resume, and dispersed copies with personal letters to individuals within the Lockheed Corporation who may be interested. The director of human recourses at the Lockheed California Company responded by sending a telegram to the director of the LAS team that as soon as Ted was available, he could report in to his Burbank office. A position as field service representative was being offered on the U.S. Navy, P3 anti submarine warfare aircraft.

The transfer from the LAS Company to the Lockheed California Company was accomplished smoothly, and Ted reported in to the Burbank office in the fall of 1968. He and Giovanna were expecting a child to be born in February of 1969. His new managers were very considerate of this fact, and following several weeks of transition training regarding the P3 aircraft systems, he was given a temporary assignment at Moffett Field, in Northern California. This assignment ended following the birth of their daughter, Scarlett, on February 17, 1969, and he was reassigned to a P3 squadron at Brunswick Naval Air Station, in Brunswick, Maine.

While stationed at Brunswick, and between deployments to Rota, Spain, and Keflavick, Iceland, he was able to complete requirements for a bachelor degree in business management. The degree was awarded through extension courses offered by New Hampshire College at the naval facility. Brunswick, Maine, was Ted, Giovanna and Scarlett's home for a year and a half. Prior to the end of the contract, the home office informed him that another assignment was about to open at the Naha Naval Air Station in Naha, Okinawa.

In September of 1970, following a short stopover in Burbank for update briefings, a medical checkup, a litany of shots, and to sell their automobile, and the family was off to Okinawa. The flight to Okinawa was a long elapsed time of twenty one hours. The flight included refueling stops in Honolulu and Guam. The assignment at Naha was scheduled for one year and did not require Ted to deploy, but to support P3 squadrons that were on deployment, at Naha, from their home bases.

Upon his return to the home office in Burbank, in September of 1971, Ted was reassigned to the Commercial Product Support group that was responsible for field support of the then new L1011 wide body passenger jet. Following eight weeks of formal familiarization training at the assembly plant in Palmdale, and a short stay in the Burbank support center, it was on to Miami, Florida, in May of 1972, for Ted and his family. Along with a dozen other L1011 support representatives, he was assigned to support Eastern Airlines, at Miami International Airport, who was soon to receive its first of the new aircraft. For the family, it was one of those fantastic field assignments that are not destined to last. It was six weeks of living in a motel apartment composed of two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen right on Miami Beach. Unfortunately Ted was working ten to twelve hours a day, seven days a week during this period.

The assignment in paradise soon ended, and in July of 1972 Ted was sent to Long Island's JFK International Airport to assist the previously assigned senior representative with support duties. He was soon to be followed by another of his colleagues leaving a force of three to cover the facility twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. After several months of contending with the situation, Ted and Giovanna decided that it was not conducive to good family life, especially for a three and a half year old in need of preparation for her soon to be school years. Traveling, and living in new places was fun while it lasted, but it was now time to consider a new career path. Ted submitted a formal request to his manager at the home office to be removed from field assignments. Within four weeks, he and his family were on their way back to Burbank.

It was an unwritten rule that requesting removal from field duty meant there would be no further assignments available within the product support organization for the requestor. Thus Ted requested vacation in route to allow him time to search out another position within the Lockheed family. Several opportunities presented themselves, and he made somewhat of a career change by accepting the position of program planner, in November 1972, within the prestigious Program Planning organization. Ted, Giovanna and Scarlett were now free to happily settle into their new home which they had purchased in October of 1971 in Valencia, California. His new position gave Ted an opportunity to pursue one more goal regarding his education. He applied for, and was selected to participate in a Lockheed sponsored program that covered all expenses for tuition and books for continuing education students working towards a post graduate degree. After four years of attending evening classes at California State University, Northridge, in 1976 he was awarded a Master of Science Degree in Business Administration.

While he found his association with Program Planning to be very rewarding, Ted felt that his newly acquired degree should be put to use or, over time, it would lose its importance. An opportunity quickly arose when the University of La Verne established adult education classes for working adults who wished to acquire a bachelor's degree in business. He submitted his resume to the university, and was quickly qualified to teach various continuing education classes in business. These classes were held in the evening at off site campuses, and his association with the university lasted from 1977 through 1999.

During his tenure in Program Planning, from late 1972 until early 1981, he was at various times responsible for coordination of advanced program plans, engineering change board coordination, and liaison to the manufacturing organization at the L1011 final assembly plant in Palmdale.

In 1981 Ted accepted an offer as a department manager in the manufacturing planning organization at Lockheed Advanced Development Projects (ADP), aka Skunk Works. Soon after he was promoted to division manager responsible for; Manufacturing Planning, Order Writing, and Blueprint Control. Ted retained this position until January 31, 1991, when he took early retirement. The Lockheed Corporation made an offer to management, and other salary personnel, of an early retirement package. Ted and Giovanna agreed that after thirty eight years of service, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Following retirement from Lockheed, Ted continued to teach for the University of La Verne. This allowed for an easier transition from the every day work a day world that he had become accustomed to, to the more relaxed life of retirement. Together, Ted and Giovanna enjoyed helping to care for their grandchildren in their early years. This experience created a strong bond between them and their grandchildren. Ted continued to help with the grandchildren in such things as picking them up from day care and grade school when needed, and taking them to their religious education classes in preparation of receiving their First Communion.

Under Giovanna's patient tutelage, Ted perfected his skills as an amateur chef, developing several dishes much to the delight of family and friends. In another of his retirement pastimes, he interviewed over fifty members of his parish for the parish newsletter "Voice from the Vineyard." For mental exercise, Ted enjoys writing Quick Basic software programs to assist him in his long term research relating to handicapping thoroughbred horse races.

 

 

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