Douglas VIP


The Skyhawk Association is proud to dedicate our Internet Website to this remarkable individual! Ed Heinemann is truly one of the legendary stalwarts in the golden age of aviation. We are truly grateful for what he has done for us and for our country! May God continue to bless him and his family!


The author gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Commander Rosario Rausa, United States Navy Reserve (Retired), co-author of "Ed Heinemann, Combat Aircraft Designer,"published by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1980, and also to the Editor of THE HOOKmagazine, Captain Steve Millikin, United States Navy (Retired).
By: Rear Admiral Thomas F. Brown III, United States Navy (Retired).

The Skyhawk Association Website is dedicated to:

Designer of the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk,
(Heinemann's Hot-Rod) the Ferrari of airplanes.

Ed Heinemann 1947, photo from Harry Gann.

Ed Heinemann and Bob Krall pose by BuNo. 137813
on 10 MAY 1986 at Pensacola. Photo from Bob Krall.

Ed Heinemann was responsible for the design and development of a remarkably successful series of combat aircraft, from the Dauntless dive bomber to the A4 Skyhawk jet. During a career that extended over six decades, he designed more than 20 fighter, bomber, and rocket aircraft. He died on 26 November 1991 at the age of 83.

His story is told in the excellent volume, ''Ed Heinemann: Combat Aircraft Designer", co-authored by Rosario "Zip" Rausa, published by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1980.

Airplanes were a part of Ed Heinemann's life since he was given a toy biplane on his eighth birthday. Years later as a teenager he would roam the grounds of the Ascot Park Speedway in Saginaw, Michigan, watching the planes flying about and waiting for the occasional visit of the Goodyear blimp. As she descended, he would run onto the field, grab the guy wires, and help haul her down.

Like the great World War II pilot, Jimmy Doolittle, Ed Heinemann attended Manual Arts High in Los Angeles, but unlike Doolittle, that's where his formal education ended. His extraordinary mechanical aptitude was recognized and nurtured in those classroom days in a way that really paid off later. He became a man whose life spanned the golden age of flight and whose foresight, determination, and genius provided the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force with some of the most reliable fighting machines ever to take to the sky.

A4D-1 Douglas "Skyhawk" (A-4A)
Pilots called the Skyhawk: "Heinemann's Hot Rod;" The "Scooter;" and The "Tinkertoy" ("Tink" for short). This plane enjoyed the longest production run of any tactical aircraft in the history of aviation, about 25 years! First flown in 1954, it was finally retired from U.S. Navy active duty in 2003. It is still in use as a civilian owned combat trainer, and with some foreign countries. The Skyhawk's contribution to the conflict in Southeast Asia is well documented. In the hands of courageous pilots, marine and navy alike, it was a superb close air support and interdiction weapon. Operating from the Yankee Station carriers, it was a spearhead for major strikes against the most heavily defended targets in the history of warfare. Based ashore below the seventeenth parallel, the marines put the bomber to excellent use. The Blue Angels flew the Skyhawk for many years. Top Gun instructors flying the Skyhawk whupped everything in the sky - including Tomcats, Phantoms, Crusaders, Hornets and Vipers. It has been said that the aircraft's most significant contribution evolves around how it proved that with diligent engineering, hard work and continuing cooperation between builder and buyer, wonders can be worked. Wonders that last a very long time!
Speed Record Press Conference 17OCT55
Ed Heinemann and LT Gordon Gray
Closed Course Speed Record
A4D-1 Skyhawk BuNo 137820
Curious onlookers view the Navy’s new record setting A4D-1 Skyhawk BuNo 137820. Flown by Lt. Gordon Gray it set a new speed record of 695.163 MPH for the 500 kilometer closed course at Edwards Air Force Base, Muroc, CA, 17 October 1955. Official U.S. Navy photo 681515.
A3D-1, A4D-1 and F4D-1
Three Douglas Products
Miramar Air Show 30OCT55
A4D-1 BuNo 137814
Ed Heinemann in-flight in a Skyhawk. Ed Heinemann after Skyhawk flight.

Ed Heinemann stands next to the last Skyhawk built.
Heinemann was one of a kind, the leader of a design team, which time and time again gave the Navy, the finest aircraft available. Born in Saginaw, Michigan on 14 March 1908, he moved to California in 1914, where he began with Douglas Aircraft Company in 1926 as a draftsman. He served as project engineer before becoming Chief Engineer in 1936 and Vice President for Military Aircraft in 1958. In 1960, he joined Guidance Technology as Executive Vice President and in 1961 became Corporate Vice President -- Engineering for General Dynamics, a position from which he retired in 1973.

Heinemann was awarded the Collier Trophy in 1953 "for the greatest achievement in aviation in America" - the F4D "Skyray", as well as the Gugginheim Medal in 1978 in honor of his invaluable contribution to the nation. He was enshrined in the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1981 and received the National Medal of Science from President Reagan at the White House on 24 May 1983. He was designated Honorary Naval Aviator Number 18. He was a long time member of the Tailhook Association.

Following are some key rules Ed said he tried to adhere to when dealing with people. They give you a measure of the man!
  • Tell people what is expected of them.
  • Tell them in advance about changes that will affect them.
  • Let those working for you know how they are getting along.
  • Give credit where credit is due, especially for extra effort or performance. Do it while it's hot. Don't wait.
  • Make the best use of each person's ability.
  • Strive to keep ahead of schedule.
  • Don't waste time.
  • If you're the boss, give guidance, direction, and most important, decisive answers to questions.
  • Make sure people know where to go to get answers.
  • Beware of office politicians.
  • If you want to pick a man for a difficult job, pick one who has already thought out the problem or is capable of doing so quickly.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices. Beware of these.
  • Respect the specialists -- those who are masters of a particular phase of an operation. But be wary of allowing them to make big decisions.
  • Avoid lengthy committee meetings.
  • Avoid paralysis by analysis.
  • Plan ahead.


Harry S. Gann

Harry photo

The old Douglas Aircraft bird farm was a fertile breeding ground for legends - not only in terms of the aircraft they put on our flightlines, but also in the men who designed and built them. The pioneering and engineering genius of Donald Douglas, Jack Northrop and Ed Heinemann immediately come to mind.
Another legend who flourished at Douglas was a respected, quiet, supremely modest guy whom many of our Association members knew well. Harry Gann's determined route from high school athlete in Arizona, to earning a Mechanical Engineering degree at USC, and then on into a career in aviation, was via a tour as a WWII ground-pounder with General George S. Patton. At the Battle of the Bulge, he was wounded by a land mine.

After some serious post-war rehab (and with his hard-won engineering degree in hand), Harry spent a few years with smaller companies, then signed on at North American Aircraft before moving to the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1954. At Douglas, he worked as a mechanical designer on control systems for the A4D Skyhawk, A3D Skywarrior, F4D Skyray and the F5D Skylancer. Along the way, just like his good friend R. G. Smith (another Douglas Legend), Harry developed a parallel career interest. In Harry's case, it was using scholarly research and often daring photography from cockpits and runways to record aviation history.

As the powers at Douglas became aware of Harry's deep love for aviation, the fact that he had co-authored a book on air racing while still in college, and that he was a founder and officer of the American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS), they concluded that his highest value to the company and to aviation in general was to turn this great talent loose on worldwide aviation. Thus, they vested him with the title: "Director of Information for Douglas Aircraft". Later in 1989 the title was changed to "Company Historian".

Now Harry was off and running on what would become more than four decades of being "The Source" for historical facts and photo records of Douglas commercial and military products. Needless to say, his repertoire continually expanded to include experimental and military aircraft of other U.S. and foreign origins as well.

When Douglas folded into MacAir, Harry didn't skip a beat. He was already the unofficial Blue Angel photographer and was named an Honorary Blue Angel in 1979. But the Marine Corps had already beaten that by making him an Honorary Marine Aviator in 1975. To top it off, he was designated Honorary Naval Aviator Number 24 by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jay Johnson, at the annual ANA convention in May 1997, thereby joining two other illustrious Douglas alumni who had been accorded that rare honor - Ed Heinemann and R. G. Smith.

Harry's research products and photo archives, which he readily shared with any legitimate inquiry, have been featured in virtually every aviation publication worth its salt and in many other media throughout the world. Moreover, he has been personally acclaimed by many of those professional organizations. Our favorite is Roy Stafford's great piece on Harry, which was published in the November 1997 issue of Air Classics magazine. Roy's write-up notes how Harry was always eager to suit-up and do air-to-air shots of Marine formations - just as he did for the Blue Angels for seventeen years.

So, did Harry need more recognition? HE sure didn't think so, but there were many Marines who disagreed and here's just one reason why. Back in 1989, when Brigadier General Dave Shuter, CG MCAS El Toro, committed the station to development of a proper museum, Harry was one of the very first to join the volunteer support group which promptly incorporated as the MCAS El Toro Historical Foundation. As the fully occupied Douglas Historian, he still made time to donate his unique expertise to the project, bringing along other skilled volunteers from Douglas such as Tom Dozier, who refers to Harry as "walking history."
The immediate objective of the Station and the Foundation was to graduate from "Historical Holding" status to become certified by the Commandant of the Marine Corps as a "Command Museum" - the only such purely aviation-theme facility in the Marine Corps. When Harry retired from Douglas in 1992, Major General Drax Williams lured him to the Curator post at El Toro - which promptly led to that prized certification. The sheer power of Harry Gann's professional credentials turned the trick and we owe him - BIG TIME!
Jay Hubbard
Brigadier General, USMC (Retired)


You will find many of Harry Gann Photographs throughout this site.
Harry's Final Flight - October 30, 2000

Harry, the Skyhawks bid you "Farewell" and wish you clear skies and a happy reunion with your countless friends.

Harry S. Gann Internment November 6, 2000.
National Cemetery, Riverside, California.
Internment Service "Missing Man" Fly-by made by:
VFA-146 Blue Diamond F/A-18 Hornets


R.G. Smith

Smith Photo
1914 - 2001
Original R.G. A-4 Blueprint

Robert Grant Smith, better known in the Naval Aviation Community as simply, "R. G.", is a legendary figure known as one of the flying community's most accomplished artists. "R. G." was an engineer who just happened to be a superb artist.

He graduated from the Polytechnic College of Engineering in Oakland in 1934 with a degree in mechanical engineering and found work with Northrop Aircraft, then a subsidiary of Douglas Aircraft. A strong patriot, when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor he tried to enlist. To his great regret he was told he was doing critical national defense work.

Modest and unassuming, R.G. preferred to be known as an engineer despite his position in later years as the Douglas Company's full-time artist.. He was very proud of the contributions he made to the design of a succession of Douglas Aircraft. R.G. was especially influential in the design of the A-4 Skyhawk.

R. G.'s works hang in the National Air and Space Museum, the Pentagon, squadron ready rooms and in ships throughout the fleet. His paintings draw the viewer in, giving them the feeling they are witnessing the event live. From SBDs attacking Japanese carriers at the Battle of Midway; an F3D downing a North Korean MiG; Skyraiders bombing a train; a patrol boat under fire at night in South Vietnam, to a Skywarrior refueling a damaged Skyhawk returning from North Vietnam, he brings the event alive before your eyes.

He enjoyed a happy family life with wife, Betty, and children Sharlyn and Richard, plus nine grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
R. G. passed away May 29th, 2001 at the age of 87 at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. He was an aircraft configuration engineer, patriot, devoted family man, and Honorary Naval Aviator Number 10.



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