Friday, October 30, 2009

Keep It Simple and Stupid

The expression "K.I.S.S. -- Keep it simple and stupid" -- is attributed to Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, a famous aeronautical engineer and designer with the Lockheed company. It is often misquoted as "Keep it simple, stupid" by individuals who, for some bizarre reason, think it is a good idea to insult someone they are giving advice to. In telling his junior designers to keep it simple and stupid, Johnson was advising them not to create overly complex, unnecessarily clever and sophisticated designs that would become problematic in service, when the aircraft needed modification or maintenance.

Johnson, and his company, did not always heed his own advice. Some of the Lockheed designs in which he participated, including the P-38 Lightning fighter and the Constellation and L-1011 airliners, were prevented by inordinate complexity from being as successful as they deserved to be on the basis of their performance. But the Lockheed F-80, America's first successful jet fighter plane, was a perfect expression of Johnson's philosophy. Small, light, and effective, it was just what the first, underpowered generation of jet fighters needed to be.

Dick was one of the first mechanics on F-80s, and served as crew chief on the type in Panama and Europe from 1948 to 1950. These photos are of the planes he worked on during those years. He spoke and wrote fondly of the ease of maintaining this simple, stupid, wonderful airplane.

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