- Dec 27, 2005
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George A. Spangenberg
Naval Air Advocate and Design Leader
SpangenbergAfter a long career in Naval Aviation Mr. Spangenberg retired from NAVAIR in 1973 where he had served as Evaluation Division Director, Naval Air Systems Command, for 15 years. He is credited with a long array of successful aircraft designs procured for the Navy over a 40-year period and served as spokesperson on naval aircraft design for the Navy, OSD, and Congress. Mr. Spangenberg was widely recognized for his technical expertise, integrity and business sense within and outside the government service. His abiding desire was to see that our Naval Aviators were flying the best machine possible; he never faltered from that mission up to the time of his death. He worked closely with Navy officers, civil service and industry engineers at all levels to accomplish this goal.
He was responsible for the design requirements/procurement of many aircraft still in use today, including the F4H Phantom aircraft, the Mach2 fighter-bomber F-14 Tomcat, the land and carrier based maritime patrol airplanes P-3 Orion and S-3 Viking, the carrier command and control aircraft E-2 Hawkeye and the Marine Corps heaviest lift helicopter CH-53E Super Stallion.
Mr. Spangenberg's career in Naval Aviation began in 1935 at the Naval Air Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There he was a member of the group that created an example of what has become today's cruise missile. In 1939 he was selected for transfer to the then Bureau of Naval Aviation (BuAer) in Washington, D.C. He became the Director, Evaluation Division of the Naval Air Systems Command and served in that position from 1957 until his 1973 retirement. In this position he was responsible for establishing overall design requirements for all new naval aircraft and missiles, conducting design competitions, and selecting the best design in those competitions.
In pursuit of his passion for Naval Aviation, he was well known for his knowledge and forthrightness. In the TFX controversy, he cautioned that engineering a plane appropriate for both Air Force and Navy carrier use would be extremely difficult and fought against the "compromises" that in his opinion were making the Navy plane unsuitable for use. The Navy version of this airplane had a short lifetime in funding from Congress. He objected to the Navy VSTOL fighter that proved to be a $98 million failure. Even after retirement he took strong public stands against a Navy "lightweight"carrier fighter and the proposed all VSTOL sea-based aircraft fleet. He did recognize that as a civilian in the Navy he was far better able to express his version of the truth than Naval officers were, or subsequently, as he could as an unprotected consultant to the Navy.
Mr. Spangenberg was among the few to be selected as an Honorary Naval Aviator (#12 in 1973). He was awarded the Distinguished Navy Civilian Service Award in 1963, the Superior Navy Civilian Service Award in 1970, enshrined in the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor in 1990, and became an Honorary "Golden Eagle" in 1993. He was an AIAA fellow and received the AIAA Sylvanus Albert Reed Award in 1976. His articles were published in many trade journals including the Armed Forces Journal, Astronautics and Aeronautics, Military Science and Technology, Wings of Gold, and The Gold Book of Naval Aviation.
Mr. Spangenberg was born in Duluth Minnesota on June 22, 1912. He attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor graduating with a MSE in aeronautical engineering in 1935. He was killed in an automobile accident on November 13, 2000.
He was an excellent gardener and expert woodworker. His woodworking creations range from practical pieces to whimsical sculptures. All knew him as a caring and helpful friend, besides being a forceful advocate for Naval Aviation.