Book Review: Inside the Iron Works: How Grumman’s Glory Days Faded

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This book is written by George M Skurla (a former President of the Grumman Corporation) and William H. Gregory.  Mr Skurla opinions on what happened at Grumman are certainly controversial and strong.

Grumman produced many of the legendary naval aircraft already familiar to readers.

There’s lots of interesting “behind the scenes” details of the F-14 program and the fiscal tool is took on the company. The F-14 Tomcat program was still a financial burden to the company even after the Iranians bought 80 of them in the 1970s. For years Grumman operated at a loss while trying to get the Tomcat into service and maintained properly. The A-6 Intruder program was more a success but Grumman didn’t even bid on the re-winging that Boeing eventually won. They were also unable to sell the improved  A-6F Intruder.

Some of the most successful programs that Grumman Aerospace had were the E-2 Hawkeye and the E-8 JSTARS.

Since before World War 2, the Government, the Navy specifically, had been Grumman’s primary customer. There were numerous attempts at diversification, canoes, aluminum truck bodies, electronics, refrigeration units, solar energy, trash disposal and many many more. The author believes that these attempts were distractions from building airplanes.

There’s some particular angst from the author over the spin-off of Gulfstream after Grumman had produced the relatively successful Gulfstream 1.

All in all a good book for anyone into learning about the “ins-and-outs” of the aerospace industry and Grumman’s internal politics in particular.

The book is available here.

I also found this somewhat average short documentary on the Grumman Corporation:

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3 Comments

Filed under Aeronautical Engineering, Airplanes, Flying, History, Naval Aviation, Navy, Tomcats Forever

3 responses to “Book Review: Inside the Iron Works: How Grumman’s Glory Days Faded

  1. wlb50

    I always had the feeling that – through the F14 – Grumman and the Navy were related. Amd while the procurement process – and request for bits – has to by law be an open process, I’d think that Grumman had the inside track.

    And Gulfstream – the author is right – gone through AFAIK – 3 owners – always producing industry top of the line jets. The only strange venture was their acquisition of American Aviation Corp. – so they make top of the line executive jets and 2 place piston singles.

    It was a rather sad ending for a proud company so associated with naval aviation.

    Here’s a history of Grumman planes
    http://www.warbirdinformationexchange.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=13327&sid=4d1befb1873f7c69bb41dbffe8993852

  2. Spencer

    The aviation industry is littered with the bodies of once great companies. Few were ever able to do it and do it well over the long haul (Boeing). Even the venerable McDonnell-Douglas got it self in trouble. The trend seems to be these companies had a dominant owner and designer that was a driving force at the company. When the person left the culture persisted for a time but eventually faded. Like all publicly traded companies diversification is important to prevent having all your eggs in one basket. You dont want to end up like (LTV) Vought or Fairchild where you simply ran out of contracts for things to build. Its additionally tough when the State Dept says who you can and can not sell your products too. After WWII we were the only country whose defense industry was not bombed out and that enabled US contractors to flourish selling product to our allies. And we had a cold war to encourage State to allow it. Now, there is no cold war and EADS, Migoyan, and others are taking share forcing M&A.

  3. A friend of mine once said Grumman was run by a bunch of old retired Admirals, and I have to wonder if he wasn’t right. Too cliquish and averse to rubbing shoulders with outsiders?
    Where Grumman went wrong with the F-14, IMO, was not pushing for R&D on the upgrades right from the start. The planned C model should have been pushed right from the start, and those damned TF-30′s should never have seen the light of day. Allowing themselves to be boxed into a corner with the engine cost the Fighter community dearly.
    What later became the B model should never have been produced, with the funding being channeled into the D model development of a strike fighter. Leaving out the air-to-ground capability sounded the death knell for the Tomcat, and program managers should have been severely spanked for the shortsightedness. I’d also have directed a CWIP be conducted for the F-14, channeling in an APU (lose cell 8 & move vent tank to one or both of the tails), and enlarging the engine bays a tad to accommodate future generation engines. The F120 would have been a good fit, and given GE justification for spending the R&D money; F110 for interim use.
    As for the A-12, VADM George Strosahl lost his job at NAVAIR for that one, but the whole damn company management should have gone to prison. Imagine the A-6 upgrades that could have come out of that money! The company could/should have cut it losses earlier, rather than come out of the program looking like a bunch of incompetent fools. Dick Cheney was never anybody’s fool, and Grumman should never have tried to pull the wool over his eyes.
    Another thing, and then I’ll shut up, is why in the world wasn’t Grumman in the Foreign Military Sales program? Methinks they didn’t have enough friends in Congress (read that lobbyists). That was stupid and cost them a ginormous amount of business.
    All that said, we can’t roll back the clock and do it differently the second time around. Pity…

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