USAF Pilot Training Classes

Rosters:    Class 52-F  |  Class 52-G  |  Class 52-H
Home  |  Class Books  |  Generals  |  Biographies
History  |  Memorial  |  Links

Duane Newton

How are you all doing? We're lively and moving right along. Dewyene and I have five children who live relatively close to us; Sheri Linnette, Bart Chrandle, Drake Shelby, Vaughn Erik, and Micah Devereaux. We also have seven Grandchildren with one on the way, and four Greatgrandsons.

So, how have I spent the last sixty-two to get where I am now? Here goes.

After high school, attended Sacramento Jr. College. Worked summers at Yosemite; assistant cook in the Camp Curry cafeteria and assistant pantryman at the Awahnee Hotel. Graduated June 1950 with an AA Degree majoring in Aeronautics.

Qualified for AF Pilot Training in early 1950 after getting top scores through a three day battery of tests at Mather Field. At that time, I got my first real job at McClellan AFB as a descriptive geometry draftsman.

Enlisted in the AF September 1951 at Sacramento. Lived in the Elk's Temple at that time. Spent 7 months at Bainbridge AB learning to fly in North American's T-6G. Eleven of us were chosen to go to multiengine training. I went to Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma, for six months. I was the Cadet Wing Adjutant, second in command of the Cadet Wing. Graduated October 1952 with honors; wings and a Regular Commision. They stopped awarding regular commissions at graduation years ago.

My first assignment was Travis AFB with the 99thBomb Squdron, 9th Bomb Wing, flying B-29s with the A-Bomb. The Wing was moved to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, in late 1953. Found my sweetie there; Dewyene Nicewarner;. Married her May 30, 1954. Ours was the first marriage in the Base Chapel since WWII; sword arch and all. Honeymooned at Yosemite. In mid 1954, I flew our last Wing B-29 to Davis Monthan AFB near Tucson, Arizona, to be scrapped. The Wing was converting to B-47s and KC-97 tankers. I transferred to the tanker squadron. We spent 4 months at West Palm Beach International Airport attending ground school and flight training for the KC-97. We had a nice apartment one block off the beach at Palm Beach. Flew 97s until my regular officer resignation was finalized and accepted for October 6, 1956. Had the opportunity to fly to Alaska, England, Tunisia, Labrador, Turkey, French Morocco, and Goose Bay.

We bought our first home in North Highlands in February 1957. Started working at Aerojet immediately after discharge as a detail/layout draftsman and lastly designer on the Polaris project. Assigned to the 1041 Project as head draftsman and designer. The 1041 was a small solid rocket about 3 feet in diameter by seven feet long. It was all glued together except the igniter and nozzele bosses. They were welded.

In August 1959, I transferred to the Solid Rocket Test Area on permanent swing shift so I could attend college full time during the day. Worked 40 to 58 hours a week and carried a full load at college. Graduated in June 1963 with a BS in Industrial Management. By then, I was supervisor of the Small Scale Rocket Test Section. Small scale was defined as a solid rocket with up to 2,000 pounds of propellant. We were responsible for testing the Genie, Hawk, Tartar, Sidewinder, Sparrow, 2nd Stage Minuteman and others.

After the Polaris and Minuteman went from R&D into production, Aerojet went from 20,000 to 9,000 employees. I was laid off in 1964. Two days later, I was Supervisor of Douglas Space Division's Nike/Zeus and Gamma Test Sites across Whiterock Road behind Aerojet.

In February 1966, I contacted a Chrysler Space Division representative who was in Sacramento. By April 1966, I was a Project Engineer in their System Test Department at Michaud (mee-shoo) which is just east of New Orleans where Chrysler built the Saturn 1B. By June1966, our house sold, and I came back to North Highlands to take my family to a rental in Slidell, Louisiana,. Subsequently, we purchased a very nice home there, one the Contractor built for himself. He had remarried , and built another for them and their combined children.

Our Division Test Department was made up of 26 people at our Michaud headquarters, 147 at Static Test at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and 975 for launch support at Cape Canaveral. I was responsible for all departmental proposals, cost estimates, and contract modifications affecting the Test Department including negotiating some of the lesser ones with NASA. Represented the department on numerous Division committees.

The largest cost proposal I submitted while there was for the repair of a Saturn 1B which blew a turbopunp during static test at Huntsville. It wiped out another turbopunp and two Rocketdyne liquid engines . The replacement hardware cost was known and a given at $3 million. The replacement manhours was not. It was a tough one. To estimate. My estimate was 3 months and 52,000 manhours. After the job was completed, I walked by Walt Oppanowis' office, and he called me in. Walt was the Programs Manager. He asked me what my estimate was. Told him. He said the actual manhours for repair came to 51,800 an took slightly under 3 months. I had missed it by 200 manhours. He asked me how I did that. My actual answer was; "I use good darts!" Ha! He just shook his head and smiled.

After the astronauts burned up on the launch pad at the Cape, NASA stopped flight testing each stage individually, and went to all up configuration launches. This accelerated the schedule and put the program back on schedule which drastically reduced testing. So, as of December 31, 1969, I wrote our System Test Department out of business; the Huntsville group went to zero, Michaud went to zero, and the Cape was reduced to 157 for launch support.

By December 13, 1969, I had transferred to Chrysler's North America Automotive Division at Highland Park, Michigan , joining their Division OSSA Group (Outside Supplier Surveillance Activity); management level with car and expenses responsible for 30-40 Suppliers to solve their production problems. Qualified New Supplier manufacturing systems and certified them to produce Chrysler parts. Also, I had the authority to shut down a supplier's production when parts were out of specification. High pressure job. You could not afford to be wrong. Lots of money at stake. Dewyene and I discussed leaving Chrysler. I had become tired of the stress and pressures of my position. We decided to go south to the Bossier-Sheveport, Louisiana, area where her folks lived. I retired.

In early 1975, Drake and Dewyene, pregnant with Micah, flew to Shreveport, Louisiana.. Sheri and her husband stayed around Plymouth, Michigan. Erik stayed with them to complete his school year. Bart stayed with me to help close out the house. Dewyene started to look for a home. In May 1975, Bart and I left for Louisiana with the cars. Dewyene had found a house she liked. After I saw it, I thought it was a good choice. When the Broker got to the line on the sales agreement which asked where I was employed. I said "I wasn't." His faced visibly dropped. I smiled and then gave him my lawyer's number. When he came back, he was all smiles, turned the agreement around, and said "Sign here." Micah was born June 4, 1975. What good timing!

Note: I mentioned retirement. This is my definition:
Being at the point where I can do what I want, when I want, and where I want.

In 1979, I decided to learn gem faceting. Today, I'm a Master Cutter using the UltraTec Faceting Machine. They appointed me their sole Louisiana State Representative-a few years ago. You can look me up on their web page. I repair, cut and design one-of-a-kind gem stones. Dewyene is very happy! So are many area jewelers and Mayors.

About a year ago, Drake and I built a 20' X 24' building to house my business. It has 10' ceilings, 10' X 10' office, and half bath. We also put up a 10' X 14' utility building.

Last year, I decided to get back into model trains. I chose N Scale gauge. I'm replicating the Southern Pacific's Daylight Limited and Western Pacific's Feather River Scenic Route trains. They are highly detailed models. I've traveled on both when much younger. In fact, my first train trip alone was at seven years old from Los Angeles to Oakland with a change to a SP local at Palo Alto for Oakland's 14th Street Station to spend the summer with my Grandparents.

A lot of those proverbial waters have gone under my "bridge" since 1947. By my definition, retirement is not sitting on your dead. Its using your head. That keeps the rest of you going. It works for me. How about the rest of you guys?