The right stuff
by Stuart F. Brown, FORTUNE Magazine

(FORTUNE Magazine) - The place became such a legend, they trademarked the name - and even a skunk. Founded in 1943, Lockheed's Skunk Works built a series of remarkable aircraft, including the F-104 Starfighter and the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. In the process, it created an icon that many a company has attempted to imitate. How did Lockheed (Research) do it? A tyrant as well as a huge talent, aeronautical genius Kelly Johnson insisted on working with a bare-bones staff who were devoted to the work. He put the designers right next to the metalworkers so they didn't draft anything unbuildable. And he kept the number of visitors, even from the CIA and the Air Force, to a minimum. Left alone, the Skunks Works team pushed aeronautics forward at warp speed. Top of page