When Kitchen was named president of Lockheed-Georgia Co. in November 1971, the company was at a low ebb.
The U.S. Air Force had reduced the planned “Run B” of C-5A airlifter production from 57 aircraft to 23. The C 5 program was also experiencing cost overruns and the aircraft was suffering from structural deficiencies. Sales of the C-130 Hercules transport, the company’s bread and butter, would total only 34 aircraft in 1972, half as many as there had been just four years before. Employment at the Marietta facility had fallen from 31,000 in 1969 and would drop to just 11,500 by the end of 1972. More layoffs were imminent.
Saving the Marietta operation
Business prospects looked so grim that Dan Haughton, Lockheed chairman and chief executive officer, seriously considered closing the Georgia operation. Kitchen went to Haughton and asked for a second chance.
By instituting rigid controls on costs and overhead expenses and energizing the sales force, Kitchen, with the help of a dedicated management team, by 1975 had reversed Lockheed-Georgia’s business situation.
Kitchen was named president and chief operating officer of Lockheed Corp. in October 1975. When Kitchen left Lockheed-Georgia, employment figures had been stabilized, C-5A costs had been brought under control and the curtailed program had been completed and, most importantly, C-130 deliveries would top 70 aircraft for the first time since 1965.
When Kitchen departed for the corporate office, Lockheed-Georgia had just been awarded a contract to design, manufacture, and test a prototype of the stretched C-141 StarLifter transport, and was starting installation of active ailerons on the C-5A fleet to alleviate gust loads on the aircraft’s wings. This was the first step toward a permanent fix to the Galaxy’s structural deficiencies. Also, engineering work was beginning on a major wing modification that would allow the aircraft to reach its design life of 30,000 flight hours.
Both the C-141 Stretch and the C-5A Wing Modification programs resulted in significant business for Lockheed-Georgia in the late 1970s and mid 1980s.
Restoring confidence in Lockheed
Kitchen’s move to California in 1975 came as the end result of a scandal involving commissions paid to foreign consultants and marketing payments to foreign governments. Kitchen was brought in to implement new, more stringent policies and to restore confidence in Lockheed. He served as president of the corporation until 1986.
In 1981, airlift requirements specified in the Congressionally-mandated Mobility Study done as part of the defense authorization bill called for the procurement of additional heavy airlift. Lockheed submitted an unsolicited offer to build 50 additional C-5s, which were to feature all of the modifications made to the A-models, the new wing design, and several other improvements. Kitchen took up the crusade and made numerous trips to Washington to lobby Congress on behalf of the C-5.
When the decision was made, the House voted by a 2 to 1 margin to accept the C-5B offer versus spending additional money for the then-proposed C-17 transport design or for buying 747 freighters. The House-Senate conference committee accepted the House’s recommendations and the contract was let. The C 5B program was completed in 1985 on schedule and under budget.
It was about this same time that Ben Rich at the Advanced Development Projects section (more commonly known as the Skunk Works), came to Kitchen with an idea that would prove as revolutionary as the jet engine: stealth.
The idea of low observability had merit and Kitchen had the corporation contribute roughly one-third of the cost of developing the XST (or Have Blue) stealth testbed design. The two Have Blue prototypes were the forerunner of the F-117 Nighthawk.
In the mid-1980s, the competition for the Air Force’s new Advanced Technology Fighter was beginning to heat up. Seven companies were competing at the time for the right to build a fighter to replace the F-15. The Air Force was intending that only a single contractor be awarded the production contract. It was going to be a-winner-take-all proposition.
Realizing what an enormous gamble this would be for any one contractor, Kitchen first went to the Air Force and convinced the Air Force leadership to allow teaming on the ATF program. He flatly stated that Lockheed by itself could not, and would not, invest the money necessary to win this competition, and that no other single company would have the kind of capital this competition would require either. The Air Force agreed, and then Kitchen spearheaded the discussions with Boeing and General Dynamics to form the team that won the ATF competition in 1991 and led to the F-22.
Kitchen served as the chairman and chief executive officer of Lockheed Corp. from 1986 to 1988.
A Marine in World War II
Kitchen first became acquainted with aviation during World War II when he served in the U. S. Marine Corps in aviation engineering maintenance. He then worked in the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics from 1946 to 1958, where he became staff assistant to the assistant chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics for plans and policy.
He began his career with Lockheed in 1958 at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, Calif., and advanced through a series of key positions there to become manager of program management controls for the Missile Systems Division in 1966. From 1968 to 1970, he was director of financial management controls for the Missile Systems Division of LMSC. He then moved to Lockheed-Georgia Co., serving as vice president for finance and administration before becoming president.
Kitchen attended Foothills College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., and the management program for executives at the University of Pittsburgh. Florida Institute of Technology awarded him an honorary doctorate of science in June 1987.
Kitchen held memberships in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Society of Logistics Engineers, the Wings Club, and the National Management Association. He also served as member of the board of governors of the Aerospace Industries Association and as a member of the Department of Defense’s Defense Advisory Committee on Trade. Kitchen served on the boards of Lockheed Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Bank of America, Security Pacific National Bank, Industrial Bank of Japan, John Tracy Hearing Clinic and Kendall Jackson Wineries.
Retiring to California
After retirement, he lived in Westlake Village, Calif. He is survived by two sisters, his wife Brenda, children Janet, Alan and Brenda, six grandchildren and two great-grandsons. The burial will be private and held in California. A memorial service will be announced in the future.
Donations in honor of Mr. Lawrence O. Kitchen may be made to: Providence Tarzana Foundation, c/o Providence Tarzana Medical Center, 18321 Clark St., Tarzana, CA 91356.
Jeffrey Rhodes is associate editor of Code One Magazine & Marietta F-35 Communications at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.