Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Skunk Works of News92fm

“The Skunk Works” is an alias for the top-secret research and development headquarters of Lockheed Martin Aircraft. These are the guys who’ve come up with fabulous innovations like the U-2 Spy Plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-22 Raptor. I could tell you where the Skunk Works is…but then I’d have to shoot you.

The genesis of this highly-classified R&D division grew out of a request by the military in 1938 to develop what would become the amazing, twin-boomed P-38 Lightning. Much of the research that resulted in this 400-mph+ aircraft was done in secret, without a contract, because the engineers working on the fighter knew there was a better way to build an aircraft.

Official Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works logo
In the ‘40’s, Al Capp’s comic strip, “Lil’ Abner,” described the “Skonk Works” as a rundown factory on the out-skirts of Dogpatch that emitted the foulest of odors from the rendering of skunk carcasses and shoe soles into some unknown concoction, the fumes of which were toxic.
According to the entry in Wikipedia, “The original Lockheed facility…was located adjacent to a malodorous plastics factory. According to Ben Rich’s memoir, an engineer showed up to work one day wearing a Civil Defense gas mask as a gag. To comment on the smell and the secrecy the project entailed, another engineer, Irving Culver, referred to the facility as "Skonk Works".

“As the development was very secret, the employees were told to be careful even with how they answered phone calls. One day, when the Department of the Navy was trying to reach the Lockheed management for the P-80 project, the call was accidentally transferred to Culver’s desk. Culver answered the phone in his trademark fashion of the time, by picking up the phone and stating "Skonk Works, inside man Culver".
"What?" replied the voice at the other end.
"Skonk Works", Culver repeated. The name stuck.”

(I actually did this a few days ago. There's only one phone operating in our loan-out space, and it rang during a meeting. I picked up the phone and answered, "Skunk Works." The caller was pretty surprised...and a little disappointed that the person she was seeking was no longer employed or at that number.)

For the past few weeks, I have been working at an undisclosed location on a very exciting Radio project, which you now know will be Houston’s newest 24-hour all-news station, News92fm

My colleagues and I have been bound by a legal, non-disclosure agreement to disavow any knowledge of this, if asked, and it’s been quite fun to dodge questions by answering, in a stern-faced manner, “I am under a legal NDA, and I cannot comment.”

The News92fm "Skunk Works"
We’ve called our little hideaway, The Skunk Works.
It has been neither foul nor dilapidated, and in fact the folks who work there for another, well-respected company have treated us quite well.

As we begin to emerge from our fox holes and bunkers and share our work with the rest of the world, we’ll also share some of the inside scenes as we’ve brought together some amazingly-talented and dedicated Journalists to create News92fm. And, as I am fond of saying, "we'll see you on the Radio!"

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