by Louise R. SHAW
CLEARFIELD—Two pilots stood before the men and women of Orbital ATK and thanked them for their professionalism in creating the parts that would become the planes they fly.
“You are contributing to our nation’s defense,” said Col. David Smith, who not only pilots the F-35s that are built from parts created at Orbital ATK but leads the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base as commander. “I love the plane. It is performing phenomenally … because of your professionalism and what you do.”
Smith spoke at an event on Tuesday, Feb. 20, held to celebrate the production of the 5,000th composite aerospace structure built by Orbital ATK for the F-35.
He was joined by Col. Derek O’Malley, vice commander of the 388th Fighter Wing and also an F-35 pilot.
“Because of your work,” O’Malley told the audience, “we have this amazingly complex and capable and safe fighter.”
Steve Earl, vice president and general manager of Orbital ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division, spoke of how rewarding it is to hear the F-35s fly overhead almost every day, even as they are building the parts that will make more of the fighter planes. The division is located in the Freeport Center west of I-15 in Clearfield.
“It’s really neat that the next exit up is the end use of these parts,” he said.
“They don’t build themselves,” said Earl. “Every part is the skillful application of fiber in very, very exact parts. It’s a lot of hard work, and weekend shifts, traveling and being away from your families.”
Earl said he remembers when the first piece was built. “We’ve come a long way,” he said. “We made a large investment to meet Lockheed Martin and Air
CUTLINE: Col. David Smith talks about the success of the F-35 program and thanks Orbital ATK employees for their work at an event to celebrate the 5,000th composite aerospace structure.
Photo by Louise R. Shaw