Last Lockheed site falls to wrecking ball

Robert Blechl

AIRPORT DISTRICT -- Half a century of aviation history is sliding into

the recycle bin.

Used between 1941 and 1992 as an aircraft design, assembly and

production plant, Lockheed-Martin Corp.'s “A-1 North” property is being

demolished to make way for a high-tech industrial manufacturing complex.

The purchase the 32-acre lot by Zelman Development Companies in

December and the subsequent demolition of its structures by the IT

Corporation mark the end of an era.

Lockheed officials expect to finalize the $20-million-plus sale with

Zelman in the first quarter of 2001.

“It’s obviously emotional for the longtime Lockheed folks to know that

this is the last site,” said Lockheed spokeswoman Gail Rymer. “But the

decision was made over 10 years ago to move out of Burbank.”

Rymer said more than 85% of the steel, concrete and wood are being

recycled. The extensive reuse will minimize the volume of truck traffic

entering and leaving the property, she said.

Currently under the wrecking ball is the five-story “Building 63,”

which once housed Lockheed-California Company, a division of Lockheed

corporation. Until 1985, Lockheed’s corporate headquarters was also

located on the A-1 site.


Brothers Malcolm and Allan Loughead (pronounced “Lockheed”) moved

their operation from Hollywood to Burbank in 1928.

Construction of the A-1 buildings, which eventually totaled 1.8

million square feet, began in late 1940 on former farmland. A year later

there were 18 structures.

Although it concentrated mainly on military aircraft, the

international aerospace giant first used the A-1 facility to produce the

PV2, the largest commercial airliner available in 1941. Only a limited

number were manufactured and Lockheed discontinued production later that


When the United States entered World War II in 1941, production of the

B-17 bomber commenced on the site and continued until 1946. Nearly 3,000

were made.

“The Lockheed A-1 facility is of great historical significance in

aviation and its demolition closes a key chapter in aviation history,”

said Gary Grigg, Lockheed’s acting communications director.


Reseda resident Claire LaValley joined Lockheed-Vega’s B-17 Flying

Fortress production line in 1943 when she was 18.

“I went (to Lockheed) to get a job as a file clerk, but nothing was

open in that field. They needed riveters,” LaValley said. “The first day

they took me through the plant and it was loud. I looked up at the

ceiling this fuselage was going over my head. I thought it was going to

hit me.”

It didn’t and from 1943 to 1945, LaValley helped fabricate B-17 wings

and other aircraft parts. With many Southland men fighting overseas, she

said the production work force comprised mostly mothers, daughters, wives

and sisters.

“In those days the girls would whistle at the guys because there

wasn’t that many guys around,” she said.

LaValley remembered the group effort brought out by the war.

“Everybody was working who could work,” LaValley said. “We used to

have Shirley Temple and all the stars come down and sing to us on our

lunch break.”

Gil Cerafatt, a resident of North Hollywood, retired from Lockheed in

1990, after more than 38 years. Cerafatt said he has fond memories of his

A-1 days as a technical writer.

“I helped developed three manuals for the Air Force there in the early

‘70s. We did that from scratch,” Cerafatt said. “It was for a

nondestructive inspection, inspecting airplanes without tearing them

apart, using X-rays on certain parts and ultrasound on others.”

Seeing the demise of the A-1 site made Cerafatt wince.

“I was down there when they first pulled down Hangar 74,” he said. “It

was a sad day.”


LOCKHEED’S A-1 SITE: Built in 1940 on Burbank farmland. Closed in


SIZE: 32 acres, 1.8 million square feet of buildings.

HOME TO: Lockheed corporate headquarters until 1985 and

California-Lockheed Company.

PLANES: A-1 productions included the B-17 Bomber, C-69 military

transport, the P-3 and S-3A anti-submarine aircraft and L-1011 commercial


LOCKHEED EMPLOYEES DURING WWII: 1939/7,000, 1940/17,000, 1943/91,000.