Last Lockheed site falls to wrecking ball
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
“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
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
“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
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.”
FROM A-1 TO Z
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
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.