New book offers revealing look at Downey's aerospace history

DOWNEY - A new book chronicling Downey's extensive contributions to this country's aerospace industry will be released by its publisher Monday."Downey's Aerospace History 1947-1999" was written by Gerald Blackburn, a former engineer with North American Aviation and Boeing who spent 25 years at the Downey plant. Blackburn includes more than 200 vintage photographs in the 128-page book, giving readers a rare look inside the facility where NASA engineers tested early technology that would take man to the moon. According to Blackburn, the idea for a book was conceived during a conversation among members of the Aerospace Legacy Foundation (ALF), which shares co-author credit. "The Foundation's mission is to preserve the historical record of the aerospace industry in Southern California, primarily the old NASA site in Downey," Blackburn said. "During discussions one day somebody thought it would be a good idea to put together a book that documented some of that history for the public." Blackburn said the site's vast history forced the group to split the book into two volumes. "Downey's Aerospace History 1947-1999" is actually the second part to the 2-book series. "Much like 'Star Wars,' we wrote the second one first," Blackburn said. The prequel, tentatively titled "Vultee Field," will cover the site's early aircraft days, dating back to 1928 when local industrialist E.M. Smith purchased the land for his private company, EMSCO Aircraft. That book is currently being written by Jim Busby, a vice president of ALF, Blackburn said. Blackburn estimated it took about one year to complete "Downey's Aerospace History." Much of that time was spent documenting the thousands of images he collected from city officials, the Downey Historical Society and private collectors. "Many images were not documented very well in terms of what they were of, dates, those kinds of things," he said. Arcadia Publishing is publisher of "Downey's Aerospace History." Arcadia assumed the cost of publishing and will donate 50 percent of royalties back to ALF. "From our standpoint it wasn't so much the profit that we were after but educating the public," Blackburn said. Blackburn said he hoped the book will spur former employees to step forward and share their memories of the former NASA site. He also hopes the plant's historical significance is not lost to future generations. "I'm hoping the public will recall some memories of what went on here and come to the realization that some important things happened in Downey that should be shared," he said. "Downey's Aerospace History 1947-1999," $21.00, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888) 313-2665.

********** Published: June 5, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 7

NewsEric Pierce