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Chapter 12:
A Personal History of the Fiber Optic Gyro
When I was a child, my father worked for the Naval Ordinance Plant in Forest Park, Illinois as an electrical engineer. He traveled frequently, flying out of Midway Airport or taking the train. For short trips during the winter, the train was almost as fast and more reliable. He traveled to Seattle, and these trips involved two or more stops to refuel. After O’Hare Airport opened, DC-6 and Lockheed Tri-Star planes began to support nonstop flights to Seattle with significant time savings. When 707s and DC-8s arrived, the long flights became much shorter. My family would take our father to the airport to say goodbye and head to the observation deck to watch his plane take off. Plane delays because of “mechanical” problems were more often than not issues with mechanical gyros. These delays were substantial, and he would join us on the observation deck to pass the time. Because of weather conditions on these flights, safe, efficient travel depended heavily on the aircraft guidance system. My first flight on an airplane was to Seattle in 1970 during a college Christmas break. It was a red eye on a 747 repositioning flight with about as many crew as passengers on board. Being a math and physics major, I thought at the time it would be wonderful to play a part in the design of this type of plane.
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