When Northrop developed the F-5G program, many people disagreed with Jones’ theories. But he went ahead with the program, and the results proved him right. Jones built a unique, diversified company, insulating it from the ups and downs of the industry.
- Went to work for the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1942 after receiving his engineering degree.
- Established the Aeronautical Institute of Technology of Brazil from 1947—1951.
- Went to work for the Rand Corporation where he led the design of the hi-bypass engine, enabling the development of a wide body heavy-lift cargo aircraft.
- Joined the Northrop Corporation in 1953, becoming the Chairman of the Board in 1963.
- Involved in the development of the F-5 tactical fighter most widely used American built fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet most versatile tactical trainer, the F-20 Tigershark, and the B-2 bomber unmatched in air supremacy.
- Received the Reed Aeronautics Award in 1985 and the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy of the National Aeronautic Association in 1989.
Thomas Jones began his career as an engineer with Douglas Aircraft. While serving there, he saw a conflict within a conflict during World War II. The invisible conflict he saw was that which existed between incorporating available technology that could be quickly put into combat or waiting for technology leaps while lives were being lost.
From this frustrating experience, Jones set the strategic course that would direct his life. The pursuit of advanced technology always was always tested by the pilots who faced combat.
Jones was born July 21st, 1920 in Pomona, California. He graduated magna cum laude in 1942 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering. Later, he received an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from George Washington University and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Northrop University in Los Angeles. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Before the age of 30, Jones carried his credo to Brazil, where he worked for the government as a technical advisor to the Air Ministry in Rio de Janeiro. After returning to the United States, Jones joined the Rand Corporation where he directed and wrote a widely used study called “The Capabilities and Operating Cost of Possible Future Transport Airplanes.” His work contributed significantly to America’s military and commercial dominance in the field of wide-body, heavy-lift aircraft. The same study caused Jones to add another element to his credo: economics had to be included in the technical equation. He demanded that technology be used innovatively to make new systems effective and affordable throughout their lifetimes.
His relentless advocacy of these interlocking relationships helped to win acceptance for the Air Force’s sweeping initiative in the 1980s. “R and M Two-Thousand” demanded new levels of reliability and maintainability in future weapons systems.
After joining the Northrop Corporation in 1953, Jones took the opportunity to focus on his philosophies during what turned out to be a 39-year career with Northrop. During most of that time, he served as President, then as Chief Executive and Chairman, retiring as Chairman in 1990.
Jones led Northrop in developing some of the most sophisticated aeronautical systems in the world. Among them:
- The T-38 Talon, the world’s first supersonic trainer, and at one time the holder of four time-to-climb records.
- The F-5 tactical fighter, the most widely used American built jet fighter in the world.
- The F/A-18 Hornet, the most versatile tactical carrier aircraft in modern U.S. naval history.
- The F-20 Tigershark.
- The B-2 Stealth Bomber, which has given the United States unmatched air supremacy for the foreseeable future.
- In 1985, Jones received the Reed Aeronautics Award, the institute’s highest honor in the field of aeronautical science and engineering.
In 1989, he received the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy of the National Aeronautic Association, which cited him “for significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States.”