SAN FRANCISCO -- Anthony Stadlman, a founder of the Lockheed Corp. and designer of aircraft flown by such early aviators as Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, has died of heart failure. He was 96.
Stadlman, whose body was found Wednesday in his San Francisco apartment, had been hospitalized earlier this year after falling twice. He suffered a broken collar bone and cracked ribs after falling in January and a gashed head and injured hip in a second spill a month later.
After being hospitalized for two weeks, he spent two months recuperating at his son's home in Lafayette, Calif., and was in good health as recently early this month, a friend said.
'His mind was beautiful, he suffered no senility whatsoever,' Carol Olson, a logistics analyst for Lockheed in Sunnyvale, Calif., and an amateur aviation historian, said Thursday night. 'I talked to him a week and a half ago. There was no problem up until then, except a little weakness.'
Stadlman once said he lived so long because he quit a short, ill-starred attempt at piloting the planes he built in 1916 after three crashes.
He was born in Kourim, Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, on Jan. 12, 1886. He came to the United States at age 19 in 1906 and wrote Orville Wright to ask for a job.
The aviation pioneer said he could put Stadlman to work, but could not afford to pay him. After receiving a similar response from Glenn Curtiss, the third American to put a powered plane in the air, Stadlman took a job as a maintenance man at Chicago's Morrisson Hotel.
He got his first job in aviation with the International School of Aviation in Chicago from 1910-11. He moved on to the International Airplane Co. of Chicago in 1912 before joining with a partner to build airplanes from 1913-15 at the Stadlman-Jaeger Esjay Aero Co. in Chicago.
He become chief engineer of Michigan Aircraft Co. in Grand Rapids from 1915-18 before joining the Loughead brothers, Allan and Malcolm, at the Lockheed Aircraft Maufacturing Co. in Santa Barbara, Calif., from 1918-23.
In January 1927, Stadlman joined Allan Lockheed, Jack Northrup, Ken Jay, Fred Keeler and Ben Hunter to form the Lockheed Aircraft Co. All of the co-founders have since died.
The firm was later bought by the Detroit Aircraft Co., which went bankrupt, and its Lockheed Division was purchased by Robert Gross and Associates in 1932. The division became today's Lockheed, one of the nation's largest commercial and military aircraft suppliers.
Only one of the founders of that firm, Cyrill Chappellet, who resides in the Carmel, Calif., area, is still alive.
Stadlman, together with the Lockheed brothers and Northrup, held the patent on the wooden-molded monocoque fuselage process, wherein the fuselage -- the body of the plane -- was molded into two lengthwise mirror-image segments to maximize strength and lightness.
They built the S-1 wooden airplane and from that developed the Vega design, which was flown by Mrs. Earhart, Lindbergh and fellow aviators Wiley Post and Harold Gatty among others.
Stadlman left Lockheed in 1929, then joined Alan Lockheed at the Alcor Co. in 1936-37. He briefly retired before joining North American Aviation in Oakland, Calif., during World War II.
He then retired permanently in San Francisco, occasionally visiting a second home in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Stadlman's wife, Gertrude, who he wed sometime between 1912 and 1914, died about 10 years ago.
Stadlman is survived by two sons, Anthony William Stadlman Jr., of Lafayette, and William Jameson, of Lake Tahoe, and three grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.