Munyon enjoyed 32-year career in rocket engine and energy field development

Wayne Munyon is not sure if he was overly optimistic or just naive when he scheduled only one job interview before graduating from Purdue University in 1958.

That interview was with Rocketdyne, a division of North American Aviation at the time, in Canoga Park, Calif.

"I had known some guys who worked there and I had read about Rocketdyne in magazines and technical journals," Munyon said.

"I also was an officer in the Indiana section of the American Rocket Society.

"Rocketdyne was the premier company in the rocket field," he said.

"I felt I could demonstrate my interest in that field after working four years at the jet propulsion laboratory at Purdue, while majoring in rocket and jet engines and internal combustion engines."

Munyon, 70, was hired.

He said he was fortunate get a position with Rocketdyne at a time when so many rocket corporations were laying off workers.

Munyon enrolled at Purdue in 1954, after working at Ball Band (a division of U.S.

Rubber) for nearly two years to save up the tuition.

His experience as an aircraft mechanic during four years in the Air Force proved beneficial in getting a job as a part-time student helper in the jet propulsion lab at Purdue, he said.

The slide rule became Munyon's principle tool in data analysis in the jet propulsion laboratory.

During his sophomore year, he met and married his wife, Betty, who worked in the agriculture department at Purdue.

A bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering was Munyon's ticket to Rocketdyne.

He and Betty headed for California after graduation in a 5-year-old car with about $40 in his pocket and a baby on the way.

After five years at Rocketdyne, the company offered hands-on use of computers through a time-share arrangement, Munyon said.

"Boy, what is this thing I thought," Munyon said.

"It could do calculations so much faster and more accurately than I could with my slide rule."

In 1968, Rocketdyne purchased its own time-share computer system for use by company engineers and technical staff, Munyon said.

Five years later, Munyon said he organized an engineering subroutine library.

That enabled Rocketdyne engineers to write their own software and incorporate prewritten and fully checked out subroutines to perform standard computations of propellant properties, theoretical performance, iteration, converging, etc.

from any terminal by accessing the main computer frame.

Munyon worked on rocket engine development for 20 years.

He said he was involved in the Saturn engine development program, the space shuttle and other commercial rocket engine programs.

Rocketdyne also began to diversify its business base by expanding into the energy field in the late 1970s, Munyon said.

During a lull in the rocket business, Munyon accepted an assignment as a development engineer on a coal gasification and liquefaction program.

In 1978, Rocketdyne divided, keeping its rocket business.

Energy programs were transferred to the Energy Systems division under Rockwell International, the successor to North American Aviation, Munyon said.

Munyon stayed in the energy program for 12 years.

He retired in 1990 with 32 years of total service to the company.

Betty Munyon also retired in 1990 from Hughes Aircraft, where she was executive secretary to one of the company's vice presidents, Munyon said.

The Munyons moved from Simi Valley, Calif.

to Kingman in 1991.

They had visited friends here several times and were impressed with the community's slower pace and "high rises" that did not surpass three stories, he said.

Munyon's interests today are his computer, digital camera, gun shooting and restoration of a 1968 California Special Mustang.

Neighbors is a feature appearing each Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 Ext.