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Star Trek's Convair Connection

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  • Member since
    January 2020
Star Trek's Convair Connection
Posted by Space Ranger on Monday, June 29, 2020 5:08 PM

Star Trek fans are more than likely familiar with these:

 star-trek-blueprints-cover-sm by SkyKing918, on Flickr

The man behind them, Frank (Franz) Joseph Schnaubelt, moved from Chicago to California  in 1941, where he applied for work at Consolidated Vultee Aircraft as a draftsman. The sample of work he submitted was a blueprint drawing of a single-engine airplane that happened to be the personal favorite plane of his interviewer. He was hired on the spot. He took a few classes at San Diego State College (aerodynamics, higher math, and engineering), but never attained a degree.
 
FJ worked for General Dynamics for nearly 30 years as a design engineer, both in the aerodynamics and hydrodynamics divisions. His drawings of planes appeared as illustrations in the Collier's Encyclopedia. He was part of a team that built and flew a full-size reproduction of the A-1, the first military seaplane. (He also designed the logo for the A-1 program.) His biggest claim to fame was the design of the bomb pylons on the F-111 fighter plane, for which he was given an award by Convair for cutting costs without sacrificing quality. His services were loaned to other aircraft companies (such as Ryan) by Convair due to his expertise.
 
FJ was laid off from General Dynamics in 1969, 3 years after receiving his 25-year pin, replaced by younger men with college degrees. He always referred to the event as "taking an early retirement," but it was not voluntary. In 1973, he decided to draw the Star Trek props and ships as an intellectual exercise. The rest is history. In 1974 and 1975, these works were published by Ballantine Books as the Booklet of General Ship's Plans (a.k.a. the Enterprise Blueprints) and the Star Fleet Technical Manual.
 
FJ attended Star Trek conventions and book signings from 1975-1983, then withdrew from most public appearances to care for his wife, who was a homebound invalid due to advanced osteoporosis and multiple strokes. He always enjoyed meeting and corresponding with Star Trek fans, and when he did attend conventions, you could always find him in the hotel lobby or on the lounge chairs by the pool, deep in conversation with a cluster of fans, even at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
 
FJ died on June 2, 1994 of sudden cardiac arrest. He was only a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday. He remained bright and active, and continued to live independently until the very end; indeed, he was a guest speaker at a local San Diego science fiction convention only a month before his death.
 
The above is taken from a 1999 interview with his daughter, published at http://www.trekplace.com/fj-kdint01.html
 
For more on Mr Schnaubel, see the interview and the following:
 
 
 
And see here for high-resolution copies of the Franz Joseph blueprints, re-scanned at 400 dpi and cleaned up:
 
  • Member since
    October 2004
  • From: Orlando, Florida
Posted by ikar01 on Monday, June 29, 2020 9:09 PM

I had those blueprints at one time.  I think my Mother ended up throwing them away while I was overseas.  It was a long time ago, so I don't quite remember exactly when theyu disapeared.

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Towson MD
Posted by gregbale on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 10:50 AM

I always much-admired the gentleman and his work...both in the 'real' world, and for his inspired (and inspiring) contributions to the TREK universe.

In addition to the original set of plans, FJ also produced the groundbreaking Star Fleet Technical Manual...and added whole classes of ships intelligently-extrapolated from the original series' designs. [As a destroyerman at heart, I always particularly admired the single-nacelle scout and destroyer designs he envisioned.] Those designs remain solid favorites with fans all these decades later.

Though later officially declared 'non-canon' -- when the whole thing passed from being a beloved but long-ago cancelled TV series, to a mega-revenue generating franchise machine -- the ghost of FJ must be having the last laugh. His 'non-canon' graphics appeared, albeit briefly, in many of the big-screen Trek outings...usually as still-very-recognizable images flashing by on various ships' readout and display screens.

Greg

 George Lewis:

"Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer."
  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: SW Virginia
Posted by Gamera on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 12:54 PM

I love the Technical Manual. Maybe the other ships don't exist in canon but they should!!! 

And it does make me feel good to see them on screen in various technical read-outs. 

 

Thanks Space Ranger- I knew some of this but not the whole story. 

"I dream in fire but work in clay." -Arthur Machen

 

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