by Rebecca Amber
412th Test Wing Public Affairs
10/14/2015 - LANCASTER, Calif. -- Retired
Master Sgt. Theodore Venturini will be inducted into the Airlift Tanker
Association Hall of Fame Oct. 31, 2015. He is one of six C-17A
Pathfinder Loadmasters that will be honored at an Air Mobility Command
and ATA Symposium in Orland, Florida.
According to the ATA nomination, the Pathfinder Loadmasters were the
cornerstone of the successful design, development, production, test and
evaluation of the cargo compartment on the C-17, the "most technically
advanced and successful air mobility aircraft ever produced."
Still located close to Edwards Air Force Base in Lancaster, Venturini
was one of the more senior loadmasters who brought a wealth of knowledge
and experience to the C-17 program.
"It's an honor," said Venturini. "They have the bust made. They unveil
the bust, that's the big night at the induction. We all stand next to
our bust -- it is pretty exciting."
The bronze bust will be placed in the Mobility Memorial Park at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
Venturini retired from the Air Force in 1979 and went to work for
McDonnell Douglas as the chief loadmaster on a program code named C-X
D9000, which later produced the C-17 Globemaster III.
At McDonnell Douglas, he authored a critical section of the Operational Volume of the C-X proposal.
The proposal featured a uniform cargo floor and ramp structure with all
cargo handling systems and associated operational redundancies built
into the aircraft. He also helped design the first fully integrated and
dedicated loadmaster station that would enable the loadmaster to have
full control of the entire cargo compartment and all associated systems
from the dedicated operating station.
"From 1979, I laid out the first loadmaster station and panel in 1981,
the work that was going on up here was going on for a long time. That's
how I was instrumental in the three-man crew," he recalled.
Then on Sept. 15, 1991, he flew as the loadmaster on the first flight of
the C-17A Globemaster III. Today, there are 213 C-17 Globemasters
serving the U.S. Air Force as the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft
in the airlift fleet.
Getting to the C-17 was a long journey that started in Luxembourg, where
Venturini and his wife Marcelle were born. The couple, along with
Venturini's sister, immigrated to Canada in the 1940s where he worked on
the Distant Early Warning Line, an early warning radar station that
stretched from Alaska to Greenland detecting Russian radars. At that
time, he had a distant cousin living in Cleveland, Ohio, who asked them
to immigrate to the United States.
After moving to Cleveland, he took a job in the steel mills as a
mechanic. After being laid off from that job, someone suggested that he
talk to an Air Force recruiter.
"They said as a mechanic, the Air Force will take you," said Venturini.
"The other thing was, I said, 'How can I get my U.S. citizenship?'"
He joined the Air Force in 1958 and just three years later he pledged
his allegiance to the United States and was sworn in as a citizen in
Venturini's first assignment in the Air Force was to McClelland AFB,
California, as an aircraft engine mechanic on the B-50 bomber.
That assignment started his "dream."
The bombers were converted into weather observing airplanes that carried
"all the weather tracking tools you could imagine." This was before
satellites, Venturini recalled.
The job was a learning experience for Venturini who had been taught to
use the European metric system. To help, he would sit with a tool box
open and review each of the conversions to the U.S. customary system.
"Everything I knew was metric. I didn't know what an eighth-of-an-inch
was. It was a long learning curve for me to translate everything in my
mind that was the metric system that I learned to the U.S., the inch
system. It was an uphill battle," he said.
His goal was to become a flight engineer, but his rank kept him from
being selected for the school. The engineers in his squadron would let
him take the pilot's seat and run the control panel while they
At McClellan, Venturini was working two jobs. His wife took a job at the
Base Exchange and the base was also where his daughter was born. After
clocking out for the Air Force he would put on civilian clothes and go
to work as a mechanic for the commercial airline next door, which hauled
cargo between bases.
"I was making 57 dollars a month, I had my wife and my daughter," he
said. "In the Air Force, I had some good commanders and I learned a lot
about airplanes. I learned a lot on those airplanes from the civilians.
My education was growing leaps and bounds."
In 1961, the Air Force sent the Venturinis to Travis AFB,
California, where he learned to be a loadmaster on a Douglas C-133.
Unlike many other loadmasters, he learned from experience instead of
attending loadmaster's school.
Just a few years later, he went to Hawaii where he was assigned to the
Satellite Aerial Recovery Program at Hickam AFB. While there, he learned
about parachutes and ballots that slow down satellites for atmospheric
reentry. The program was code-named "Corona" and missions were flown in a
modified JC-130 and HC-130 aircraft.
In 1968 he joined the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB where
he became the project loadmaster for the C-5A Galaxy Test Program.
According to Venturini, the most important thing was to learn the
systems. He first learned about the hydraulics, then the electrical
systems and structures, then anything else he could learn about how the
aircraft operates. Anything he wanted to know, the Lockheed Martin
engineers would teach him.
He had to learn how to load, restrain and unload items that could weigh
more than 100,000 pounds. For example, Venturini says he was highly
instrumental in developing specialized loading procedures for the M-60A
Patton Main Battle Tank, which weighed in at 110,000 pounds. Perhaps his
most notable achievement at that time was his direction and oversight
of the test loading, operational air drop and in-flight launch of a
90,000 pound Minute Man Missile during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
During his time at Edwards he worked on the C-5, C-17, YC-14 and YC-15.
"My whole life after I came to Edwards has always been in test. We have
to write the instructions [procedures they tested] in the book because
five years down the line the new loadmasters come... he doesn't go and
test-load anything, he looks at the manual and says, 'This is how we're
supposed to do it.'"
In 1974 the Advanced Medium Short Take Off and Landing Aircraft program
gave him the chance to be the project loadmaster on the McDonnell
Douglas YC-15 and Boeing YC-14. Both aircraft were "fly before you buy"
prototypes to determine which contractor would receive the contract for
the new C-17.
"The idea of having a loadmaster station started in both of the
airplanes. The three-man crew concept actually was born in those two
airplanes," said Venturini.
Looking back on his career, Venturini believes it was having good
mentors and support; especially from his family, which he says is what
allowed him to be successful in his career. He encourages young
loadmasters to learn the systems they fly on so they are always able to
back up any request they make to an engineer.