The Airlift/Tanker Association salutes the life and legacy of Hall of Fame inductee, Master Sergeant Theodore “Ted” Venturini, USAF (Retired), who took his final flight into the wild blue yonder at the age of 85 in Lancaster, California on April 20, 2017. Sergeant Venturini was one of six C-17A Pathfinder Loadmasters inducted into the Airlift/Tanker Hall of Fame at the association’s convention in 2015. For more information on the “C-17A Pathfinder Loadmasters” and their Hall of Fame induction, go here.
Theodore Richard Venturini was born May 28, 1932 in the town of Esch-Alzette, Luxembourg, to Richard and Marie Venturini. Ted met his future wife Marcelle as a young man through the circumstances of World War II, and the couple was happily married on May 5, 1956. They immigrated soon after to Quebec, Canada and then to the United States, where Ted joined the U.S. Air Force in 1958. He was first assigned to McClellan Air Force Base, California, as an aircraft engine mechanic. Seven years later, he cross-trained into the loadmaster field, where he was to serve with distinction for the rest of his military career and post-military work in industry.
From 1965 to 1968, Sergeant Venturini served as a Senior Loadmaster / Recovery Specialist for the “Corona” Satellite Aerial Recovery Program in specially modified C-130 aircraft. This highly classified program retrieved returning intelligence gathering satellites in mid-air using specialized equipment. He was then assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as the Project Loadmaster for the C-5A Galaxy test program from 1968-1974. In this role, he worked directly with the primary contractor Lockheed, engineers, pilots and loadmasters to develop and improve checklists, operational flight and loading procedures.
He was instrumental in the development of specialized loading procedures for outsized, heavy and unusual cargo loads such as the M-60A Patton main battle tank that could only be carried on large aircraft such as the C-5. Two notable and unequalled achievements during this time were Sergeant Venturini’s direction and oversight of the test loading, operational airdrop and in-flight launch of a 90,000 pound Minuteman Missile, plus the sequential airdrop of four 32-foot long 41,000 pound aerial delivery platforms.
“Ted was a visionary loadmaster, true friend and mentor. He was innovative, with the knowledge to make Air Mobility Command’s first single loadmaster aircraft a reality. Ted’s knowledge of aircraft systems was amazing – no aeronautical engineer could misdirect him, Ted knew the right stuff! He trained and taught many of us expert details about aircraft systems, airlift, airdrop, and life. Our shared passion and dedication to build the best airlifter in the world will always be one of my most treasured memories. I truly valued our genuine friendship and time we were able to spend together. Godspeed Ted – with much love and admiration to you and your wonderful family…I will always miss you!”
-CMSgt Mark Smith, USAF (Ret), Past A/TA President
C-17A Pathfinder Loadmaster A/TA Hall of Fame Inductee
From 1974-79, Venturini served as the project loadmaster for the Advanced Medium Short Take Off and Landing Aircraft (AMST) program, which resulted in the YC-14 and YC-15 prototype aircraft and technology demonstrators for a follow-on tactical airlift platform. During this period he influenced the development of the “one loadmaster” concept, with a dedicated loadmaster station in the cargo department and other integrated features necessary to enable the concept.
Following his retirement from the Air Force in 1979, Master Sergeant Venturini was hired by McDonnell Douglas to work on the C-X program, whose aircraft concept proposal was eventually selected and resulted in the C-17 aircraft. For over a decade, he provided critical inputs into the design and engineering of the Air Force’s new strategic airlifter from concept development through initial production.
Due to his efforts, the C-17 possesses the first-ever dedicated and fully integrated loadmaster station that provides full management and control of all systems within the cargo compartment, even while strapped into the loadmaster seat. The system also allows one loadmaster to fully configure or deconfigure the entire cargo compartment in less than 20 minutes. Throughout its development, Venturini’s leadership, tenacity and drive ensured that the C-17’s loadmaster systems would endure and continue to improve mission accomplishment.
“One of the best!! Ted was known as the “Godfather,” and that is a perfect description. He led by example and Ted impacted many loadmasters in more ways than most know. He was a great American, great friend and fellow loadmaster. He will be missed, but never forgotten. RIP my friend, the cabin is secure and load is clear.”
-CMSgt Mike Reynolds, USAF (Ret), Past A/TA President
In September 1991, following the C-17 Preliminary and Critical Design Reviews, MSgt (Ret) Venturini was selected to fly as the first flight loadmaster on the C-17. From then until his subsequent retirement from McDonnell Douglas in 1995, he continued to lead the team of contractor and government loadmasters through further C-17 Developmental and Operational Test and Evaluation, all of whom respectfully referred to him as the “C-17 Godfather Loadmaster.”
“My Dad, General Duane Cassidy, knew it took the whole team of loadmasters to make sure the “working end” of the C-17 became the standard for all future Mobility aircraft. But Ted’s style, his passion, sense of humor and the way he would wave that index finger to make a point, made him stand out and Dad simply loved him. As a Captain C-17 Operational Test and Evaluation Pilot at Edwards, I also had the chance to work with Ted and the team of loadmasters. They were all special, but Ted really did stand out. While Ted was a McDonnell-Douglas loadmaster then, under that big orange flight suit was a dedicated Air Force loadmaster. Like so many other Senior NCOs, I learned from Ted how to be a better officer and Airman. I already miss his laugh but will hold onto the memories.”
-A/TA Secretary Colonel Mike Cassidy, USAF (Ret)
For over 30 years, Sergeant Venturini served with great distinction and influence in the loadmaster career field. From specialized operations in the C-130 to development, testing and/or fielding of the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, no other single person had greater impact over loadmaster concepts and systems development than he. For these reasons, Master Sergeant Venturini and his legacy will be forever recognized as a member of the Airlift/Tanker Hall of Fame.
Master Sergeant (Ret) Venturini is survived by his wife Marcelle, daughter Lydia Jowyk and son-in-law Mark, plus sister Lydia Colson and nieces Viviane Buchanan, Michelle Gormley and Marcella Wojcik. Memorial services were held on May 2, 2017 in Lancaster, California.
“The A/TA family is saddened at the loss of our Hall of Fame inductee, Ted Venturini. A great patriot, family man and friend, Ted epitomized the American dream by emigrating from Europe as a young man, then serving this country proudly by joining the U.S. military and contributing mightily to its success. He made a huge and lasting difference in the Air Mobility world and our Air Force. His legacy endures in our hearts and minds.”
-A/TA Chairman General Duncan McNabb, USAF (Ret)
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