Allied Signal Engines History

Address:
P.O. Box 5217
Phoenix, Arizona 85010
U.S.A.

Telephone: (602) 231-1000
Fax: (602) 231-5045

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Allied-Signal Corporation
Incorporated: 1936 as Aircraft Tool and Supply Company
Employees: 4,200
Sales: $520.0 million
SICs: 3724 Aircraft Engines and Engine Parts

Company History:

Allied Signal Engines evolved from the Garrett Corporation, one of the nation's leading manufacturers of aircraft power systems and engines. Garrett became a leading supplier of cabin pressurization systems and auxiliary power units after World War II. This enabled the company to branch into turbine engines and other systems for a variety of aircraft.

The enterprise, now known as Allied Signal Engines, provides a major component for nearly every major aircraft, including the 747, MD-11, the A300 series, C-5 Galaxy, and Fairchild Metro.

Company founder Cliff Garrett gained entry into the aviation industry with the help of his mother. Garrett's mother had babysat for Ken Jay, who grew up to found the Lockheed Aircraft Company. In 1928, when Garrett's mother asked Jay to help her son secure a job, Garrett soon became Lockheed's 29th employee.

Garrett showed up for work with his own set of crude tools. At first, Garrett's supervisor sought to keep Garrett away from the company's airplanes, assigning him to the stockroom and keeping him busy running errands. However, this did little to dampen Garrett's love for flying.

In 1929, a growing aviation conglomerate called Detroit Aviation took over Lockheed. Unwilling to remain with the company after its acquisition, Ken Jay, Allan Lockheed, and the company's chief designer, Jack Northrop, elected to leave Lockheed. Northrop and Jay later established their own firm, the Avion Corporation, and Cliff Garrett followed them to the new company. However, he was forced to resign several months later because of ill health.

After selling the Avion Corporation to Bill Boeing's United Aircraft combine, Northrop and Jay established yet another company, the Northrop Corporation, as a division of Douglas Aircraft. They invited Garrett back to work for them, placing him in charge of production, and eventually purchasing.

Northrop later sold his share in the company to Douglas, and established another company--his fourth--where he could develop a radical flying wing aircraft without interference from Douglas.

During his employment at Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing, and Douglas, Cliff Garrett realized that there were no companies specifically engaged in the business of supplying the growing aircraft industry. Many of the specialized components each company needed had to be developed and manufactured in-house. Responding to the need for suppliers, Garrett left Douglas in 1936, and on May 21 of that year established the Aircraft Tool and Supply Company. The small business served initially as a sales representative for Cleveland Pneumatic, B. F. Goodrich, and several other suppliers.

Each day, Garrett made the rounds, visiting Westinghouse, Consolidated, Douglas, Lockheed, Vultee, and several other fledgling aircraft manufacturers. As the company's reputation grew, the board (which included Northrop and Jay) decided to change the company's name to the Garrett Supply Company.

By 1937 Garrett's operations had outgrown their one-room office and took over a lease on a warehouse where inventory could be maintained. During this time, Garrett added several more clients, including Ryan Aeronautical, North American Aviation, and four oil equipment companies.

By January 1938, many of the companies that Garrett represented had established their own sales offices in southern California. Garrett's substantial sales of their products had helped them determine that the growing aircraft industry in and around Los Angeles represented a valuable market. In order to stay in business, Garrett needed a product line, and rather than marketing other company's wares, he decided to develop and manufacture his own line of patent-protected products. This necessitated another change in the company's name, this time to the Garrett Corporation on August 18, 1938.

The new company's first products included seamless tubing and, later, an oil cooler and cabin pressurization systems. Drawing on personal experience, Garrett stressed the importance of quality manufacture in each of his products; as his older brother Stirling was killed in a plane crash, he resolved that no one should have to die because of a faulty part.

The Garrett Corporation was responsible for several innovations in the industry. First, Garrett found a vitally important product in cabin pressurization. He knew that aircraft operated most efficiently at high altitudes where there was little oxygen. In order to carry passengers in comfort, compressed air would have to be pumped into an airtight aircraft. To develop these systems, Garrett established a separate business called Airesearch Manufacturing. Then Garrett engineers developed an intercooler that regulated the temperature of air drawn into an aircraft engine for maximum operating efficiency. This was followed by an oil cooler, which performed a similar function.

When the company outgrew its warehouse, Garrett built a new factory on a 20-acre bean field in Glendale, California. In an attempt to diversify the company's product line, Garrett acquired the Northill Company, a marine products manufacturer, in 1940.

During this time, hostilities in Europe had escalated into war. The French and British, unable to build their own war implements quickly enough, placed several orders with American manufacturers. As a major supplier of aircraft parts, Garrett naturally saw a rapid increase in the volume of its business. When the U.S. military began its own armament program, demand grew even more.

Garrett was forced to add a third shift in order to satisfy orders from Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, and North American, as well as from the navy and several other customers. With conscription depleting its workforce, Garrett relied on more women to fill job openings. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, military planners implored manufacturers to establish factories away from the coasts, where they might be vulnerable to enemy attack. In need of additional factory space, Garrett complied and built its next factory in Phoenix.

As war production went into full gear, it became difficult for Garrett to secure the precision machine tools it needed to expand production. Nevertheless, the company managed to turn out a vast array of aviation products for bombers, fighters, and cargo transports.

By 1944 Allied victory was imminent, and Garrett began planning for the postwar period by seeking new nonmilitary markets for the company's products. Certain that aircraft manufacturers would see the growth of a massive new airline industry, Garrett began a public relations campaign to build demand for air travel.

With the application of jet engines, which were introduced at the end of World War II, Garrett faced a new challenge. Cabin air provided by jet turbine engines was much warmer than that provided by turbochargers on piston engines. In order to maintain its position in the cabin pressurization market, the company would have to develop an air cooling system. Garrett's AiResearch group, as it was now called, developed an entire line of turborefrigeration products that not only cooled jet air, but also engine oil.

Garrett's work on turbine systems brought it into a new market. The company began development of a small independent gas turbine engine to supply cabin pressure, power for heating, air conditioning, and de-icing systems, as well as to drive an electrical generator. This device, separate from aircraft engines, became known as the auxiliary power unit, or APU.

After the war, Garrett was buoyed by sales of products for Convair's B-36 bomber and other aircraft. While this work provided millions of dollars in revenue and enabled the company to avoid the huge layoffs that were common after the war, the Phoenix plant was forced to close.

Garrett funnelled significant funding to the APU and other aircraft systems, emphasizing the company's role in the engine business. By designing a variety of small gas turbines, the company gained experience in an area that had been the sole province of automotive companies. Furthermore, Garrett continued to develop turbochargers, which compressed air for more efficient operation of piston engines at high altitudes. The company supplied superchargers for two leading airliners, the Convair 240 and Lockheed Constellation.

Garrett established a subsidiary called AirSupply to represent the products of 150 different manufacturers. Primarily a sales organization, AirSupply was the successor to Cliff Garrett's original aviation supply enterprise. Another subsidiary, the AiResearch Aviation Service Company, refurbished interiors of war surplus aircraft, providing them with facilities useful to the travelling business executive. With business back on a steady upswing, Garrett reopened its Phoenix plant and won a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

In 1951 the company received a $36 million U.S. Navy order for auxiliary engines, starters, and controls. This necessitated further expansion at Phoenix, which provided the capacity to supply a larger number of commercial airliner projects. Garrett provided starters and other systems for the Lockheed Electra, the complete line of Convair aircraft, and Douglas's DC-8 jetliner.

The company began an acquisition spree in 1954, taking over a variety of engineering, sales, and service companies. In the process, it established offices in New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and Belmar, New Jersey, as well as in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

Producing at least one significant part or system on every airplane under development, Garrett established a new million-square-foot factory in Torrance, California. The company also created an industrial division that provided turbochargers for construction machinery, railroad locomotives, and even oil pipeline pumping stations.

In the early 1950s, Cliff Garrett's health began to deteriorate. After a three-year leave of absence, the founder suffered a stroke in 1955. In order to place the company under firm leadership and assure orderly executive succession, the company's board appointed Bill Whitehead president and moved Garrett into the new position of chairman.

Garrett returned to work in 1956, a somewhat less patient and more suspicious man. He deeply resented being pushed out of the presidency and felt that Whitehead was trying to take over the company. As his demeanor became more disagreeable, Garrett won Whitehead's resignation at a board meeting in October 1957 and was reinstated as president.

Despite the corporate upheaval, Garrett's company remained on track throughout the 1950s. The enterprise had diversified into a wide range of aviation, naval, and industrial projects and had maintained its leading position in the aircraft supply business. With growth came the ability to attract a large corps of talented engineers, whose work provided tremendous synergies. The various Garrett businesses were invited to tackle new problems encountered with ever-faster jet aircraft, more efficient engine systems, and complex new armaments. Garrett's GTC85 gas turbine was the company's first engine to be employed as a stand-alone power plant, and three GTC85s drove the McDonnell Little Henry jeep helicopter.

By 1960 Garrett gas turbines, cabin pressurization systems, air conditioners, and flight control systems were aboard the Convair 880, Lockheed Super Constellation, Vickers Viscount, Sud Aviation Caravelle, Douglas DC-8, and Boeing 707. The company had also developed the first inflatable airliner evacuation slides.

While the company struggled to reduce its reliance on increasingly short-term military contracts, the commercial markets were slowing down. At this juncture, on June 22, 1963, Cliff Garrett died, giving rise to a battle for control of the company.

At a board meeting five days after Garrett's death, a group led by Eddie Ballande wrested control from director Walker Brownlee, who subsequently resigned. The company was under firm management, but weakened by the death of its founder and the boardroom battle. At this point Ted Berner, chair of Curtiss-Wright, suggested a merger of his company with Garrett.

Curtiss-Wright emerged from World War II as one of the largest aircraft companies in the world, but allowed its leading position to deteriorate thereafter by neglecting to invest in new products and technologies. In Garrett, Berner saw the opportunity to acquire hundreds of talented engineers and thousands of successful products.

When Garrett's president, Harry Wetzel, refused the offer, Curtiss-Wright launched a thinly veiled hostile bid for the company. Wetzel enlisted the help of Russ Green, a close friend and official with Signal Oil & Gas. Through Green, Wetzel persuaded Signal to buy up enough Garrett shares to deny Curtiss-Wright a controlling interest. A few weeks later, Curtiss-Wright upped its bid for Garrett from $50 per share to $57, and Garrett's institutional investors considered selling. At this time, Wetzel began looking for a merger to help it stave off Curtiss-Wright's takeover. He was surprised to learn that Signal was interested, and stipulated that Garrett would refuse the merger if it was not guaranteed managerial autonomy. Both companies agreed to each other's terms, and the merger was consummated on January 20, 1964.

Garrett's work in valves and control systems won it a role in more than 20 missile projects and led to the company's involvement in the space program. From its experience with pressurized environmental systems in aircraft, Garret was selected to develop similar systems for the Mercury, Gemini, and, eventually, Apollo space programs. This included the construction of test chambers, rocket controls, and even space suits. Garrett also made a move into the turbine propulsion market in 1963, developing a 575-horsepower turbine called the TPE331, which won a place on Beechcraft, Aero Commander, and Mitsubishi aircraft.

By the late 1960s, Garrett developed a more powerful TFE731 engine, rated at 3,500 pounds of thrust. One variant served as an APU for the DC-10, while another became the propulsion system for the Dassault Falcon 10 and Learjet 35. A second engine, rated at 9,000 pounds of thrust, was the ATF3, which didn't gain certification until 1981.

Garrett also made a brief foray into mass transit systems, participating in the development of systems in San Francisco and New York. The company's products found an ever-widening number of applications, including retrofit turbocharger kits for automobiles, inflatable military hospitals, nuclear containment systems, and emergency beacons.

By 1966, Garrett had turned around its flagging business and turned in $359 million in revenue for its parent company, which changed its name to The Signal Companies in 1968 to better reflect its own diversification.

During this time, the city of Los Angeles attempted to evict Garrett from its prime real estate near Los Angeles International Airport. Garrett strongly resisted its relocation, which would have cost more than $100 million. After years of maneuvering, including an attempt to condemn the property, the city gave up.

Garrett's earlier work on the space program had given it a lead in the promising new storage technology, cryogenics, which involved super-freezing gases for storage in much smaller vessels. While this had obvious applications on space missions, commercial markets also began to emerge for airline galley refrigeration and natural gas storage.

The company continued to lead the market in APUs. Garrett power units were aboard the Boeing 727 and 747, BAC One-Eleven, Douglas DC-9, and Fokker 28. Garrett also was chosen to build systems for the American supersonic transport, a project which was cancelled in 1970.

During the 1970s, the volume of Garrett's military work grew steadily. The company produced a variety of environmental, flight, and power control systems for Lockheed's C-5 Galaxy, F-14, F-15 and F-16 fighters, and the B-1 bomber. Garrett's TPE331 and TFE731 found a place on a wide range of medium-size aircraft--a market that had been overlooked by jet engine giants General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. Despite a brief problem with gearshaft cracks on the TFE731 (solved by torque adjustments), these engines were chosen to power the Cessna Citation, British Aerospace 125 and Jetstream, and Swearingen Merlin. Variations on these engines served as APUs for a new generation of jetliners, including the Airbus 300 and 310, and Boeing 757 and 767. Other systems were used as uninterruptable power sources for air traffic control networks.

Garrett's experimental work included construction of a Mach 7.7 ramjet, while space projects included motors for the lunar rover and environmental control systems for the space shuttle. Garrett also teamed with Boeing and General Electric to test new gas/electric rapid transit trains. The company produced turbochargers for a wider range of cars in 1978, which led to the formation of an automotive group in 1980.

That year, with the election of Ronald Reagan as president of the United States, defense budgets skyrocketed. As a supplier of systems to the country's largest defense companies, Garrett was overwhelmed with work. While many new product lines were established, the core of the company's business remained environmental and flight control systems and APUs--the 25,000th of which was delivered in 1983.

In 1984 Garrett formed a partnership with Allison to develop an engine for the Army's general purpose light helicopter. The company also teamed with Rolls-Royce on a marine propulsion system for the navy.

Perhaps most important, Garrett formed a joint operation with General Electric called CFE. This company developed a 6,000-pound thrust engine called the CFE738 for the medium-size airliner market, an industry segment neither company had fully exploited.

In 1985 Signal merged with the Allied Corporation. Now part of a $17 billion company, Garrett's operations were soon divided into an engine division and an APU group, and included some assets of Bendix Aerospace, which Allied had acquired in 1983.

Garrett continued to operate as a separate subsidiary of Allied-Signal. Toward the end of the 1980s, the organization loaded much of its $200 million research and development budget into the improvement of its existing engines, rather than launching new designs. This was not only more economical but has served to maintain the company's reputation as the market leader in the small engine market.

In 1992 Allied Signal reorganized, reducing its 5,300-person work force by ten percent. In 1993 Allied Signal Propulsion Engines and Allied Signal Auxiliary Power were integrated into a single organization called Allied Signal Engines.

Allied Signal Engines remained the market leader in small aircraft engines, APUs, and a variety of other aviation products. Despite the reduction in defense spending, the company is well positioned to maintain its dominance in commercial markets.

Further Reading:

  • "Garrett Engine," Air Transport World, April 1992, pp. 37-38.
  • "Garrett Engines: Still Growing with Technology," Business & Commercial Aviation, June 1991, pp. 64-70.
  • Schoneberger, William A., and Robert R. H. Scholl, Out of Thin Air, Garrett's First 50 Years, Phoenix: Garrett Corporation, 1985.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 9. St. James Press, 1994.