The job lasted ten months; then they allowed as how I could keep coming to work but they couldn't afford to keep paying me. I moved on, soon ending up in the shipbuilding business.
Now, Jack Connors' new book has provided a context for my experience. Mr. Connors joined P&WA in 1948 as the piston engine era was drawing to a close and he retired as a Vice President in Engineering, in 1983. After retirement, he and a couple of colleagues invested thousands of hours in organizing and indexing the company's engineering archives. That effort provided the source material for this book.
Much of the book is concerned with what Mr. Connors regards as P&WA's four "defining moments":
- The founding of the company (1925)
- The WWII effort (1939-1945)
- The transition to turbine power (1947-1958)
- Winning the F100 engine program (1968-)
|R-4360 Wasp Major|
We learn, in a really suspenseful sequence, how the company started the gas turbine era desperately far behind GE and Westinghouse, and how Luke Hobbs and Perry Pratt led the engineering effort that produced the J-57 engine for Boeing's B-52 Stratofortress - an engine that represented both a "bet the company" program and a quantum advance in turbojet performance.
The J-57 in its commercial guise (as the JT-3) went on to power both the Boeing 707 and the DC-8 (and the rest, as they say, is history).
|TF-30 Afterburning Turbofan|
|JT-9D High-bypass Turbofan|
While one must respect the author's conclusions, I'd have proposed the development (well described here) of the JT-9D high-bypass turbofan during the same years that the F100 was evolving, as a much more significant milestone. The JT-9D powered the first Boeing 747's that arguably revolutionized commercial air travel, and its technical "DNA" can be seen in every large airliner turbofan to this day.
Mr. Connors' book provides only an overview (certainly an interesting one) of the piston engine era. It was before his watch, so to speak, and he paints with a broad brush and suggests other references to fill in the details. But his technical history of the first 35 years of the turbine era at Pratt & Whitney is masterful, and for that era, this will be an essential reference.