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Thirty years of Raisbeck Engineering has produced clear results; the company’s products are critical to customers of diversely different aircraft.


The trail of Raisbeck Engineering’s work dates back more than four decades- to when founder James Raisbeck left the U.S. Air Force to pursue his dream career – aircraft design. After studies in Lafayette- Indiana- Raisbeck graduated from Purdue University with a degree in aeronautical engineering and in 1961 landed a job as a research aerodynamicist with The Boeing Airplane Co.

He worked as part of the team that designed and flight tested an internally blown trailing-edge flap system that gave Boeing’s new 707 airliner the ability to fly at speeds as low as 60 knots – technology that found its way into Boeing’s highly successful commercial transports- along with other products of the team on which Raisbeck worked.

But Raisbeck dreamed of going farther and in 1969 he left Boeing to pursue his ideas for improving existing products- certificated at an earlier time- with products designed to enhance and improve productivity- performance and comfort. He first put his ideas to work at the legendary Robertson Aircraft Corporation- birthplace of the famed Robertson STOL kits created for scores of general aviation aircraft.

In 1973- Raisbeck left Robertson and set up his own shop; the results- in the company’s 30th year- have been influential beyond expectations. Today- Raisbeck products are critical to customers of airplanes as diverse as Beechcraft- Learjet- Saberliner- Airbus- and even his former employer- Boeing.

“By way of background- I have seen much and learned much about modifiers since leaving Boeing in 1969 to set out on my own in this very field of improving airplane productivity. I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go-” Raisbeck told the Cargo Facts Conference that met at Seattle in early October 1999. “We have stayed the course.”

Raisbeck’s innovations for the Learjet family have included the Mark II and Mark IV Wings- which are now standard technology on all Learjet’s Century III and Softflite versions throughout the world.

Rockwell International asked Raisbeck to redesign its Sabreliner series in 1976. The resulting model 65 has Raisbeck-designed and manufactured Supercritical Wings- which were also retrofitted to Sabreliner’s models 60 and 80.

Since 1981- Raisbeck’s engineering team has been addressing the Beechcraft King Air family- with an eye to increasing its productivity- performance- safety levels- and overall customer usefulness. Their products are now OEM on new King Airs- or an OEM option.

And Raisbeck Engineering is today integrating advanced technology with previously designed but proven airplanes of all types.

The latest system for Learjets- introduced in 1994- is the Aft Fuselage Locker on Lear 31/35s. The locker carries seven pairs of skis and poles or 300 pounds of cargo. It is a Bombardier/Learjet Factory completion option on new Lear 31s- and is offered by all Bombardier Service Centers as a retrofit on Learjet 31/35/36 models.

In 1996- Raisbeck’s Commercial Air Group completed re-certification of the Boeing 727 to meet Stage 3 noise requirements without weight — and performance — penalizing hush kits. American Airlines is but one of the many 727 operators who have chosen the cost-effective Raisbeck solution. Throughout the world- over 126 727 aircraft have been Raisbeck-hushed to date.

One of Raisbeck Engineering’s newest products is extending the company’s type penetration into the Gulfstream product line: an aft-fuselage fairing capable of delivering as little as improved aerodynamics – with its associated benefits to fuel consumption and still-air range – or as much as those same aerodynamic benefits- plus improve luggage and fuel capacity.

The fairing- or shape- is fully external to the Aft Fuselage of the G-IV airframe- installing on the surface of the business jet’s lower. After an owner/operator survey confirmed interest among the G-IV/G-IVB SP owners- the company went on to produce a mod that is typically Raisbeck in its innovative blend of benefits and prices.

Briefly- the aft fuselage treatment comes in four flavors with four prices: As a drag-reducing fairing alone at a minimal cost of $75-000; as a baggage locker with its own 1-500 pounds of additional capacity for $225-000; as a fuel cell with a capacity of 2-200 additional pounds at a price of $475-000; or as a combination fuel cell/locker installation- also for $475-000.

According to the company- the fairing installation alone reduces drag by 4 percent to 6 percent; as a luggage locker- the mod gives the G-IV/IV-SP an additional 1-500 pound of luggage capacity; as a fuel cell- the additional fuel gives the G-IV an additional 45 minutes of range- adding to the already long legs of this large-cabin jet. And the suction reduction accomplished by the shape also improves on the loading envelope- giving the crew more flexibility for remaining with the Gulfstream’s certificated zero fuel weight limit. Raisbeck will offer these multipurpose modifications for both the G-IV And G-IVSP models when they are certified.

As you can see- Raisbeck works from more than a pure performance orientation; wing lockers and aft baggage lockers- for example- improve comfort and utility and often performance as well- as with the aft-fuselage mods for the Learjet and Gulfstream aircraft.

Raisbeck responded to a new market created in the few moments of time required for hijackers to commandeer four airliners and turn them into weapons of terror. It was on September 11 2001 that the market for hardened cockpit doors came into existence; it was in early October that the company started shipping units to its first two customers: Alaska Airlines and American Trans Air. These windowed doors can resist the impact of powerful handguns like the .44 Magnum revolver and the 9 mm pistol- as well as 300 joules of electrical energy- while reverting to normal operation when disarmed. The program was turned over to Boeing in March of this year.

Secret of success: Build what clients want to own

For an example of a cutting-edge Raisbeck development program rooted in the company’s historical strength- however- you need to look no further than a proposed new Raisbeck project. This one – another aft-fuselage fairing/locker – is for Bombardier’s Challenger Series.

The following appeal for input appears on the Raisbeck Engineering Website; the future of a proposed new mod package hinges on respondents’ answers.

“Challenger 601/604 Aft Fuselage Questionnaire – A message to all Challenger owners and operators:

You can help us. We have completed the preliminary design of an aft fuselage locker for the 601/604 Challenger series aircraft. In order for us to continue- we must learn your interest in the locker- pro and con.

Current expected features of the patented Raisbeck Aft Fuselage Locker for the Challenger include:

• 50 cu. ft. usable interior volume;
• 650 lb. cargo capacity;
• Heated with light pressurization;
• All external to the aft fuselage;
• Built in 3 sections with access to all inspection panels;
• 264 lb. empty weight increase;
• Compensating airplane drag reduction of 3% to 6%.

Your input is very important. We are prepared to spend millions of dollars and significant energy to develop a prototype and take it through flight testing to determine performance and aesthetics. But we can’t take this step if you aren’t interested or don’t care.

Please give us your thoughts via the following survey. If you have additional comments or questions- feel free to contact me [James Raisbeck] directly.”

Seeking owner input may be as important a factor in the longevity of Raisbeck Engineering as the quality and performance of its products. Pursuing projects customers don’t really want is as often the downfall of small companies as failing to fulfill on an actual project. Failure to produce at a sellable cost and going broke on development costs follows closely in causing project failure.

Heading into its 31st year- Raisbeck Engineering and its related operations clearly haven’t made those types of mistakes – at least- not more than once. In many cases- Raisbeck Engineering’s solutions make such strong sense to the OEM that they actually support development and use of the aftermarket product.

Again- reference Bombardier’s decision to offer its customers the Learjet locker and the OEM’s support of the new Challenger locker. But Raisbeck Engineering’s offerings go beyond fuselage enhancements and pop up outside the realm of business jets on propjets.

Improving on a King

In one case- taking that first step only opened the door on a long journey of improvement- a series so significant that upwards of 60 percent of all existing versions carry at least one available Raisbeck mod: the Beechcraft King Air series.

Raisbeck Engineering boasts a list of products for the King Air that numbers six performance-enhancing packages and seven individual improvements that covers everything from the 90 series to the 350.

Some- such as the composite exhaust-stack fairings or the Quiet Turbofan Propellers- are approved for all King Air models; others- such as the Enhanced Performance Leading Edges or Ram Air Recovery System- apply solely to one model – the 200.

In all cases- though- the system addresses some shortcoming or delivers on some prospect for improvement. Ditto for new commercial aircraft products Raisbeck recently developed.

The overhead bin the company designed for the Airbus A320 double the capacity of carry-on roller-bags– increasingly an issue for travelers harried by the delays brought on through enhanced baggage security measures.

And like Raisbeck’s business aircraft performance and utility mods- these A320 bins deliver on the expressed needs of customers – in this case customers concerned with satisfying the needs of their own paying customers. Innovative Jet Blue- an exclusive A320 operator- was lead customer with an order for 121 kits.

It’s been the same for three decades and- based on the steps taken to assure continuity of the company- will likely be the same for the next three decades - at least- as long as the company continues to follow the pattern of identifying a need- finding a solution customers want- and delivering on that solution at a price worth paying.

That’s the tone James Raisbeck set when he started his company and the trait that made the company the success it’s been ever since.

MI:  www.raisbeck.com

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