Part II : 1950-1957

7. New Initiatives in High-Altitude Aircraft



WADC Response to ARDC Directive


[125] Meanwhile, the power plant laboratory at Wright Field started actions responsive to the ARDC directive of August 1954. Four procurement requests were initiated during the first quarter of 1955. On 6 January, PR 303 was initiated with $750 000 for a [126] contract with Summers Gyroscope Company to explore the Rae concepts, including the study of an aircraft design. For unknown reasons, this procurement request was recalled and reinitiated with a new date, 10 March 1955. It became the subject of much controversy and negotiation.


On 14 January 1955, a second procurement request, PR 305, was initiated to investigate hydrogen as a fuel in conventional turbojet engines. Four engine manufacturers were listed as sources, but when the form reached Philip J. Richie, a procurement official of the power plant laboratory, he added five more to be solicited. The requests, sent out on 2 February, had a due date of 15 March. On 20 February, Richie received a puzzling directive from ARDC Headquarters: give the Garrett Corporation an opportunity to submit a proposal on PR 305. He reluctantly complied, but did not extend the due date. Garrett bid on this and later attempted to include the same kind of work in other proposals but was unsuccessful. On 15 June, PR 305 resulted in a contract with United Aircraft for $543 000.


In recognition of the unique properties of liquid hydrogen, the power plant laboratory initiated two procurement requests for studies of liquid hydrogen tanks and insulation on 25 March 1955. PR 338 resulted in a contract with Beech Aircraft in June for $172 000. PR 339 became a contract with the Garrett Corporation in October, but until then it was caught in the same web of controversy and negotiations with Garrett as PR 303.29


When PR 303, with Summers Gyroscope as the sole source, reached Richie in March, he decided that a talk with Thomas Summers was necessary. When Summers came to Wright Field, Richie was puzzled to find him in no hurry to submit the necessary proposal. He soon learned the reason. On 22 March, Richie was summoned to ARDC headquarters and learned that the headquarters procurement officer objected to PR 303; Garrett had acquired Summer's interest in Rex and was the company to deal with.* Richie also learned during his visit that Gen. Marvin Demler, Gen. J.W. Sessums, Col. Paul Nay, and other top officials at ARDC were very familiar with the Rex program and wanted a contract executed fast.30


* The date of Garrettís acquisition of Rex interests from Rae and Summers is not clear. An indenture and transfer agreement on the patents dated 18 March 1955 appears to be the eearliest date. However, another indenture agreement was signed on 22 June 1955 from Rae to Garett and Summers to Garrett. On 29 July 1955, an announcement was made at a meeting of Air Force and Garrett officials that Garrett had acquired the Summers interest in the Rex engine. Garrett File, AFSC, Andrews AFB.