Small Fan - Jet Engine
"It's interesting to look back and see what the pioneers did and see how creative they were - and they didn't have the material that we do now," says Williams. "We must always be thinking of the next invention. You never reach a mature technology - it always improves and can be quite dramatic - there's no end to the future of improvement."
In 1954, Williams fulfilled a lifelong interest to start his own company and established Williams Research Corporation, now known as Williams International. Williams and his team began developing small gas turbine engines for a variety of applications. He then moved on to design small turbojet engines for target and reconnaissance drones, patenting the small fan-jet engine in 1968. The success of the fan-jet engine convinced the U.S. Air Force and Navy that it could be used to propel missiles over long distances at low altitudes.
"Other engine companies didn't believe you could scale down a large engine," explained Williams. "But we knew that we could achieve high efficiency and knew we would be successful and it immediately convinced the military." Williams also developed a commercial turbofan engine that made smaller, lower operating cost business jets feasible. These Williams' turbofan engines power three different Cessna Citations, the Raytheon Premier, the Sino-Swearingen SJ30 and Swedish Air Force Trainers.
Born in Seattle in 1921, Williams was raised in Columbus. He received his BS in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1942.
In recognition for his outstanding work, Williams has received some of the most prestigious awards in aviation, including the Collier Trophy in 1979, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 1988, and the National Medal of Technology in 1995; he has been awarded 73 patents. Although he takes pride in all of his awards, "the first is always the best," says Williams.