Turbofan Pioneer Dr. Sam Williams Dies

 - June 23, 2009, 12:00 PM

Dr. Sam Williams, founder and chairman of Williams International, died yesterday at the age of 88, according to a statement issued by his company. Williams patented the small turbofan engine and built on his company’s successful development of tiny cruise missile engines to break into the rarefied world of civil turbine engine manufacturers with introduction of the FJ44 line of turbofans. Winner of the Collier Trophy, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and the National Medal of Technology, Williams strived mightily to build a new category of aircraft–lightweight small personal jets. “Our objective is to replace aging, piston-powered light aircraft with all-new, four-place single and six-place twin turbofan-powered modern aircraft,” he said more than a decade ago. “This means we must develop a turbofan in the 700-pound-thrust category that is very low in cost at a high production rate, is extremely quiet, is light in weight, and is very reliable.” While the EJ22 civil version of the 700-pound FJX-2 wasn’t successful in the Eclipse 500 application, two FJX-2s powered Williams’s all-composite forward-swept-wing V-Jet II demonstrator, designed and built with Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites. The FJ44 engine line spawned development of new light jets such as the Sino Swearingen (now Emivest) SJ30 and Cessna CitationJet series. According to Williams International, “Dr. Williams also applied his gift for innovation to the many charities he supported, especially through his promotion of inventors and inventions in medical research for cancer and degenerative eye diseases.” Williams is survived by Barbara Gibson Williams, his wife of 54 years, two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren. His son, Gregg G. Williams, current president and CEO of Williams International, will assume the title of chairman.