Menasco Motors Company

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Menasco Motors Company
Former type Aircraft Engine Manufacturer
Industry Aircraft
Fate Renamed Menasco Manufacturing, later bought by Colt
Successor(s) Menasco Manufacturing Company
Founded 1928
Defunct 1944
Headquarters Burbank, California
Key people Albert S. Menasco
Products Aircraft Engines

Albert S. (Al) Menasco organized the Menasco Motors Company in 1926 to convert WWI surplus Salmson Z-9 water-cooled nine-cylinder radials into air-cooled engines for private use. His association with John K. (Jack) Northrop and his flying wing project in the late twenties convinced him of the need for a new configuration of aircraft engine: an inverted in-line air-cooled layout that would have the propeller shaft on top for better ground clearance and improved pilot vision.[1]

In 1929, Menasco designed his own engine, the 4-A, the first of what was to become Menasco's main product line, the inverted, in-line engine. Menasco designed and built a variety of four- and six-cylinder inverted air-cooled aircraft engines, some with supercharging.[2]

During WW II, Menasco manufactured aircraft landing gear for North American, Lockheed, Republic, General Dynamics, and others. After the war, aircraft landing gear became Menasco's main product.

Menasco engines[edit]

Menasco C-4 "Pirate engine".
Menasco C-4 "Pirate engine"

The best-known Menasco engines are the air-cooled, inverted inline four- and six-cylinder engine series known as the Pirate and Buccaneer, respectively. Al Menasco was deeply involved with air racing and his engines were popular with racers who needed a small displacement engine. None of the early supercharged engines were production designs with ATC ratings. One of the less obvious benefits Menasco offered was his willingness to build custom engine combinations to fit special airplanes for reasonable prices.

An important advantage of owning a Menasco engine was Al's appreciation of the economics of using off the shelf interchangeable parts whenever possible. This company was the only supplier of inverted in-line engines in the early thirties. They had reasonably high power, and a ready availability of complete engines and repair parts.[3]

Production of certified engines did not begin until 1936 when Art Chester was hired by Menasco for research and development for the C4S (220-230 hp) and B6S (290 hp) engines. Chester was a race pilot who had a reputation for getting the most horses out his four-Cylinder Menasco, and keeping it reliable at the same time.

A new engine was introduced in 1937: the six-cylinder C6S-4 model, rated at 400 hp at 3300 rpm and 70 in of manifold pressure. It was the first Menasco that really had the power potential to win the Thompson Trophy race. The first prototype went to Rudy Kling for his new Folkerts SK-3 racer in early 1937. In 1938 the commercial version of the C6S-4 was ATC certified at 260 hp.

Menasco engine list[edit]

Menasco-Salmson B-2 (converted Salmson 9Z for the Stearman C3H)
Menasco A-4 Pirate (also listed as Menasco 4A)
Menasco B-4 Pirate
Menasco C-4 Pirate (Military designation L-365)
Menasco Pirate C-4S
Menasco D-4 Pirate
Menasco D-4-87 Super Pirate
Menasco M-50 Pirate
Menasco A6 Buccaneer
Menasco B6 Buccaneer
Menasco C6 Buccaneer
Menasco C6S Super Buccaneer
Menasco D6 Super Buccaneer
Menasco U2-544 Unitwin
Menasco XIV-2040
Menasco XH-4070
Menasco RJ37

Menasco retires[edit]

Al Menasco left the company in 1938. Menasco opened a car dealership, tried his hand at grape cultivation and winemaking, and was sought out for advice by aviators and engine manufacturers for the rest of his life, which ended in 1988.[3]

Aircraft Landing Gear[edit]

In 1945 Menasco Motor Company changed its name to Menasco Manufacturing Company to better describe the company's business, which was then transitioned from aircraft engines to development and manufacturing aircraft landing gear.

More than 80,000 gear sets were produced during WW II that included such honored aircraft as the Lockheed P38 Lightning, the North American P51 Mustang, the Republic P47 Thunderbolt, and the Lockheed P80 Shooting Star.

Beginning about 1946 manufacturing of landing gear was shifted to include commercial airlines. By the end of the 1990s Menasco Aerosystems was the free world's largest producer of aircraft landing gear with plants in California, Texas and Canada. The extremely talented and disciplined work force produced gear sets for everything that flew. A few of the aircraft that gear sets were made for include the A7, F102, C130, C141, the Space Shuttle, F16, F16E, F18, F18E, YF22, B-1, C5A, C5B, B52, and tip gear for the B36. Gear sets for Boeing include the 707, 727, 737, 757, 777 and the KC135. Gear sets were also made for the Lockheed L-1011., Boeing, Douglas, Convair, Martin, McDonnel, Republic, North American and many other aircraft manufacturers joined Lockheed as Menasco customers.

Although the firm built thousands of engines for a variety of training aircraft during WWII, it did not resume engine manufacturing or development after the war, instead it concentrated on developing its landing gear business.

Menasco landing gear became the industry standard as its reputation for quality was acknowledged across the aircraft industry. Boeing, Douglas, Convair, Martin, McDonnel, Republic, North American and many other aircraft manufacturers joined Lockheed as Menasco customers.

Into space[edit]

Menasco built the landing gear that allowed the space shuttle to land on a runway. [4]

Mergers[edit]

Malabar Machine Company[edit]

Malabar Machine Company was started in 1935 by Mr. E.P. “Ed” Grime (pronounced Grim) as a machine shop for manufacturing items to customer drawings. Malabar’s primary business was aircraft jacks, including axle jacks for changing aircraft wheels and tires.

Menasco Manufacturing Company acquired Malabar in 1945, and relocated it to its Burbank, California plant to operate as the “Malabar Division” of Menasco. Malabar’s sales efforts included both domestic and international airlines and airframe manufacturers.

Malabar continues to manufacture aircraft jack products, and offers a line of aircraft maintenance and support equipment.[5]

Howmet Corporation[edit]

In 1970 Menasco, a corporation with manufacturing plants in Burbank, California, and Fort Worth, Texas, purchased two California plants from Howmet Corporation, in Montebello and Pomona, both in California, taking over Howmet's contracts and manufacturing operations for the production of aircraft landing gear. Because the Montebello plant was operating at a substantial loss, Menasco closed the plant.[6]

Colt Industries[edit]

In 1977, Colt Industries bought Menasco as part of its expansion into the aerospace technology development and manufacturing business sector.[7]

Colt Changes Name to Coltec[edit]

Colt Industries sold its firearms business, a divestiture that led it to change its name to Coltec Industries to emphasize its role as a producer of aerospace, automotive and industrial products.[8]

Coltec was a manufacturer of landing gear systems, engine fuel controls, turbine blades, fuel injectors, nozzles and related components for commercial and military aircraft, and also produces high-horsepower diesel engines for naval ships and diesel, gas and dual-fuel engines for electric power plants. The divisions, principal products and principal markets of the Aerospace/Government segment are as follows:[9]

Division Principle product Principle market
Menasco Aircraft landing gear systems and components, flight control actuation systems and other aircraft components Commercial and military aircraft manufacturers
Chandler Evans Control Systems Aircraft fuel pumps and control systems Aircraft engine manufacturers
Walbar Blades, vanes and discs for jet engines Aircraft engine manufacturers
Delavan Gas Turbine Products Fuel injectors, spraybars and other components for gas turbine engines Aircraft engine manufacturers
Lewis Engineering Cockpit instrumentation and sensors Commercial and military aircraft and engine manufacturers
Fairbanks Morse Engine Large engines powered by fuel or natural gas U.S. Navy, electric diesel utilities

The end[edit]

Closing the Burbank Plant[edit]

In the first quarter of 1994 Coltec Industries Inc. closed its landing gear manufacturing plant in Burbank, California, consolidating the production of landing gear systems at its Menasco Aerosystems facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and its Menasco Aerospace Ltd. facility in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Radio Club[edit]

In early 1994 the Ham Radio Operators at Menasco, Texas division, established The Menasco Amateur Radio Club, KC5NXA, which provided emergency communications in and for the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex area and training and recreation for the employees. KC5NXA is still active even today on the UHF, VHF, and HF Amateur frequecies.

Coltec purchased by Goodrich Aerospace[edit]

Coltec Industries, was acquired by Goodrich Corporation Goodrich Aerospace in 1999 in a $2.2 billion merger, creating a company with interests in aerospace, specialty chemicals and industrial products. It is the second major aerospace acquisition of the year for Goodrich. After approval by shareholders and anti-trust regulators, the merged company moved to Coltec's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. Goodrich is based at Richfield, Ohio.[10]

References[edit]