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Raisbeck Engineering mourns the passing of its founder
James Raisbeck worked in the aviation industry for nearly 70 years, in which time he was part of efforts that designed trailing-edge flaps for Boeings, redesigned wings for Learjets and founded Raisbeck Engineering.
James Raisbeck founder and former CEO of Raisbeck Engineering.

Raisbeck Engineering founder and former ceo James Raisbeck passed away on 31st August 2021 at the age of 84. He had a career in aviation that spanned over 67 years with him starting in the U.S. Air Force as an Airman Basic E-1. While Raisbeck Engineering was acquired by Acorn Growth Companies in 2016 Raisbeck continued to be active both at work and through multiple philanthropic interests.

“James was an iconic figure in the aviation industry, best known for King Air modifications, but his influence reached well beyond that segment of the market,” says Rick Nagel, Managing partner of Acorn Growth Companies. “James established and built a company we worked with as a channel partner for two previous Acorn companies before acquiring Raisbeck into our portfolio, allowing us the opportunity to continue James' legacy of developing products that improve aircraft performance and safety. The entire Acorn and Raisbeck teams will miss his unwavering passion for the aerospace sector and are deeply saddened with his loss. We offer our deepest condolences to his family at this difficult time."

In 1954 Raisbeck started his aviation career in the U.S. Air Force. Raisbeck spent many hours maintaining different military aircraft before becoming as a flight engineer on the B-36.

After leaving the U.S. Air Force he enrolled at Purdue University to pursue his dream career in aircraft design and graduated in 1961 with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Raisbeck landed a job as a research aerodynamicist with The Boeing Airplane Co. where he worked as part of a team that designed and flight tested an innovative trailing-edge flap system that gave Boeing's 707 airliner the ability to fly at speeds as low as 60 knots. This technology ended up in Boeing's commercial transport aircraft.

Raisbeck left Boeing in 1969 to pursue his idea for improving existing aircraft with products that enhance and improve productivity, performance, safety and comfort. He put his ideas to work as president and chief engineer at Robertson Aircraft Corporation.

In 1970 Raisbeck began to focus on improving the Learjet wing and his team pursued results from full scale testing of a Learjet 23 by NASA Ames in its 40x80 foot wind tunnel. Seeing opportunities in the results of testing led to the development in the early 70's of the Mark II and Mark IV low-speed performance systems and the Mark III high-speed drag reduction packages.

Raisbeck left Robertson in 1973 to launch his own company. In 1976 Rockwell International asked him to redesign its Sabreliner series and as a result the Model 65 was equipped and manufactured with Raisbeck-designed supercritical wings which were retrofitted to Sabreliner models 60 and 80.

In 1981 Raisbeck shifted his focus to the Beechcraft King Air family and his engineering team began design work on what was later certified as the Mark VI system for the King Air 200 series. Over the years Raisbeck developed multiple modifications for the King Air and it's claimed more than 64% of the 6,200 King Airs still in operation have at least one Raisbeck modification. The name Raisbeck Engineering was incorporated a year later.

In 1979 Raisbeck was honoured by Purdue University receiving its Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award and again in 1999 with Purdue's Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award. The same year he was awarded the AIAA Commercial Aviation Technical Achievement Award. In 2000 he was awarded Professional Pilot Magazine's Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2002 The National Business Aviation Association awarded Raisbeck its Lifetime Achievement Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation. In May 2005 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering from Purdue. In 2007 he was elected as a Pathfinder; that same year also saw him and his wife, Sherry, honoured as First Citizens by the City of Seattle. In 2008 he received the Living Legends Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award. Raisbeck was elected to Fellow in the AIAA in 2012. Most recently he was placed on the National Air and Space Museum's Wall of Honor a permanent memorial at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, recognising those with a passion for flight.

“James Raisbeck's impact on aviation is enormous and enduring. His legacy extends from aircraft innovations to aviation institutions that educate and inspire, including the Raisbeck Aviation High School,” says NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “NBAA was proud to recognise James with our Meritorious Service to Aviation Award in 2002.”

With his wife Sherry, through their foundation, he has given significant grants over the years in support of education, the arts, the Museum of Flight, medical research and the Raisbeck Aviation High School. The High School, which he helped establish in 2013 through the Raisbeck Foundation, was particularly close to his heart. His compassion, enthusiasm and support of the students, faculty and family members at the Raisbeck High School not only touched many lives but brought him just as much joy. He also served on the executive committee for the Museum of Flight providing his expertise to many committees including education, campaigns and galas.

“I am honoured to lead the company that bears James Raisbeck's name. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know James, and I valued his input, insights and wisdom. We will miss James tremendously, and our hearts reach out to his family and friends,” says Hal Chrisman, president of Raisbeck Engineering.

James Raisbeck is survived by his wife Sherry, two daughters, a son, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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