An aerodynamics engineer created modifications that made different aircraft better
Purdue, USAF, Boeing,Roberson Aircraft and Raisbeck Engineering
Sabreliners, Learjets, B-707s, STOLs, King Airs, Airbus A320s and Boeing 727s
He and his wife major charitable donations to education (including a High School) to arts to medecine
The readers of the JDA Journal have told us that they look to the posts to learn about people in aviation—promotions, opinions on technical matters and sadly obituaries. Mr. Raisbeck’s death marks the loss of an important contributions to business aircraft and of other aeronautical innovations. To commemorate his achievements, here are two articles about this aerodynamic giant- the first focuses on Raisbeck’ technical achievements and the second chronicles his local philanthropic contributions.
by Kerry Lynch – September 7, 2021, 12:10 PM
James Raisbeck, who had an aviation career spanning 67 years and made his mark for his engineering and aircraft modifications expertise, died August 31 at the age of 84.
Raisbeck founded his Seattle-based business Raisbeck Engineering in 1973 and designed modifications that have been incorporated on thousands of aircraft. The firm was acquired by Acorn Growth Companies in 2016, but Raisbeck continued to advise the company and focused on philanthropic interests.…
Raisbeck’s aviation career began in 1954 in the U.S. Air Force, where he maintained a number of different military aircraft before becoming a flight engineer on the B-36.
After his service in the U.S. Air Force, he attended Purdue University, obtaining a degree in 1961 in aeronautical engineering. He put that degree to work as a research aerodynamicist with Boeing, where he joined the team that designed an innovative trailing-edge flap system that enabled the then-new 707 airliner to fly at speeds as low as 60 knots.
After working on this and other technologies that Boeing folded into its commercial aircraft line, Raisbeck left the manufacturing giant in 1969 and became president and chief engineer of Robertson Aircraft, famed for the development of the Robertson short takeoff and landing (STOL) kits used on a number of general aviation aircraft.
In 1970, he turned his attention to the Learjet wing. After studying results from full-scale testing of a Learjet 23 by NASA Ames, he saw opportunities that led to the development of the Mark II and Mark IV low-speed performance systems and the Mark III high-speed drag-reduction packages, the company said, noting Mark II and Mark IV wings became standard technology on Learjet Century III and Softflite versions..
Raisbeck left Robertson in 1973 to launch his own company and in 1976 worked with Rockwell International on a redesign of the Sabreliner series. This resulted in the Sabreliner model 65 being equipped with Raisbeck-designed supercritical wings, with retrofits available for Model 60s and 80s.
The company perhaps is most known for its modifications on the Beechcraft King Air family. That work began in 1981 when Raisbeck saw possibilities for improving the King Air’s productivity, performance, safety, and overall usefulness, the company said. This culminated in the Mark VI system for the King Air 200 series that included a number of systems still in use today, including the ram-air recovery system, dual aft body strakes, and high float gear doors.
Since then, Raisbeck has developed multiple modifications for the King Air and the company said 64 percent of the more than 6,200 King Airs are equipped with at least one of its modifications. In addition, Raisbeck continued to develop modifications for other Learjets and aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 727.
His work has been recognized throughout the industry, as well as academia. In 1979, Purdue University presented its Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to him, and again in 1999 its Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award. He also has received the AIAA Commercial Aviation Technical Achievement Award. In 2002, NBAA honored Raisbeck with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation, considered one of the association’s highest honors. He also has been recognized with the Living Legends Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award, as a fellow of AIAA, and on the National Air and Space Museum’s Wall of Honor.
“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,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.
He also is known for his philanthropic endeavors supporting education, the arts, the Museum of Flight, medical research, and the Raisbeck Aviation High School.
He is survived by his wife Sherry, two daughters, a son, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Sep 2, 2021, 4:28am EDT
Renowned aviation industry leader and community pillar James Raisbeck died Tuesday at the age of 84.
Founder of Raisbeck Engineering, a prime aerospace manufacturer, Raisbeck received the Museum of Flight’s coveted Pathfinder Award in engineering in 2007 for his vast body of work toward the betterment of aviation.
Before heading his own company, Raisbeck worked for The Boeing Co., Robertson Aircraft Co. as president and chief engineer, partnered with the Dee Howard Co. in developing the Mark II system for Learjet and for Rockwell doing contract work.
“I know he fought with every cell in his body,” said his wife Sherry Raisbeck, an artist and teacher. “He had a lot of health issues at the end. Medic One was our best friend, but he still tried to keep it going and be involved. He lived life to the very last possible moment.”
Raisbeck Engineering created a series of add-ons for existing aircraft, both corporate and commercial, that increased performance and saved money, including a sound reduction system for Boeing 727s and the hardened cockpit security system for the 737s. Currently, the company is developing an aft fuselage locker system for the Learjet 60.
“He was a hard-charging aerodynamicist who possessed a comprehensive understanding of the interaction between technological and economic implications in airplane design,” Museum of Flight President and CEO Matt Hayes said.
Raisbeck and his wife Sherry were the driving force in creating Raisbeck Aviation High School, a public high school on the campus of Museum of Flight, where he gave untold amounts of financial support for its construction and for ongoing student scholarships.
“I was able to see him hundreds of times with the students, and the investment he made personally in these young people, and the way they saw him as something to aspire to, gave us all a lift. He was not a philanthropist who gave money and walked away. He and Sherry invest themselves in the very things they believe in,” Hayes said.
Aside from his passion for aviation, the Raisbeck philanthropy supports education, bio-medicine, the arts and health care. In April 2015, the Raisbecks made a $1 million gift to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, creating an endowed professorship in applied engineering. Raisbeck established endowed chairs at his alma mater Purdue University, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center with three faculty chairs there, and three faculty chairs at the University of Washington.
Raisbecks are also longtime major supporters in the arts and culture communities, providing leadership, support and inspiration to Cornish College of the Arts, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Opera and Seattle Symphony where James was a trustee, lifetime director and founding supporter of the Guest Artist Circle. The Symphony’s Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center is named for him.
At Medic One Foundation, they sponsored dozens of seasoned firefighters in the grueling year-long training program required to become Medic One paramedics.
“James and Sherry have been extremely supportive of the Medic One Foundation over the years. We are deeply appreciative of the Raisbecks loyalty, friendship and commitment to training exceptional paramedics for our region through the foundation. James will truly be missed by all,” Medic One Executive Director Kim Martin said.
Raisbeck received numerous awards and honors in his lifetime, among them: Purdue University’s Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award, Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award, Professional Pilot Magazine’s Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year and National Business Aviation Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Seattle’s Hope Heart Institute honored the Raisbecks with “Wings of Hope” annual award for their leadership in philanthropy and the couple was named Seattle-King County first Citizens in 2007.
He is survived by his wife Sherry; daughter, Jennifer Lee Raisbeck Roach (Andrew), three grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, two step-children, and two step-grandchildren
 I had the highest regard for James Raisbeck whom I knew for more than 30 years as a friend. I have wonderful texts from him going back years. When he called my cellphone, in his loud, gravelly voice, he offered strong opinions or suggestions that were always on target. And he always made himself perfectly clear. He was strong, brilliant, logical, generous and kind. And he was unabashedly proud of Sherry, the love of his life.
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