Among Fairchild's most notable achievements in the aerospace
field are the following:
* First large, high speed, between-the-lens shutter for aerial cameras. This 1920 Fairchild invention made accurate aerial mapping
possible for the first time.
* First aerial mapping of all five boroughs of the City of New York. This aerial survey was undertaken in 1924.
* First commercially successful cabin monoplane built in the United States. Between 1927 and 1930, the Fairchild Aviation Corporation delivered more than 300 of its FC-2 series and became the nation's largest manufacturer of commercial aircraft of the period.
* First aircraft specifically designed to airline specifications. The model 100-A Pilgrim was built in 1931 for American Airways (now American
* First all-metal, semi-monocoque transport aircraft. Initially tested in 1932, the Model 150 also was the first transport capable of exceeding 200 mph.
* First air-cooled in-line engine with pressure cooling. Development of the 6- and 12-cylinder Ranger series engines started in the early 1930s.
* First successful aircraft radio compasses. The Kreusi radio compass was introduced in 1935 and more than 10,000 had been delivered by the time production ended in 1947.
* First U. S. Army aircraft specifically designed to carry military cargo. The only one of its kind, the XC-31 was delivered to the Army in 1936.
* Pioneered application of composite structures to airframe design and production. The adhesive bonding processes and techniques developed during the mid-1930s are still followed in the manufacture of composite structures today.
* First nine-lens mapping camera. It was built for the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1936.
* First practical low-wing primary military trainer. The Fairchild PT-19 won an Air Corps competition over 17 aircraft in 1939. More than 8,000 PT-19s were built for the military services of U. S. and allied nations during World War II.
* First lead computing gunsight for aircraft. It was developed in 1941 for installation on B-24 bombers.
* First photographic, multiple-exposure flight analyzer for accurate recording and measurement of aircraft flight paths. Development of this complex and widely used camera started in the 1930s and was finally completed in the late 1940s.
* First successful military transport specifically designed to accommodate the post-World War II concept of an all-air Army. The Fairchild C-82 and C-119 series pioneered the large-scale aerial delivery of military equipment and supplies.
* First integrated, pod-mounted photo reconnaissance system. It was developed for the B-58 bomber.
* First U. S.-produced turbine-powered airliner to enter commercial service. Fairchild started production of the F-27 in 1957 and delivered 206 of the F-27, FH-227 series to U. S. airlines.
In his later years, Fairchild became increasingly involved in the emerging semi-conductor field. Although not directly related to aerospace applications semi-conductors helped to revolutionize both airborne and spaceborne electronics. The use of semi-conductors not only permitted a high degree of miniaturization -in aerospace systems but also significantly increased the reliability of those systems. Notable achievements in this field included:
* Development of the Planar process for the manufacture of semi-conductors. Following its introduction in 1959, the process immediately became the industry standard.
* First monolithic integrated circuit. This was developed in 1961.
* First semi-conductor memory for high speed computer applications. Following development in 1970, the memory was incorporated in the ILLIAC
IIII at NASA Ames Research Center.
It is an understatement to describe Fairchild's range of interests as incredibly varied. In addition to photography, aviation and electronics, he was also a successful entrepreneur in photoengraving and sound recording. An inventor who held more than 30 patents, he also was one of the nation's leading industrialists. Yet he never lost his zest for invention or his interest in technology. It was his nature to take a problem and develop a product to solve it. It was this characteristic which led to the start of his first business venture. He had been taking engineering courses at Columbia University when, during World War I, he volunteered his services to the Signal Corps as a civilian expert in photography. It was then that he first encountered an aerial camera
and the problem of image distortion in aerial photography.
He spent the better part of the next two years devising a solution to the problem. The result was the world's first successful aerial camera shutter. The between-the-lens shutter exposed the film frame all at once as the camera mounted in the airplane moved through the air, thus eliminating the image distortion which had previously prevented accurate aerial mapping. On February 9, 1920, at the age of 24 he founded the Fairchild Aerial Camera Corporation. Fairchild's cameras soon became the world's standard. Since, they have been employed by commercial firms, the military services and government agencies to map all of the United States, South America, millions of square miles of other continents and, via the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions, more than
50 per cent of the surface of the moon. In 1925, Fairchild formed the Fairchild Aviation Corporation to manufacture airplanes. He considered the freezing cold, open cockpit biplanes of the time unsatisfactory aerial mapping platforms. Characteristically, he believed there should be a better way. With
typical practicality, he produced the FC-1, a high wing, enclosed cabin monoplane. The FC-1 was not only an excellent camera platform, it incorporated such technological innovations as folding wings as well as slots and ailerons used as flaps for greater stability. It has been termed.-d the first airplane with predictable flying characteristics.
Among those early Fairchild-built planes which gained fame was "The City of New York," a Model FC-2W which in 1928 circumnavigated the globe
in a record-breaking 23 days and 15 hours. Another highly publicized FC-2W was the "Flying Telephone Booth," delivered in 1928 to the Bell Telephone Laboratories. In a little more than two years, it made 1,613 flights carrying practically all of the well-known aviation figures of the day for demonstrations of the new two-way radio that soon made possible regularly scheduled air transportation. Still another was the '--stars and Stripes," the photo reconnaissance plane for Admiral Byrd's 1928-29 Antarctic Expedition, which made the first flight from the Antarctic continent.
In 1936, the Fairchild Airplane Corporation was reorganized into two major and distinct corporations. One has become Fairchild Industries, today a diversified aerospace and communications company. It includes in its corporate structure a complex of famous aviation names and companies which have manufactured and delivered nearly 40,000 aircraft of all types to military and civilian users throughout the world The other has become Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation. It too is known worldwide and today produces photographic and electro-optical imaging systems, electronic timing and control
systems, RF systems including electronic countermeasures and frequency management, electronic data systems and secure communications systems.
One of the most interesting aspects of Sherman Fairchild's career of accomplishment is that there was little in his background to account for his fascination with technology. He was born April 7, 1896, in Oneonta, a small upstate New York town. His parents were well-to-do and his father was for 12 years a Republican Congressman as well as a successful manufacturer and one of the founders, first president and chairman of IBM. Fairchild became a director of IBM following the death of his father in 1925. There is no doubt that he could have remained comfortably in the IBM structure had he chosen to do so.
However, as his entire life demonstrated, he preferred to explore new paths and create new opportunities. \In his later years he described himself as one who liked "to try to do things that will make the world a better place." Throughout his life he took an active part in the management of his companies, but management was not a role Fairchild relished. His basic management philosophy was "get the right man and let him run it." He preferred to function somewhere between scientist and executive, acting as a kind of technical interpreter between the product side and accounting-management side of business. Of his approach to solving technical problems, he said, "First, set an objective you are trying to reach. Never mind all the people who say you can't. You have to just go ahead and figure out a way to do it."
The wide diversity of Fairchild's interests is reflected by the number of professional societies of which he was a member. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He was a member of the Society of Tool and Manufacturing Engineers, Institute of Aerospace Sciences, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Photographic Society of America, Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation, Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, Society of Photo Scientists and Engineers, Illuminating Engineers Society and the Audio Engineering Society.