Walter Hammond Righter (1905 - 1982)

An Illustrated Biography by his daughter, Frances Jean Righter Tucker © 2005

Chapter 6. A Career in a Nutshell : Part 2

Last Updated : October 17, 2005

1-5-1946 to 6-11-1951

By this time my father needed an airplane for some inventions he had in mind, but first he needed to know how to fly one. He bought a Luscombe 8E Silvaire in May 1946, a "trainer" model and took flying lessons from Don Dwiggins, flight instructor at Whiteman Air Park in San Fernando, CA for a total of 2 hours and 41minutes. He then soloed for 3hrs and 3min doing the required spins, stalls, steep turns, spirals and received his pilot license.

This was a record flight time. No one had ever earned a pilot's license in such a short time. The customary initiation for the new pilots was to cut off a piece of their shirttails and tack then on the wall bulletin board. It was a colorful display.


Luscombe 8E Silvaire, May 1946

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Using the Luscombe he developed a kick-starter and installed it inside the cockpit. No more running from cockpit to prop and back. No danger of propeller or engine kickback injuries from flipping the propeller to get the motor started.

Read more about the Kick-Starter project and its very pretty 'test pilot' :-)

8-28-1946 to 8-1-1947 : RIGHTER PRODUCTS COMPANY

Owner, President and Chief Engineer. He developed and marketed small aircraft engine starters and a safety release. This 'kick starter' was for continental aircraft engines. The Righter Products Company was at 1754 Victory Boulevard, Glendale 1, CA (Tel: Chapman 5-2833).

May 1947

My father made mechanically operated fishing floats for A. J. Kroeckel. It employed a large sinker and a small one designed to 'jerk' when the fish took the hook.


A. J. Kroeckel Fishing Float and Sinker

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1948 to 1-1956 : L. A. PNEUMATIC COMPANY INC.

Based in Glendale CA, my father was President and Chief Engineer.

My father operated a job contract machine shop, catering to aircraft and missile field. He built articles designed by Righter Engineering Company at San Fernando Road in Glendale, CA and did consulting engineering and development work including design and construction of tractors, field machinery, mobile cranes, and textile rug hooking machinery.


Walt and his Mini 'Dozer'

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Walt and his Mini 'Dozer'

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Walt and his Mini 'Dozer'

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Walt and his Mobile Crane

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"Even a girl can drive it" !

and the girl is non other than author's 'baby' sister Cathie :-)

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In 1953 my father designed, developed and marketed the "ACCELA-BRAKE", a hydro-pneumatic brake and acceleration control mechanism equipment for automotive use. My father sold the company in Jan. 1956


The "Accela-Brake"

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The "Accela-Brake" schematic

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My father taught drafting 'Aircraft Engine Design', 'Engineering Drafting' and 'Strength of Materials' for a year or two.

1952 : BEECRAFT ASSOCIATES, INC. The Honey Bee powered by a Righter engine was designed and built in Beecraft 1536 Missouri St. San Diego, CA. by Ken Coward and former Museum president William F. Chana. With Chana at the controls, the Honey Bee made its first flight in 1952 from Montgomery Field in San Diego.


The Honey Bee

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The Honey Bee was granted Type Certificate No. 4A11 on December 17, 1953, making it the first airplane to receive FAA approval in the second half of the first century of powered flight. It is also believed that the Honey Bee was the first homebuilt aircraft certified by the FAA. While two are known to have been constructed from plans by private individuals, Bee Aviation produced only a single Honey Bee (registration number N90859) ? the one now in the Museum?s collection.

The Honey Bee is an all-metal aircraft of conventional construction with tricycle landing gear. Power is provided by a four-cylinder 65hp Continental engine. At just over 600 pounds, the aircraft?s wing span measures 28 feet with fuselage length 17 feet. Cruising speed was 110 mph, service ceiling at 15,000 feet and maximum range was 240 miles.


My father made a yard loader (a small crane), plotter and knitting machine.


A wholly-owned subsidiary of GLADDEN PRODUCTS CORPORATION was based in Glendale, CA. and produced the hydro-mechanical section of the Sparrow II Missile under subcontract with DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT COMPANY.

As Chief Engineer, my father carried out all engineering liaison with the prime contractor, supervised the construction of test equipment and all tool design and construction both inside and outside of the plant. 635 West Colorado Blvd., Glendale. CA (Tel: Citrus 3-3154 and Chapman 5-1021).

12-1957 to 5-1960 : WALDALE RESEARCH COMPANY, INC.

As Vice President and Chief Engineer of the electronics, research, development and manufacturing company in Pasadena CA., my father designed strain gauges, load cells, position transducers and strain multipliers. He supervised engineering and production and performed consulting engineering functions, relative to installation and use of their products at various customer facilities.

The company was purchased by LOCKHEED ELECTRONICS COMPANY at 11626 McBean Drive, El Monte, CA. (Tel: Gilbert 3-2788 and Cumberland 3-1303.) Later the company moved to 362 W. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA. (Tel: Ryan 1-4946 and Sycamore 5-9147)

From 11-1959 to 5-1960 my father took leave of absence from WALDALE RESEARCH COMPANY, INC. to carry out development work on pneumatic control valve as RIGHTER ENGINEERING COMPANY


Los Angeles, division Department of AVIONICS and INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS


Lockheed Electronics

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My father was Senior Engineer in the transducer department (formed by purchase of WALDLE RESEARCH COMPANY) where he made the original layout and supervised design and development of bonded strain-gauge type load cells and variable resistance position transducers field. He also did consulting engineering work relative to product lines acquired from WALDALE RESEARCH COMPANY of 362 W. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA.

1960 : FORD MOTOR COMPANY (Aeronutronic Division)

Gerald J. Lynch: Vice President and General Manager. Ford Road, Newport Beach, CA

On May 16, 1961 my father received the following notice...

"Please report to the Security Office to pick up the badge designating your degree of clearance. Department : Military Security Representative."

As the 'MSR' on the Design Change Control Board, he handled all design change requests originated by manufacturing and expedited their passage through the board and design engineering and maintained a permanent record of each transaction. He acted as a liaison between manufacturing engineering and design engineering.

On April 26, 1960 NASA announced that Aeronutronic Division of the Ford Motor Company had been selected from 13 bidders for a $3.5 million contract to design and build a 300 pound instrumented capsule which would be crash-landed on the surface of the moon. The capsule would be launched by an Atlas-Agena B and would be attached to a larger payload currently under development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The larger payload was intended to carry television cameras.

When the spacecraft (later named "Ranger") had reached a point 25 miles above the lunar surface, the smaller capsule would detach itself and crash-land. The instruments, including a seismometer and a temperature recorder, would then transmit data back to earth.

New York Times, April 27, 1960

9-16-1961 : FORD MOTOR COMPANY (Aeronutronic Division)

My Father started designing Air Cushion Vehicle Control Vane Panels.


Ford 'Glideair' Hovercar

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Ford 'Glideair' Hovercar

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6-12-1961 to 1-1-1962 : COLLINS RADIO COMPANY

October 29, 1962 my father started working in the Component Department on Warner Blvd. Los Angeles, CA. While working for Collins Radio Company 1963-1966 and in 1969, he was the Fabrication Manager.


Walt with fellow Collins Radio Company staff

L-R: Ralph Stoltz, H.F. "Jack" Spratt, Walter Righter, Ken L. Dodd, Marion Hartley, Jack Sweet, Dick Hetherington

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He worked on digital programming, photo lab engineering, microscopes and micro photography. Between 1966-1969 he had a hand in designing and making tooling gear for some of the electronic equipment on the Apollo 10 Space Ship.


In 1932, Whit Collins had formed a partnership with Harold Powell and represented the Elastic Stop Nut Company. Their office was in Beverly Hills, CA and from Jan. 16, to Oct. 1962 my father worked in the Information Science Center at 853 Bendix Building 1206 Maple Ave., Los Angeles, CA. (Tel: Richmond 7500).

Aug. 1962 to Nov. 23, 1963 : VEGA RADAR and CENTURA DATA

On the 23rd of November 1963 my father had a heart attack but resumed working at Collins March 1, 1964.


Based at 12912 Malina Dr. Santa Ana, CA 92705 (714) 538-1711, my father developed a marketable air actuated transmission for automobiles.


My father made a Precision Photo Platter, Computer operated with laser interferometer control.


In order to update the COLLINS COMPANY with new technology, a group of employees had to take a science course in "Photo-optical" ($75.00). Most of his co-workers were fresh out of grad school and hot to set the world on fire. Walt was the old man in the shop and a joke to them and they called him 'Grandpa' behind his back. Walt knew it and was amused and quietly went about his job.

The course was a tough one and required a lot of studying. When they received their test scores, they were surprised to find out that Grandpa got by far the highest grade. Their attitude suddenly changed after that. They realized how intelligent he was and had great respect for him and they learned a lot from him. They still called him 'Grandpa', but affectionately.

My father retired May 1, 1970 at age 65 and after 8 1/2 years working at Collins. He was honored with a retirement dinner party given by Collins, with fellow workers and friends.


Walt 'retires' from Collins Radio

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Walt with Norma at his farewell from Collins Radio

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After my father 'retired' ! So what did he do ? He became a consulting Engineer once again. But had some fun too. He helped his grandson make a soapbox car for racing overseeing the project while his grandson did the work. It was a winner in the local California race. They went on to race in the Ohio National Derby and did well there also.


My father worked again as a consultant for VEGA and almost full time for six months at CENTURY DATA COMPANY in Anaheim, CA.


They made a small 'Instant Flow' water heater attached under a sink. The flow of water actuates a switch to energize heating coils submerged in water. The heater had a flow activated safety switch. It heated water immediately. September 7- 1977 they applied for a patent.


Kenneth Gustofson and Walter Righter

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'Instant Flow' water heater

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'Instant Flow' water heater

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Download a more readable copy in black and white

Earlier, around 1968 my father built a guide for drawing lines on a drawing board.


The exact dates are not known so these references are not in order


Based in Costa Mesa, CA, my father worked on underwater communications on submarines. Very low frequency sound waves and very long antennas.


Electric Motor Specialists 1375-85 North Broadway, Los Angeles, CA. (Capitol 0484)


Aerospace Museum San Diego, CA.
OQ-2A w. powerplant possibly 0-15-1 (2-GS-17)

Fort Bliss Museum, Elpaso, Texas
OQ-2A w. powerplant 0-15-1 (2-GS-17)

Fort Rucker, Alabama
OQ-3 w. powerplant 0-15-3

Air and Space Museum Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio
SD-1 (MQM-71)

Chino Aircraft Museum, Chino, CA.
Righter 0-15-1/2-GS-17 and TBA

AMA - Academy of Model Aeronautics, Muncie, Indiana
The largest collection of Righter 'Dennymite' engines


By 1961 Walter H. Righter held patents in the following fields:

Aircraft, Aircraft Engines, Small Tools, Automotive, Hydraulics and Electronics.


1930 (08-15)   Welding and Soldering Appliance
1933          Solder Feeding Mechanism
1935          Aircraft Engine Valve Gear
1937 (02-17)   Valve & Rocker Arm Assembly for Radial Engines
1942          Radio Controlled Target Airplane
1950 (08-17)   Mechanical Starters for Aircraft Engines.
1950          Hydro-Pneumatic Control for Automotive Brakes - 2 patents
1953 (06-30)   Vacuum Operated Brake Actuator (Air Brakes)
1953 (06-30)   Vehicle Brake Control Apparatus
1959          Bonded Strain Gauge
1960          Strain gauge Load Cell
1966 (07-22)   Angular Deviation Gauge.

Inventions: Some may have patents:

1935: My father was involved in the construction of the very large dam in the San Gabriel Canyon above Azusa, CA. It had a long ramp used for testing torpedoes. He had been working on missile development in the 1950s. Eventually it was used for testing water launched missiles up until the 1990s.

1944 (03-22)    Propeller
1947 (02-19)    Ratchet Wrench
1950 (09-03)    Ratchet End Wrench
1950           Pot Collet
1955 (05)       Deviator a navigational Instrument for ships.

Mr. B.S. Carpenter wrote: "When this instrument was adjusted to the deviation table of the compass on my boat it would automatically show the correct compass course for any true or magnetic course that I desired to set it on, thereby taking the place of the deviation table. This instrument was used to set courses on my cruiser, the "Alice-Helen". On a trip to Catalina Island on May 14-15, 1955 and worked perfectly.

1961 (c)       Super Square
1968          Drawing lines on a drawing board for Kenneth Gustofson
1968 (08)       Position Transducer
1968 (06)       Motor operated-Garden Digger


Walt with his Garden Digger

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1968 (11-20)   Gauge Surface Plate Indicating Square.
1970          Mounting head for environmental test device
1971          Surface Plate Square
1973 (05)       Instant Water Heater
19??           Bicycle Motor

Listed above are only a few of the projects that my father invented, manufactured and marketed over a span of some six decades

When I started searching through his files for information about his career, I found folders of notes and letters about and photographs and blueprints of inventions he had created. Engines large and small for full size and model aircraft and boats, motorbikes and motorcycles, domestic and commercial agricultural machines even small cranes. Whether electronically, electrically, or pneumatically controlled my father had both an interest and 'need' to invent ...When I think of the many things that he did and look at what is in his files, I find it all truly overwhelming. Indeed what he created and accomplished in 77 years is truly remarkable.


Walt at his desk

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