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Rumford native receives prestigious Collier Trophy
ARLINGTON, VA- John Violette, a 1962 graduate of Stephens High School and a founder of Rotating Composite Technologies, LLC was among the Sikorsky team that was recently awarded the 100th Collier Trophy for the design of a light-weight propeller for the Sikorsky X2 Technology Demonstrator for the upcoming S-97 Raider helicopter.
Violette started his engineering career at Sikorsky Aircraft, a Division of United Technologies Corporation, in Stratford, CT in June of 1966. In 1968, he transferred to Hamilton Standard (now Hamilton Sundstrand), also a Division of UTC, in Windsor Locks, CT, helping to complete engineering work on the astronaut backpack used on NASA’s Apollo Moon Missions.
In 1970, Violette moved to Hamilton’s Propeller Design Department, doing Structural Design Engineering of propellers and propeller blades, and was promoted to group leader, eventually becoming Engineering Manager of Propeller Design and Development for three years.
While employed there, he contributed to 19 U.S. patents, some personal and some jointly with others, with all rights assigned to Hamilton.
In 1998, Violette took early retirement from Hamilton to help form a new business, AeroComposites, Inc, (ACI) with four other associates, designing and developing new, small, composite-bladed (fiberglass and carbon fiber reinforced plastic) propellers for non-certified (owner-built) aircraft.
He obtained a U.S. Patent for a new propeller blade design, developing a unique new proprietary fabrication process to produce it. ACI produced over 800 of these blades, assembled and sold about 250 two- and three-bladed, variable pitch, composite propellers between 2001 and 2011.
In 2007, Violette and his partners wanted to diversify their rotor technology into other products, such as ducted fans and jet engines, so they founded a second company, Rotating Composite Technologies, LLC (RCT), which purchased all the rights to ACI’s composite blade technology.
Violette also has patents, some still pending, on variable pitch designs for the large fan blades used on the front of turbofan jet engines, which could help save a great deal of fuel on all jet aircraft. RCT continues to develop key components for these fan blade designs. Violette has the largest ownership in both ACI and RCT with over 27 percent of each.
The commercial value of their lightweight, high-strength, composite propeller blades was recognized by McCauley Propeller Systems (MPS), an operating unit of Cessna Aircraft Division of Textron Corp, to whom they licensed the blade technology for its General Aviation propellers.
RCT and MPS signed a blade technology licensing agreement in 2008, and MPS is pursuing FAA Certification to produce these blades by the thousands for General Aviation Aircraft for applications with up to 1650-HP per propeller.
In 2005, RCT was asked to design and develop a new lightweight, high-strength, 6-bladed, 80-inch, pusher propeller for Sikorsky’s new, high-tech, high-speed, X2 Technology Demonstrator helicopter.
RCT followed through and delivered the 102-lb. propeller, capable of absorbing 1380-HP, to Sikorsky in the middle of 2006, forty years after Violette started his career there.
Sikorsky’s new vehicle utilizes a double main rotor, one above the other to balance rotor loads in high-speed flight, while also eliminating the need for a tail-rotor. By adding a high-power pusher propeller at the rear of the aircraft, the helicopter can fly level, greatly reducing drag and doubling its speed. In fact, the X2 set a new unofficial, helicopter speed record of 253-knots in October of 2010, which is over 290-mph.
Sikorsky was also happy that the speed was achieved with only 1175-HP applied to RCT's propeller, the majority of engine power, but still less than expected, indicating good efficiency. The helicopter’s increased speed allows the vehicle to go twice as far as a normal helicopter with the same fuel, and the double rotor blades provide greater lift allowing flight at higher altitudes with greater payload capacity than current designs.
This is especially useful in military applications and would solve many problems posed by high temperatures and high mountains in war zones such as Iraq, and especially Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, after considering several other nominations, the US National Aeronautic Association judged Sikorsky’s new helicopter and the Sikorsky X2 Demonstrator Team, to be the most valuable new contribution to Aerospace Technology to receive the 2010 Collier Trophy Award.
2010 was also the 100th Anniversary of this award. As a key contributor providing the propulsion that helped the X2 achieve its high speed goal, RCT's small 5-person company was invited to participate in the award ceremony, along with six big name companies.
Violette noted, “I am fortunate to be RCT’s president, and thus was selected to accept a replica of the large trophy at the special NAA ceremony in Arlington, VA this year.”
Sikorsky transported the X2 helicopter to the entrance of the hotel where the NAA Awards Banquet was held. Violette has been told by Sikorsky that they have made plans with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to donate the X2 helicopter next year, where it will reside at the section of the museum that is located at Dulles International Airport.
“Having one of my new products in that museum is something I never thought I would achieve in my career,” noted Violette.
“The NAA Awards Banquet was truly a memorable night, with Igor Sikorsky’s son, Sergei, and Dick Rutan as keynote speakers,” stated Violette.
Violette is the President and Chief Engineer of both AeroComposites, Inc. (ACI) and Rotating Composite Technologies, LLC. Both companies have offices and blade production facilities at 49 Cambridge Heights, Kensington, CT 06037. Violette's active partner and co-founder and VP of Sales, is Dr. Harrison Griswold. RCT is lead by Violette and Griswold as primary officers, with three young engineers, all tops in their graduating classes at the University of Connecticut.
Violette is the oldest son of the late Armand and Gaetane Benny Violette of South Rumford and is married to Jean Brown, also a graduate of Stephens High School, the couple has four children and reside in Granby, CT. They have a summer home on Webb Lake.