Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pacific Airmotive Corp. - Monday 3/17/2008

When I see these old industrial sites, I always think about all the lives lived inside. So far I haven't found a whole lot on the web about Pacific Airmotive. What a great business name though, huh?

They were apparently a vibrant part of Burbank's now-dwindling aerospace industry.


chris said...

I work just a minute or so from that facility. This was their engine test facility and it sits adjacent to what was once Lockheed-Martin's sprawling facility which is now the Burbank Airport, in Burbank, California. The Lockheed Buildings (virtually) surrounding it, were levelled during 1997-1999. I have no idea why this building still stands or who owns the property. To be sure a lot of aviation history occured there.

Bruce O'Reilly said...

I was a rotating units mechanic at Pacific Airmotive in 1971 and 1972. I moved into that job after starting as a general helper and then a parts cleaner. At that time we were a complete overhaul facility for various jet engines. We could perform almost any maintenance operation imaginable on the engines. The old timers remembered working on the "recips." (piston engines) The cleaning shop alone was magnificent. We had vats of various exotic cleaning chemicals big enough to dunk a small car in. We could even replate the huge shafts. We serviced Pratt and Whitney JT9D (747), JT8, and JT3 jet engines, PT6 gas turbines, GG-4 gas turbines (marine and electrical power generation). Other engines we serviced were Rolls-Royce RB-211 (used on L-1011 airliners), a few Alfa Romeo jet engines and some military engines whose names I dont't recall. To this day, I still have dreams of the place. I can even remember the smell. Being an extreme gearhead, I was in heaven working at PAC. I grew up, got an education and today I'm a vice president of a stock brokerage, but I miss the old place. The test cell was built in the late '60s. My neighbor, Roy Herald of Chatsworth supervised its construction. There was another smaller test cell across Hollywood Way.

I could go on and on about PAC. I am still proud of the work I did there. I feel it is something I can even brag about. It makes me sad to think that it is gone.

- Bruce O'Reilly (La Canada-Flintridge, CA)

Bruce O'Reilly said...

Chris wonders why the building still stands. I really don't know, but there are some hints to be found on the Web. PAC's facility at 2940 N. Hollywood Way is a California Superfund Site. That means it was heavily contaminated. I always suspected that the kidney cancer I suffered a few years ago may have been brought on by the use of nasty chemicals in my work as a mechanic at PAC and other places. I certainly don't blame any of my employers. I took the jobs willingly and we really didn't know back then.

- Bruce O'Reilly

Sundry said...


Thanks so much for commenting! You're a treasure trove of information. My husband was just
oohing and ahhing as I read this alound to him.

He works in the offices of a small aerospace machining company in Valencia that makes titanium parts for F-22s and F-15s. He worked at Kahr Bearing in Burbank and Allied Signal in NoHo before that.

I'm always moved by old buildings like this, as I imagine the lives that bustled within them when they were operating at full peak. I never would have dreamed up those big vats, though! Thanks for filling in some of the blanks.

Bruce O'Reilly said...

I don't want to bore you with too much detail, but your photo stirred up something in me. I just sent an email to Roy Herald, one of the men behind the existence of that building. He's 86 years old, a World War II pilot, and I plan to visit him next week.

Thank you,
Bruce O'Reilly

Anonymous said...

hi guys

quick question for anyone.
what information is available on the Nomad 260 Mark III? I am looking at N2800G. It claims to be a Super T28, but a mark III. I cannot find any reference to a Mark III.

Does anyone have a history of the plane after its conversion by Pacific Air Group. It seems to have lost its civilain status and has become an experimental aircraft rather than the civilian normal category it once carried (?). ANyway - what is a Mark III, the FAA and Google speak only to Mark I and II

Any help is appreciated

Kevin said...

Wow! I am surprised that this is still standing! I worked at PAC in the early 90's. Was a lot of fun. I am sure that a lot of folks have wonderful memories. That test cell, back then, was state of the art, and the envy of most of the airlines!
Thanks !!


Sundry said...

Hi, Kevin,

This is the post that keeps giving and giving. There's not a whole lot about this place online, and people keep finding this post.

What kind of work did you do there?

Kevin said...

I was the Manager of Marketing... and then as the need arose, I was the Director of Operations, and production. After a major downsize, I was the last to be laid off! But still, I enjoyed my time there!

Ron said...

I too worked there in the late 80s and early 90's. I left a couple of years before it closed. PAC history goes back to the 1920s when they were one of the first FAA part 145 repair stations. They overhauled Amelia Erharts engine. (the good one. lol) They where the first FAA authorized turbine overhaul facility ever. There were many other "firsts" for PAC also. Back in its beginning the company owned thousands of acres of land in what is now Burbank,Glendale and the surrounding areas. Most of it was orange groves. Another interesting bit of information that comes to mind when you mention "the lives lived there": part of the property that surrounds the pictured test facility was used as a Japanese/American internment camp during WWII.


Sundry said...

Ron - Fascinating! Thanks so much for posting!

Nice to know of the Amelia Earheart connection. There's a statue of her in nearby North Hollywood. This site also tells about her life in the area. http://www.godickson.com/aestatue.htm

I've been visting the Manzanar site for years (as documented elsewhere on this blog) but I hadn't heard of the Burbank connection. According to this reference I found, rather than being an interment camp itsself, the Burbank site was actually used as a temporary housing for people being released from internment camps and trying to find housing in the area. Just points up how very difficult that whole time was for them.


Anonymous said...

I worked at the PAC Aircraft Division - on the other side of Burbank airport from the engine division during 1967. I was a mechanic converting Convair 440s into turboprop Convair 580s. Although I was only 23 and at the bottom of the totem pole dismantling the greasy old airliners coming in for conversion, I loved the place. Worked with older PAC guys and some from Flying Tigers who worked on Super Connies - all of whom saw lots of early aviation history.

Strange coincidence: In November 1963 I was an aircraft mechanic student at L.A. Trade-Tech College. We took an all-day field trip to PAC's engine overhaul facilities- including the test cells. In those days they were still occasionally overhauling R-2800 piston engines, but mostly JT-3, J-57s, etc. Late that morning on the tour, an announcement was made that President Kennedy was shot. Perhaps I reminder details of that day clearly due to that terrible debacle. But I was impressed by the size of the facility and the dedication of the mechanics. Years later, I remembered PAC and thought it would make a good place to work. It was a good experience.


Jacob O'Gorman said...

I have part of a jet that was made at PAC. Its dated 7.6.65. Its an air intake off some jet.I'm trying to find out what kind of jet it is off of. It apears to be off the bottom. Its about 4 ft wide and 3ish across. Its fiberglass and painted great but was silver at one point. I also have side pannels for this plane but they are metal and have no info on them.
Serial #. 0151
Assy #. 906420-1
CH. E1
Any info would be great! Thanks, Jake.

Sundry said...

Hi, Jacob,

If you want to send me a digital photo, I'll put it on my blog. It's a kind of random blog, but a lot of people have found their way here because of this post, and maybe they'll find their way back.

Anonymous said...

Here's proof of the Pacific Airmotive/Earhart connection in this 1935 picture of Amelia Earhart unboarding from her plane in Oakland, surrounded by crowds, outside the Pacific Airmotive Corp. hangar.

Roy Herald said...

My name is Roy Herald. I worked as Plant Engineer at P A C in the 60s and 70s. One of my responsibilities was construction of the test cell off Hollywood Way in Burbank. I was in on it from concept to completion. At the time it was a very ambitious decision. Our facility was only equipped to handle the Prart & Whitney smaller jet engines along with Rolls Royce tyne engines. Our largest engine was the j75 engine used on the super secret Blackbird. We captured American Airlines as a customer and the cell was a go. Rather than bore everyone with windy narratives, if anyone has questions, i'll try to answer them

Angel said...

I just seen this accidentally. I worked for PAC from 1972-1980. I started as a modification mechanic in the QEC dept. and went on to inspection after smashing/sqeezing a finger with a rivet squeezer.
I also agree that we did excellent work there, with a full machine shop as well as plating shop. I think PAC would be open today if it was not for corporate greed on the part of Purex Corp. owners at the time as most airlines today have thair engines done by vendors.
I do remember some of the names i worked with and some of the faces I forget their names.
Nick Garcia, Perry Smith, Quintiliano Izquierdo, Mario Ledesma, Edkie Phillips and others

Angel Miniet

Love Lost said...

I just drove by this building five minutes ago and could not take my eyes off of it, so I entered the name I saw on the front of the building, which seemed to capture my attention just as much as the facility itself. I guess I would just like to say thank you for indulging my curiosity and wish you the best of luck in maintaining this wonderful source of random information,

Yours, Cole

Ken Schnardthorst said...

My Father-in-law used to work at this plant in the 60's. His name was Richard Carpenter. If anyone that reads this site that used to work there remember him, please leave me a note here and a way to contact you. I am researching his work history to find out what projects/places he worked on/at. He passed away from cancer in 2000.

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Kat said...

My parents met at PAC. They both worked there for 20+ years. I grew up around the aircraft industry. Interesting reading all these posts.

Jim Kelley said...

I worked at PAC for 29 years starting in 1966 right to the end. Started out as a part chaser and worked my way up though the shop to be the last Machinist out the door. What a shame, still dream of those days. The test cells are still there, in the picture you see there are 5 cells and the one across the street is the bigest that Roy wrote about. The JT9 (747) engines were tested in that cell. GE owns them now and from my understanding there still there because of EPA laws you can't build such test cells in good old Calif.
When Purex bought PAC there were about 2500 employees we were around the would business and shortly became Burbank only. The start to the end. They finally sold PAC the UNC and they slowly down sized us to duing only PT6 engines and that was that.

Derrick said...

What a great company! We had consultants there for a long time. They were doing outstanding work.

Steve Curd said...

My dad worked there in the 60s and 70s. I still remember the Christmas parties in the hangars. It was a great company back in its day.

Collin said...

My grandfather worked for PAC for decades if I'm not mistaken. He started sometime after serving as a inflight mechanic in WWII and as far as I know, spent his entire working life with the company.

His name was Will Tiegs, he passed away at age 89 in 2008. I have tons of Pacific Airmotive trinkets that were passed down to me.

If anyone who worked there remembers him, or has any stories to tell I'd love to hear from them. Feel free to email me. CollinTiegs@gmail.com

Matt Burgess said...

I googled PAC and found this blog.
I live in Washington State and have collected a bunch of WWII era magazines and catalogs and one of my near perfect catalogs is a PAC catalog from 1946.
Quick story;my wife had just finished her last round of chemo and her family paid for us to take a mini vacation to her brothers home in Simi Valley,well we fly into and out of Burbank and on this trip I am in the back seat of the car and looking around and what do I see but the PAC building you have pictured! We pulled over and I took dozens of pictures.
I love the stories here and will treasure this even more. thank you thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is really something; seeing so many workers from there. I too worked there for about 4 yrs in the early 90's. I worked in Accessory Shop. However, my dad worked there for far longer. He originally worked as a painter and then in maintenance. Kevin, you posted that you were the last to be laid of. The last 2 to be laid off were my dad and Larry Loerra. They literally locked the gate on the place! As you all likely know, the entire facility is leveled now.

I miss some of the folks as I was good friends with some. If anyone knows about Dave Canfield please post.



Anonymous said...

I worked at PAC during the Summer of 1962. I met the President/Owner of PAC that Summer - what a gracious host he was. He was also a test pilot and a lawyer and his father was the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court before he formed the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers. John Myers died a couple of years ago and some comments about his life can be found at http://www.airportjournals.com/display.cfm/dallas/0803010

My dad, Ollie Jensen, started at PAC in 1941 pulling nails off crates in the receiving department. He wound up buying, with some other long-time executives, a portion of the parts business of PAC from Purex, and was President of Coast
Material Sales until his death in 1992.
PAC was a great company - old fashioned, with Christmas Parties and summer picnics. And the Burbank Airport area was fascinating with Lockheed, and a whole bunch of smaller aircraft parts suppliers. If you get a chance, try Chili Johns on Burbank Blvd. The mural on the wall purportedly was done by some Lockheed engineers in the 1950s.
I have a very large piston on my desk at work from PAC - from a Pratt & Whitney engine. I also have a number of old reciprocating engine parts and schematic booklets from PAC.

Rod Jensen said...

OMG... I can't believe I found this site. I'm a second generation PAC employee. My father worked there from the early 40s to the mid 80s. I worked there from 66 to 81. Reading the comments brought back so many memories. Some of the names I recognize also.

Anonymous said...

My first job out of college. Great history with lots of firsts. I remember being told that PAC coined the word airmotive. The company was older than Pratt and Whitney. Power by the hour was also a PAC original later copyrighted by RR as I recall. PAC HAD the contract to maintain the engines/propellers on the spruce goose for many years. Modified a DC9 for Hugh Hefner. Names like Al Anderson, john myers, ollie jensen, rosie dufault. And many thousands more who were a part of the company and made aviatiin history

Calvin Pitt said...

Just discovered this site relating to PAC Burbank. I'm a retired Airline pilot doing research on the 1930's P&W Wasp engines.

Is there anyone who can help me with information for which I have been searching?

What is the rate of fuel consumption for a P&W 600 TOHP Wasp engine during ... takeoff ... climb ... and cruise?

Even approximate estimates would help. Can you direct me to someone who might know?

Thanks for your help.

Anonymous said...

And the end of an era.
The bulldozers have come in and are in the process of demolishing this facility. As of Friday, September 6 2013, the tower is gone, only about 20% of the walls remain.

Mike Maroney said...

My name is Mike Maroney and I worked at Pacific Airmotive Corporation for 7 1/2 years, from August 16, 1968 until
January, 07 1975. My PAC employee number is 13219. PAC was known as the Overhaul & Repair station #88.
They were the 88th certified FAA repair station in the United States to be granted repair station approval under under FAR-Part 145.

They were also the first certified CAA / FAA aircraft and engine oerhaul / repair station to receive their FAA approval certification by Orville Wright back in 1924.

As I understand it from my research, the company actually statrted in Los Angeles and then moved to the city of Glendale, California, onto San Fernando Road near Grand View Avenue, back in 1934. Around about 1946 they acquired two aircraft hangers at the Lockheed Air terminal, now known as the Bob Hope airport in the city of Burbank.

They performed complete aircraft
maintenance and engine overhaul. When I came to work at PAC in 1968 there were still a few mechanics that worked in the engine division with me that had transferred over from the aircraft division / hangers to the main plant at 2940 North Hollywood Way, in Burbank. This building became the main central plant in about 1948 along with the aircraft division.
There were also two engine test cells, one at the main plant and one accross the street on Hollywood Way. The one accross the street was where the JT3's, JT8s and the recepicating engines were tested.

One of the mechanics that I remember well and worked with was Robert Jenn and he had red hair and everyone called him Red Jenn.
Red came to work at PAC in 1941 and he gave me a lot of information from the past. Any body who use to work at at PAC from 1941 to about 1983 and reads this story would remember Red Jenn.

I started out as a production painter, painting engines and components, then a engine tear down mechanic on Pratt & Whitney R-2000, R-2800, recepricating engines, JT8's, then anaccessory mechanic then an engine parts inspector.
When I first came to work at PAC I worked for Ed Jensen, Rod Jensen's father. I also remember Rod very well from when he was an engine parts inspector.

Since those days, I have worked for General Dynamics, Convair Divison, McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company and now Parker Aerospace as a Quality Assurance Engineer. I have to say in all my 47 years of being in aerospace, PAC had the most talented and experienced people that I ever worked with and I still respect to this day. A lot of them were mechanics from World War II.

I could mention many more names of people that I worked with but it would take too much time. PAC was the largest aircraft engine overhaul and repair station on the west coast, the next largest would be Pratt & Whitney. As mentioned by other people on this site, PAC not only performed work on Pratt& Whitney, R-2000's to Curtis Wright 3350's, JT3, JT8, JT9, Rolls Royce RB-211, the Tyne and PT6 but special special projects unknown to most people and probably the aerospace community.

PAC was the the first aircraft engine company to help engineer, modify and assemble the JT9-11 to the JT9-13"A" version.

These new modified "Dash-13A" engines were used on the Boeing 747aircraft that made the first flight with the shuttle spacecraft mounted on top of the 747. I know this quite well, bcause I was one of the engine parts inspectors that worked on it.
When we were working on it no one knew who the real customer was and where the engines were going to be used, at the time it was a classified secret.

Also PAC was the responsible entity
for modifying the first Pratt & Whitney PT6 engine to put out more power and to interface with an
automotve gear box that was used by Andy Granatelli in the first automotive turbine race car. A little side note here: PAC DID NOT design, modify or manufacture the gear box transmission.

Looking back over the years I miss PAC. I left there to advance myself to where I am now. But in my mind there could never be another Pacific Airmotive Company.

Mike Maroney said...

One more entry as of September 13, 2013.

I would like to make a correction to my last entry and add on a couple more historic details about Pacific Airmotive.

First: I would like to make a correction, my actual employee number was 31968, not 13219, which was my badge number and please excuse the other typo erros.

Second: The anonymous entry from September 06, 2013 about the demolishing of Test Cell number-1 is unfortunate and I saw it as well. That was the very last structure that was still standing and still had the Pacific Airmotive name on it and it's gone forever.

I remember Red Jenn telling me when he came to work at PAC in 1941he worked in what was the engine overhaul shop back then and it was located in the airport of the PAC Aircraft Division, adjacent to where the PAC hangers were. So that would mean that the engine overhaul was actually there before it was moved to 2940 Noth Hollywood Way, which was accross the street from the airport runway.

One more last piece of historic trivia. In 1968 Hugh Hefner the owner and creater of the Playboy magazine had his new McDonnell Douglas DC-9 flown over from MAC DAC, Long Beach, to the PAC Aircraft Division on a special FAA permit to be completed. PAC painted the outside of the aircraft black with the famous "white bunny head" on the verticle stabilizer.(tail)

They also installed the complete original interior which was done with white panneling and the seat cushions and carpeting was a lite orange color. It had a bar, a meeting room, a changing room for the bunny's and in the tail section was where the bedroom was.

The bedroom also had a lavatory, shower, closet, Polaroid windows, (you could see out, but no one could see in), a tear droped shaped bed, a phone for room service and lastly a closed circuit television, you could watch a movie or switch to the interior cameras and watch what everyone else was doing in the aircraft.

The painting and interior work was finally finished in 1969. Two weeks before it was delivered to Hugh Hefner, I pesonnally got to go through it, But this was only due to me being an employee Of PAC, no other outside personnel were allowed in it.

Well that's everthing that I can remember, but I will never forget Pacific Airmotive.

Angel said...

Any one that worked at PAC please contact me regarding the PAC pension at aminiet@hotmail.com I am also in fcebook.
Angel A. Miniet

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

(Nearly everything in the following is as I recall.)

My Dad, Harry Hurlburt Sr., worked at PAC from around the beginning of WWII to approximately 1978. He started as a gate guard and ended up as director of the balance department.

I recall that as a small kid, he told me that he got flown from Burbank to Las Vegas Airport to do some quick engine repairs to a DC-3, I believe. He said the passengers watched him out their windows as he stood on a tall ladder doing his work. (Was that even possible that that happened?)

He was a very strong pro-labor union man (I used to read his IAM newspapers harping about the right-to-work laws; called right-to-wreck laws by them [it never ends, God help us all]) until he was promoted to management. Then, he got to see the other side of the coin: the unions protecting bad employees.

He was a very conscientious man and had lots and lots of stories of the screwups made by various employees. He wished that these things had never happened because he couldn't stand to see value eaten up.

One time he was telling me how a machinist junked a $30,000 engine case by drilling a hole 0.008" off-center. In exasperation after hearing the umpteenth story like this, I said, Please give me a list of your airline customers and I will never fly on those airlines. He replied, We have the best engine reliability record in the industry. (Back then, there were news reports of planes falling out of the skies like once every three months, it seemed.)

He got complaint after complaint from the engine final test department (or whatever it was called) for out-of-balance disk shafts causing a "shaker." So, he would have to go over to the test cell and figure out what the problem was. It would be a tech had mounted a vibration sensor on a rubber-mounted part, one time, and improperly aligned case halves the next, etc.

One time, he couldn't figure out what the problem was, so, at the insistence of the test department head, the shaft and disks assembly was removed from the engine and sent off to Pratt in Connecticut. The report came back, We don't even balance them to this tolerance level.

My Dad used every bit of precision available from their Schenck balance machine (from Germany).

He was always hauling home stuff from the plant. Long, wooden propeller crates, piles of very long fluorescent lighting units, made brown by long exposure in the plant. (I still have some nice, sturdy auxiliary power unit shipping crates from decades ago.) After it had lain up against the back of the garage for a few years, my mother would wait until he had to go away on business and she'd get my brother and me to rent a truck and haul it all away.

My recollections of his "testimonies" are that his experience at PAC was definitely mixed.

Some time after he retired, I remember that an engine under thrust test broke loose in the big test cell and the damage was around $8,000,000.

These are my loose recollections of my Dad's employment at PAC.

Ray Sadesky said...

I worked there from about 1972 thru 1977. Had several jobs, mostly in quality control. That particular building was, I think, built to test the rather large P&WA JT9 engines that were originally on the 747s.
PAC was huge back in the day - the did all the interior work on the famous Hugh Hefner plane, actually took recip powered planes, and outfitted them with jets, had their own "fleet" of engines for use by major airlines as spares. At some point, maybe late 60s, they were bought out by the Purex Corp - we liked getting our annual "care packages" of Purex products. They were a P&WA and Rolls Royce authorized warranty and overhaul station.
I had seen in their library, a very very old parts catalog, seeing the old leather flight "helmets".
Hated to see that place go - I left during the strike of 77. They lost most of their large airline contracts after that.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great to see this post. I was just emailing a friend who worked at PAC when I did (70 through early 80's) and said it would be great if there was something on PAC. I remember most everyone mentioned. Will Tiegs, Harry Hurlburt (worked for him when I started in the rotating units dept.) I ended working all the test cells and that was a great experience. Yeah, there was a JT9 that jumped out of the ceiling cradle in the big cell when someone failed to run the lock pins in. When one of the 9's stalled in the cell it was like an earthquake. Years of memories. Lots of friends.
Rick Grupp

vern brickner said...

Facebook brian woodruff. He was our test cell engineer.

vern brickner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S. Peter Lopez said...

Before the PAC was torn down, I spent a day or two wandering about the facility taking a lot of photographs of the place. While the images are for sale, I'm not pitching a sale here, I just thought some of you may want to see a bit of what I photographed.

I came back several times, but the last time it was buttoned up pretty tight. I got there before the scavengers and taggers had a go at it.

For me, just a tourist in a strange place at the time, it was something to behold. I didn't know a lot about what I was looking at, but I did appreciate what had gone on there. Reading some of the stories above is very enlightening. I wish I had been able to shoot more, but airport security didn't see it my way.

Thanks for letting me post here, I really appreciate it.

To see some of the photos I shot:

Again, I'm not pitching a sale, I just wanted to share what I did. I hope it can be appreciated.

If you don't want to follow any links, just do a Google search for Pacific Airmotive, you'll see most of the images I was able to get before it was too late.

-Peter Lopez
aka: YoPedro

Heifer Girl said...

I flew into the Bob Hope Airport to see the test cell with a galleria sign on its outside wall, but remember working inside the walls of test cell pic of PAC. It was my first real job, 11.06 an hour union wage in 1985. I remember old Smokey driving his old PU truck into work every morning. I was the first girl to work at the place even got my picture on the brochure. I went off to college but I will never forget my first job and opportunity to feel like an adult with a real job.

Elderlife Financial Services said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Duck inapot said...

I worked at PAC sometime around 1976-1980 as a computer operator. During that time we upgraded from an IBM mainframe to a Univac 9400 series mainframe. It was certainly the beginning of the computer era.

Dave Guitard said...

I hired on with PAC at Luke Air Force Base in about 1980. PAC had a USAF contract to modify Pratt & Whitney F-100 turbofan engines used on the F-15 Eagle. We were working 12 hour shifts 6 days a week. Money was great but the contract only went for about a year. After about 6 months at Luke, they transferred me and couple other guys to Holloman AFB NM where we went for another 6 months. When the contract ended I was able to get my old job back at Honeywell Aerospace (back then AiResearch MFG CO of AZ) in Phoenix.