This collection developed as the institutional archives for G.E. Aviation Systems, a Grand Rapids-based subsidiary of G.E. Aviation. G.E. Aviation Systems offers technology products for avionics, power and structures products for commercial aircraft ranging from propulsion systems for engine energy efficiency to flight management systems.
The collection is a record of the integration and evolution of several technology and aviation companies starting in the 1920s with Lear Radio Laboratories in Chicago. The collection starts with the early years of Lear Radio Laboratories through to Lear Inc, Lear Siegler Inc. Instrument Division, and Smiths Industries from the years 1920-2007 covering the historic timeline below. This collection has an emphasis on corporate history, photographic documentation and as seen through an extensive collection of product literature, is a record of the constantly advancing products and technology that were being designed and manufactured by the company.
Highlights include biographical and business documents relating to William (Bill) Powell Lear, Sr. He was an American pioneer of aviation, the founder of Lear Radio and later Lear Inc. Bill Lear was responsible for setting up Lear Inc. in Grand Rapids in 1944. The collection also includes information about him receiving the annual Collier Trophy in 1949 for developing the F-5 autopilot with a control for landing aircraft in “zero-zero” weather, a great achievement in aeronautics. The Collier Trophy is now on permanent display in the National Air and Space Museum.
In connection with the Grand Rapids Public Museum collections, there are a small number of materials relating to the late astronaut Roger B. Chaffee who was for a brief time a staff person for the company. It includes photographs and references to Chaffee and his family.
Lear Siegler, Inc. Instrument Division played a key role in developing the Apollo Lunar Module for the first time man would set foot on the moon. They supplied technological components of the spacecraft including the attitude indicator (also known as a gyro). The gyro is an instrument that informs the pilot of the orientation of the aircraft in relative to Earth’s horizon. Found in this collection, from 1969, is a letter from the company who was responsible for building the Apollo Lunar Module, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. The letter was written to congratulate its team of subcontractors that included Lear Siegler, Inc. Instrument Division, who made the mission possible.
The collection also includes a 3-dimensional artifact, a gyro, which is a key product designed and manufactured by the company.
A full listing of the contents of this collection can be found in the Finding Aid that is attached to the media section of this catalog entry.
1920 – 2007
Gift of GE Aviation Systems
G.E. Aviation Systems (donor) A Grand Rapids based subsidiary of G.E. Aviation. G.E. Aviation Systems offers technology products for avionics, power and structures products for commercial aircrafts ranging from propulsion systems for engine energy efficiency to flight management systems.