For a wide range of major achievements throughout a lifetime devoted to aviation, with specific reference to his many notable contributions to the vital aircraft engine field
Frederick Brant Rentschler was a man who “thought, talked, breathed, and dreamed engines.”
Born in Butler County, Ohio, on November 8, 1887, he was graduated from Princeton University in 1909. At the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in the Army Air Service, was commissioned a First Lieutenant and assigned to an airplane engine plant in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Later, as a Captain, he was put in charge of production at the Wright-Martin plant, manufacturing engines for the French Government.
By the war’s end, Rentschler had come to realize that his first love was aircraft engines. Approached to help organize the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, he became its Vice President and General Manager, and shortly thereafter its President. The new company in the early 1920s launched its air-cooled engine line, from which later developed the successful Whirlwind engines. One of these powered Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.
By 1924 Rentschler had become convinced that the future of aviation lay in the design and development of still bigger and better powerplants, of the radial air-cooled configuration. He resigned from the Wright Aeronautical Corporation and on July 14, 1925, assumed the principal role in the formation of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company, with himself as President, in Hartford, Connecticut. By December 24 of that year the first Pratt & Whitney aircraft engine was completed, the now famous Wasp. By 1929 the Wasp and a later engine, the Hornet, were recognized as prime factors in bringing the nation’s military aviation to world leadership. The Wasp was also aiding in the rapid development of commercial airline operations.
Successful associations with Boeing and Vought led in 1928 to the formation of the United Aircraft & Transport Corporation, which included Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company, Boeing, Hamilton Standard (propellers), Stearman, Sikorsky Aircraft, Chance Vought, and United Air Lines. Rentschler was elected President of the new company. In 1934 another reorganization saw three independent groups emerge: United Air Lines, Boeing, and United Aircraft. Rentschler became Chairman and chief executive officer of United Aircraft.
President Roosevelt’s request for 50,000 planes a year in the military program of World War II brought a new challenge. Rentschler worked out a plan for licensing automobile manufacturers to produce military engines. Through this arrangement the greatly expanded Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company and its licensees built approximately 50 percent of the engines used by the combined Air Forces of the United States in World War II.
In the ten years following the war, Rentschler had broad direction of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft’s highly successful transition from piston to jet powerplants. He died April 25, 1956, at his winter home in Boca Raton, Florida.