James Raisbeck was born and raised in Whitefish Bay Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. He graduated from Whitefish Bay High School in 1954. That same year, he joined the Air Force and started his association with airplanes, where he was a flight engineer. James attended Purdue University in 1958 to pursue an education in aeronautical engineering and mathematics.
After graduating in Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering from Purdue in 1961, Raisbeck joined The Boeing Airplane Company as a Research Aerodynamicist.
Subsequent positions in the aerospace field have included employment at Robertson Aircraft Corporation, American Jet Industries, the Raisbeck Group, and Raisbeck Engineering, where he is Chairman.
In 1979 Mr. Raisbeck was honored by Purdue University, receiving their Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award, and again in 1999 with Purdue’s Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award. In that same year he was honored with the AIAA Commercial Aviation Technical Achievement Award where he is a Fellow. In 2000 he was awarded Professional Pilot Magazine’s Aviation Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2002 The National Business Aviation Association awarded Mr. Raisbeck its Lifetime Achievement Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation. Seattle’s Hope Heart Institute honored the Raisbecks in 2003 with their “Wings Of Hope” annual award for their leadership in philanthropy, and in May 2005, received Purdue University’s highest recognition to engineers, an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering. Mr. Raisbeck was recognized by the AIAA/Museum of Flight as a Pathfinder, in 2007, which year also saw him and his wife Sherry honored as Seattle’s First citizens in recognition of their philanthropic activities. He received the Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award by the Living Legends of Aviation Foundation, of which he is a member, in 2008. James most recently received election to Fellow in the AIAA (American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics) in 2012.
Mr. Raisbeck serves on the Boards of the Seattle Opera, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Symphony, The Arts Fund, and the Museum of Flight. He is married to Sherry Raisbeck, with two daughters, a son, three grandchildren and one great-grandson. Sherry serves on the Board of Cornish College of the Arts, of which she is a graduate.
James and Sherry Raisbeck through their Foundation, have over the years, given significant grants aimed at supporting Education, the Arts, and Medical Research to Purdue University, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Cornish College of the Arts, United Way and Raisbeck Aviation High School, renamed after James.
James Raisbeck is currently Board Chairman of Raisbeck Engineering Inc., and its subsidiary corporation Raisbeck Commercial Air Group Inc. In September 2016, the company was merged into its now parent company, Acorn Growth Companies (an Aerospace and Defense Company)
At Boeing Raisbeck was part of a team of engineers and flight crew that designed and flight-tested an internally blown trailing edge flap system on the Prototype 707 (Dash 80) to fly at speeds as slow as 60 knots. Other assignments there included liaison with the Aeronautical Laboratories at Wright-Patterson AFB, and designer/program manager in Preliminary Design.
In late 1969, Raisbeck left Boeing to become President and Chief Engineer of Robertson Aircraft Corporation. There he and a team of former Boeing Engineers completed the Robertson STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) designs and certifications for installation on single and twin engine Cessnas and Pipers. Robertson Aircraft was sold in 1973, and Raisbeck went out on his own.
Raisbeck’s engineering efforts were consolidated in 1973 and continues to this day in the form of Raisbeck Engineering. It has its corporate, engineering, shipping and receiving operations adjacent to Boeing field, where it conducts its experimental and certification efforts.
Raisbeck has influenced many business turbine aircraft designs, including: designing and producing the Supercritical Wings and many systems for the Rockwell International jet Sabreliner 65-series; new and more efficient wings for the Learjet family, now standard on all Learjets; performance enhancement systems for Beechcraft’s entire Beechcraft King Air family, now incorporated on the King Air 350, 250 and C90GTx production lines; and Aft Fuselage Lockers for the Learjet family.
In 2014, Raisbeck introduced a new and innovative line of propellers for the King Air family, named the Raisbeck Swept Blade Turbofan Propeller System. It is now offered across the board on Raisbeck retrofit performance packages, and is included on Textron’s New King Air C90GTx.
Raisbeck Engineering has also been active in the world’s commercial airline fleet. 1996 saw the introduction of the Raisbeck Stage 3 Noise Reduction Systems for the Boeing 727, covering all models and weights. Aerodynamic innovation allowed Stage 3 noise compliance without costly engine modifications, saving the operators several million dollars on each airplane so-equipped. American Airlines ordered and took delivery of 52 Raisbeck 727 Stage 3 Systems. Other customers have included TWA, Pan Am, Air Algere, TAME, and many smaller airlines. They are now flying on many of the remaining Boeing passenger and cargo 727s worldwide.
The year preceding 9/11, Raisbeck developed bullet-proof doors and bulkheads for the Boeing 737s and 757s. Shortly after 911, Raisbeck began production delivery of Armored Cockpit Security Systems, which the company had been developing during the prior year. Alaska, ATA, and other airlines operating the Boeing 737 immediately ordered and took delivery of these bullet-proof cockpit doors. In March 2002, Raisbeck’s entire program and customers were turned over to Boeing.
Raisbeck also developed and produced Enlarged Overhead Bins for the Airbus A320 series, and has equipped all of JetBlue’s Airbus fleet. The expanded bins double the capacity of certain items such as carry-on roller bags, reducing the boarding hassle associated with today’s smaller passenger overhead bins.
Summary of Acknowledgements
1979 – Purdue University: Distinguished Engineering Alumnus
1999 – Purdue University: Outstanding Aerospace Engineer
2000 – Professional Pilot Magazine: Entrepreneur of the Year
2002 – National Aviation Business Association: Lifetime Meritorious Achievement
2003 – Hope Heart Institute: Leadership in Philanthropy
2004 – Living Legends of Aviation: Election to Membership
2005 – Purdue University: Honorary Doctorate in Engineering
2007 – AIAA/ Museum of Flight: Aviation Pathfinder
2007 – City of Seattle: First Citizen’s Award (with Sherry)
2008 – Living Legends of Aviation: Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur (Read complete article PDF)
2011 – San Diego Air and Space Museum: Aviation Legend
2012 – American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA): Fellow
2013 – Seattle Arts Fund: Lifetime Dedication to the Arts (with Sherry)
2013 – Highline School District: Dedication of Raisbeck Aviation High School