MAJORS FIELD And TEMCO Electronics, Electrosystems, E-Systems
According to the Texas Handbook, the field opened on June 26, 1942, and was named in memory of Lt. Truett Majors, the first Greenville area native to die in the war. Majors Field was the home of as many as to 5,000 pilots, support personnel, and civilian employees.
The pilot training school was successful, training thousands of young pilots throughout World War II. Originally, Majors Field was a basic training school using BT-13As. Later, the base would expand as an advanced training center using P-47 Thunderbolts for advanced training. One of the most celebrated groups to get advanced training at Majors Field was the 201st Fighting Squadron of the Mexican Air Force, which was that country's only force of any kind to see action during the war.
Majors Field would eventually be closed as a training base once the war ended and the city would eventually end up with the property. By July 1945, Majors Field was practically deserted, according to the Texas Handbook. In 1946, a company called Executive Transport Company would lease several hangars at Majors Field to C-47s and C-57s for sale to commercial airlines.
The company would not prove to be as enduring as the next aerospace company to eventually come to Majors Field in 1951, the Texas Engineering and Manufacturing Company - TEMCO.
TEMCO enjoyed a rapid expansion with its first contracts that involved producing 400 C-82 subassemblies and 200 F-24 aircraft subassemblies for Fairchild Aircraft Company. With company founders Robert McCulloch and Bert Howard looking for room to grow, they selected the former World War II pilot training base in Greenville to handle overflow work. According to a book (How E-Systems Came toBe E-Systems) written by former the Greenville plant's general manager, the late E. Fred Buehring, the site was selected to focus primarily on the company's Air Force business, while the Grand Prairie plant focused primarily on Navy programs. Although TEMCO's original lease with the City of Greenville would be for only 18 months, it would actually mark the beginning of a half-decade of continuous operation at the field.
The first program at TEMCO's new Greenville facility was the overhaul of C-54 aircraft, many which had been used in the Berlin Airlift. It wasn't long before the company changed its name to TEMCO Aircraft Corporation to better reflect its activities. By 1952, TEMCO had built, modified or overhauled more than 3,500 aircraft and Greenville was becoming a big contributor to the company's operations.
In 1953, TEMCO was moving ahead with major overhaul programs for the U.S. Air Force and began to diversify. The company had begun converting four-seat, single-engine civilian aircraft to a twin-engined configuration for the Riley Aircraft Sales Corporation. By late in the year, TEMCO purchased the exclusive right to manufacture these aircraft and, during the next four years, converted 138 aircraft until the supply of single engine Rileys dwindled to the point that they couldn't be converted at a reasonable cost.
In 1954, the Greenville TEMCO operation was at a crossroads. Because at that time the standard military overhaul contract was for a three-year period, the site saw much of its business up for recompetition. None of the programs that the company re-bid that year were won. However, late in the year, a program to overhaul C-46 aircraft had experienced difficulties in the bidding process and TEMCO, which originally hadn't bid the program, got another chance to bid. The program was won, though by the end of the year, Greenville had fewer than 500 employees and sales less than $5 million.
Buehring was appointed general manager of the Greenville facility in 1954 and during the latter part of the year, he and local management began charting a new course for the operations. This group saw the impending changes that the jet would make on aviation - from different overhaul requirements to the need for longer runways. Neither the city nor TEMCO could afford to lengthen what at the time was a 5,500- foot runway. The Civil Aviation Authority was not interested in the runway and the Air Force legally couldn't pay for runway extensions.
Finally, citing a need for safety, according to Buehring's book, the government agreed to extend the runways and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soon began work on extensions that would be completed in 1957.
The invention of the transistor in the late 1940s spawned the growth of electronics throughout the world, and by the mid-50s, TEMCO management in Greenville recognized a growing interest in airborne electronics applications. Because of the decision to pursue work in airborne electronics, the year 1955 would prove to be one of the most important in the Greenville facility's history.
The first special mission aircraft program was secured in 1955. This program involved installation of quick reaction kits onto 35 B-29 Superfortress aircraft. The quick reaction capability at Greenville would become a characteristic that would span to present day.
The B-29 program led to another special mission program in 1956 that operated under the code name "Haystack" involving B-50 aircraft. Employment had more than tripled to more than 1,700 employees by late 1956 and the facility was growing.
According to Buehring's book, 1957 was the year the Greenville facility was included in the Air Force's Big Safari Program, which was a streamlined management and acquisition concept for specific aircraft and services on limited special programs. Only a limited number of highly specialized contractors that could dedicate top priority to customer requirements were selected to participate in Big Safari Programs, which were conducted entirely as classified projects with no publicity surrounding them.
In April of 1957, the first Big Safari program at Greenville was awarded, known as Sun Valley I. This program involved the installation of special mission electronics on 10 C-130A aircraft. Later that year, the Haystack program would be brought under Big Safari management. The TEMCO-Big Safari relationship has yielded more successes for the United States and for Greenville than could ever be measured.
By 1958, electronics accounted for more than half the program revenues at the Greenville site, though overhaul programs had not been neglected. Quite the contrary, TEMCO was innovating aircraft maintenance by pioneering the progressive aircraft recondition cycle (PARC) maintenance concept. This concept, which involved the progressive maintenance of aircraft based on inspection and maintenance tasks identified by a set of work cards and accomplished at regular intervals of flight time accrued by the aircraft. The PARC approach helped win two new maintenance contracts for C-121 and C-97 aircraft.
The jet age arrived in Greenville in 1959 on a program to install special-purpose electronic equipment on a KC-135.
Another big change for the company came in 1960 when TEMCO merged with Ling-Altec Electronics to form Ling-TEMCO Electronics. The Greenville site was renamed from TEMCO Overhaul and Aerosystems Division to the Ling-TEMCO Electronics Aerosystems Division. While "overhaul" had been dropped from the name, those activities continued to play a strong role in the operations, with continuing programs on KC-97s, C-121s and C-133s, which at the time were one of the world's largest aircraft.
A second corporate merger in two years occurred in 1961 as Ling-TEMCO-Electronics merged with Chance-Vought Corp. The new company, called Ling-TEMCO-Vought, or LTV, would become a diverse industrial giant. The Greenville division would continue to diversify itself, with programs that year involving JC-130s, B-47 Stratojets and C-118s.
In 1962, an important program that involved the successful completion and prototype of a special system known as the AN/ASD-1 that was installed on a KC-135. Other special modifications that year included both a B-57 and a C-131.
Overhaul and maintenance programs continued as well in 1962 on a variety of airframes, including C-130s and C-133 aircraft.
A very special program in 1963 was awarded to Greenville that at the time was the most extensive structural modification ever performed on a large aircraft. This program, known by code names Lisa Ann and Rivet Amber, involved the installation of a large radar in a C-135B.
The year 1964 brought a new capability to the company's offerings when it developed an Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center that fit into a multi-use shelter that could be carried and operated on a C-130 aircraft or on the ground independent of the aircraft.
LTV conducted a company-wide reorganization in 1965, the same year the company went public. But a program that began in 1965 installing a special electronic system aboard auxiliary light cargo class vessels for the U.S. Navy. One of these ships, the U.S.S. Pueblo would be thrust into the world spotlight in 1968 when it was captured by North Korea.
Growth continued at Greenville and, in 1968, another program began that would prove to be a great long-term customer and company relationship. This foreign military sales program involved the designed, fabricated, installed and tested the Peace Peek Airborne System on a fleet of Breguet 1150 Atlantic aircraft for the Federal Republic of Germany.
In 1969, a program was started that was revolutionary involving a turboprop aircraft that eventually could be operated either by a pilot or by remote control. This aircraft, known as the L-450F, would eventually achieve 16 world records for turbo-prop aircraft in its class. (As an aside, a group of volunteers in Fort Worth have fully-restored an L-450 with Air Force markings for future inclusion in an aviation museum being built at Alliance Airport.
In 1969 and the early 1970s there was a downturn in business. Modifications on C-130s continued, as did
maintenance and modification programs on other C-130s and C-135s. A 1971 Air Force contract had the company developing and producing a military version of its L-450 aircraft. The L-450, which would be designated the XQM-93A by the military, was a high-altitude turbo-prop that could be flown either by a pilot or by remote control.
A C-135 program in 1971 known as TRAP MATS would prove to be a technical achievement for Greenville. The program involved design, installation and testing of an electro-optical sensor system that would take four years of intensive effort to complete.
In May of 1972, LTV divested itself from many of its holdings, including LTV Electrosystems. The new,
independent company would include the Greenville division and, in order to separate the new company from LTV, it changed its name to "E-Systems," which was simply an abbreviated "Electrosystems.".
The E-Systems L-450 turbo-prop aircraft that the company had designed in the '70s participated in air shows in Europe in 1984, helping to spark new interest in a high-altitude aircraft. This would lead to the development of a new aircraft with aircraft manufacturer Grob and enginemaker Garrett Aviation, which was eventually called the EGRETT (a contraction of E-Systems, Grob and Garrett).
The new EGRETT aircraft development would be announced in 1986 as a multi-purpose, allcomposite,
turboprop with a broad spectrum of capabilities for both commercial and military markets.
The first flight of the EGRETT proof-of-concept was accomplished in early 1987. The aircraft would eventually set several world records for turboprops in its class for altitude and endurance.
This concludes the Majors Field , Electrosystems, E-Systems facilty story for LTV and Vought, though the company continues to do well under Raytheon and later L3 Communications.
Majors Field, 2006
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