- Posted March 29, 2014 by
Kansas City, Missouri
What's the Connection Between Your Last Flight and My Neighbor's Garage?
I was only a little kid when I first met Jay Wilcox. He lived directly across the street in our small lake community in the mid 1950's through the 1970's. Jay was a nice man, and the founder of Wilcox Electric, Inc, a firm that produced avionics for private and commercial aircraft.
I knew Mr. Wilcox was a communications enthusiast and HAM radio operator; he erected a giant radio antenna in his yard in the early 1960's that could be extended about 200 feet into the air to broadcast and receive signals to his HAM station from around the world. He showed me a giant map on the wall with little colored pins indicating the locations of people around the globe he talked with on his radio at night. Decades before the Internet, Jay was reaching out to others around the world. Wilcox was an innovator.
Jay V. Wilcox started Wilcox Electric in a small garage in 1931, and the tiny company eventually evolved over the years into a worldwide corporation that produced important electronic systems and components used to safely guide aircraft into and around airports today. My first memories of Mr. Wilcox are from around 1960, when I was six years old.
Here's a description of the company when it made it's first public stock offering through Sterns Brothers in 1959:
Wilcox Electric Company, Inc., 1400 Chestnut Avenue, Kansas City. Mo;
The company was incorporated under Kansas law on July 8, 1939, as the successor to Wilcox Electric Company, founded in 1931 by Jay V. Wilcox. The company makes aeronautical radio systems for communication from ground-to-air, air-to-ground, and point-to-point. It also makes instrument landing equipment systems, which provide guidance in local and cross-country flights, aircraft identification and positioning equipment, and other air navigation equipment. Its products are sold principally to commercial airlines, operators of business and personal aircraft, agencies of federal, state, and municipal governments, foreign governments, and other manufacturers.
The company has since undergone several transformations, including buyouts. Here's a timeline provided by Thales ATM, Inc., the current owner of Wilcox;
Located in the heart of the United States, we began as Wilcox Electric; a small three - person radio communications firm, founded in 1931 by entrepreneur Jay V. Wilcox. In 1988, Wilcox was acquired by Thomson Corporation of America and our name was later changed to Airsys ATM Inc. Airsys ATM has become a 100% owned subsidiary of Thales S.A., formerly known as Thomson-CSF, and thus on June 21, 2001 our name was changed to Thales ATM Inc.
For over fifty years we have been on the leading edge of navaid technology, serving the needs and accommodating the accelerated growth of the aviation industry, an industry that propelled itself from Kitty Hawk to the moon in a matter of decades.
Throughout modern aviation history, we were there ... one step ahead of progress... anticipating the direction of the industry - developing and producing state-of-the-art ground-to-air communications systems - meeting a growing and increasingly complex demand.
We were there in World War II to supply highly sophisticated ground-air-ground communications to the U.S. Army Air Force and Navy. We were there again in the early fifties when commercial aviation took off and increasingly busy airports demanded more complex navigational systems. And, we've been there ever since, the first to develop the most advanced systems in the industry, the original 800A Glideslope RX, 806A VOR/LOC RX and the 807A VHF COMM TRANSCEIVER -all Wilcox innovations.
Our work with the FAA has resulted in our development of the DME 496, the DSB Doppler VOR Transmitter, the Solid State 585B VOR, the Model 412 ILS, the Mark I ILS the Category I, II, III ILS and the MLS to name a few.
Today we continue to be the world leader in navaids and to be there for our customers to meet the demands of aviation-commercial and military, national and international.
For over fifty years we've been building a tradition of excellence the American way- Sustaining a performance record that the aviation industry counts on, now and for the future.
We have a reputation for superior performance and expert craftsmanship built on the intrinsic American values of a pioneering spirit- Resourcefulness; Ingenuity; Expertise and the pursuit of Excellence.
I'm no expert on avionics, transceivers, transmitters or navaids, but I know for sure that the last time I flew anywhere, Mr. Wilcox's company helped me get to my destination in a safer way because of his electronic innovations that now are part of aircraft takeoff, landing and communication systems around the world.
I'm so sorry to hear about the fate of flight 370, and the fight to locate it. The families must be so distraught as to the whereabouts of their loved ones. My prayers are with them all.
In the early 1970's, Jay Wilcox retired to Florida to live on his private yacht, the "Koala" (at that time, the world's largest all-aluminum private yacht). He and his wife Mary are both gone now. I will remember them as very nice people. Jay Wilcox changed the world of air travel for the better. He changed my life as a great example of the American dream come true.