Rohr Aircraft Corporation

William Hawley Bowlus, Daniel B. Burnett and Fred H. Rohr--original builders of Spirit of St. Louis, holding the plane's nose cone.

Recently, the Library and Archives acquired a very significant collection: a large portion of the image archive from the Rohr/Goodrich Corporation. The Company’s San Diego roots go back to its namesake, Fred Rohr, who helped build Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis in 1927. The collection includes several thousand photos and slides that document the rich history of the company, with many never before seen images which show how vital Rohr was to the growth of the South Bay region.


On August 6, 1940, Fred H. “Pappy” Rohr, a sheet metal expert by trade, met with some associates of his in the aircraft industry and drew up plans for the Rohr Aircraft Corporation. The following winter, construction began on a new 37,000 sq ft building located on 20 acres of bayside property in Chula Vista.  By June 1941, the company was in full operation and had expanded to 183,000 sq ft of working space, while the original investment of $150,000 had grown to almost one million dollars.


Fred Rohr had founded the company on the idea that the aircraft industry would benefit from a “feeder plant” that constructed and supplied parts and assemblies to aircraft manufacturers.  He believed, and later proved that his company could make specialized components at a lower cost than the prime contractor could produce them.


By 1965, Rohr had produced more jet engine power plants and thrust reversers than any other manufacturer in the world. That same year, Fred Rohr died on November 8th, due to a massive stroke. His passing precipitated a change in management and direction, and for a brief time during the 1960s, the company successfully diversified into satellite tracking antenna, rocket motor components, deep submergence vessels, modular housing, ground transportation systems, and even toys. 


But after a period of severe losses, the company chose to refocus back onto the aircraft industry and during the 1970s, began producing the large aft sections, nacelles, and pylons for the Air Force’s Airborne Warning and Command System (AWACS) aircraft, used on the Boeing 707. They also produced components for the Lockheed C-5 transport planes and the Grumann F-14 fighter jets. 

Rohr’s core products were nacelle systems and pylons, which they continued to manufacture successfully until the company was sold in its entirety to BF Goodrich in December 1997. Goodrich Aerostructures Group was acquired by United Technologies Corporation in 2011.


For more, see our Descriptive Finding Guide for the collection.

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