By Thomas B. Haines, AOPA Online
Turbine engine innovator Dr. Sam B. Williams, founder and chairman of turbine engine maker Williams International, died June 22, 2009, at the age of 88. Williams is best known for his patented invention of the small fanjet engine that enabled the creation of small efficient business jets.
With FAA certification of Williams’ FJ44-1A engine in 1992, Williams International became the first and only company to break into the fanjet industry in the past half-century. Since that time, 4,000 FJ44 engines have entered service at the light end of the business jet market.
He received many accolades for innovation, most notably the Collier Trophy presented by President Jimmy Carter, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy presented by President Ronald Reagan, and the National Medal of Technology presented by President Bill Clinton. Williams was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and was a member of the Living Legends of Aviation.
Williams applied his gift for innovation to the many charities he supported, especially through his promotion of inventors and inventions in medical research for cancer and degenerative eye diseases.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Barbara Gibson Williams, two sons and a daughter, and three grandchildren. His son, Gregg G. Williams, who is the current president and CEO of Williams International, will also assume the title of chairman.