George Hildebrand 1910-1983
George Hildebrand came with his parents to the USA from Paris, France, in 1915. His father was a noted fashion designer, and George soon exhibited the design talents of his father. An early interest in cars took him to all the auto shows and design studios, and soon he worked as an apprentice with such companies as LeBaron and Rollston, helping designing the beautiful bodies of Duesenberg and Packard automobiles. He also studied with master automotive artist Roland Stickney.
In 1939, while working with legendary Cadillac design chief William Mitchell in Detroit, George saw a small want ad in a Detroit newspaper asking for "automotive designers to join the aircraft industry". The aircraft company was based on Long Island, New York. Sticking to his saying that "once you've lived in Manhattan, anywhere else is like camping out" - George applied for the job. On Christmas Eve day 1940 George started his new job as a design engineer with Republic Aviation Corporation.
His first assignment was to design cockpit canopy enclosures with improved visibility for pilots during aerial combat. One of his projects included the P-47D single piece "blown bubble" canopy. Next project was the new Republic Seabee amphibian that Republic was developing for the expected post war personal airplane market. Again George's automotive design experience paid off handsomely. George was responsible for designing the cabin and considered the Seabee his personal favorite, because "it was the only Republic airplane that allowed the pilot to take along his entire familiy!" All Seabee enthusiasts who love the 'art deco' 1940s Ford look of the Seabee, are deeply grateful to George Hildebrand and his people for creating the unique classic style of the Seabee. One of the special features of the interior is the seats that can be arranged into beds!
After the demise of Republic's civil projects, the RC-2 Rainbow airliner and RC-3 Seabee, Republic focused on military aircraft and designed some of the greatest classic jet fighters ever built; F-84 Thunderjet, F-84F Thundestreak, RF-84F Thunderflash, XF-91 Thunderceptor, F-105 Thunderchief. Hildebrand is credited for the F-105 getting the name "Thunderchief". George worked closely with his friend, and legend aircraft designer, Alexander Kartveli for many years. George projects for the 'Thunder'-jets included ejections seats and escape systems, canopies, interiors, etc. Several of his designs were patented, including the cantilever canopy design of the F-84F and the F-105 rocket powered ejection seat.
Hildebrand was also consulted by Republic engineering friend Herbert Lindblad to design the interior of the C-1 Skimmer amphibian that Grumman engineer David B. Thurston and Herb Lindblad were designing in their spare time. Thurston and Lindblad formed Colonial Aircraft Corp. in 1946 to build and market the C-1/C-2 Skimmer amphibians. They are still produced in developed form as the Lake Renegade amphibians.
In the mid 1960s Republic started suffering hard times, and eventually took on civil non-aviation projects, including a contract with New York State for the design and construction of safety concepts to improve crash survivability in future cars. With George as the program manager and chief designer, the Fairchild-Republic Safety Car Program designed several innovative safety features that only in our days are starting to be standard on most cars; interior inflatable crash cushions ('air bags'), high mounted brake lights, children safety carrier seats, seat headrests agains whiplash injuries, high impact bumpers, etc. Two protoype ESV (Experimental Safety Vehicle) cars were built by Republic Fairchild for DoT in the early 1970s to demonstrate the safety concepts that all cars have today.
George retired from Republic in 1972. He was always proud of being a "RACer"! George Hildebrand passed away in 1983.
For more information please read:
George Hildebrand - Wings Magazine, October 2000 issue
|© 2004 Coachbuilt.com, Inc. | Index | Disclaimer | Privacy|