Taking flight in the next adventure
To get a small peek into the mind of an avionics engineer is both fascinating and awe-inspiring.
For engineer Ron Burch, there is also a strong heart for his family, community and his career. Burch took time to share his affinity and passion for aviation, as he was transitioning from the loss of his mother recently.
Ron Burch was born in Ely, Nevada, and moved to Southern Californian in 1956. He lived in the same home until he was 18. He began working in his teens, developing a stellar work ethic early in his years. He worked at National Cash Register until he turned 18 and applied at Howard Hughes Aircraft Company. The same day that he filed his application, he had an interview and was hired due to his mechanical skills.
"I guess they liked me. I had a really good boss and a great career there. I worked there for 26 years."
Burch had the opportunity to help create the windows for the first space shuttle. He also worked on the Hubble Telescope for quite some time and helped build the guidance system for the Patriot System. He also worked on the radar systems for the aircrafts for the F-14, F-16 and F-18.
"I was only about four miles away from home, and it was very convenient. It was a great company until General Motors bought it," said Burch.
He said that approximately one year after the takeover, layoffs began. Burch took a layoff after 26.5 years at the company and moved to Prineville with his family in 1994.
"It was a great experience and there was some very, very fine and very intelligent people â€“ both men and women and all kinds of different races," Burch commented of his career at Howard Hughes Aircraft. "It was a great experience, and I was sorry I had to leave, but after I left and moved into Prineville, it was the best thing I ever could have done."
He has continued to have success in the aviation field. He went to work for Lance Air in Bend only two months after leaving his job of 26 years at Howard Hughes, an airplane manufacturing company for kit airplanes, which were sold worldwide. Burch and two other professionals began the avionics department, and Burch built the aircraft panels for customers all over the world.
In 1999, Burch left Lance Air and struck out on his own and began building his own airplanes. He had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and Italy, as he worked with customers as an independent contractor.
It was during this time that Burch met Sam Bousfield of Samson Sky, who had just begun developing a prototype for a flying car, which was later named the Switchblade. Bousfield also had a fascinating background in the avionics field, having worked for a group of Boeing engineers who utilized his conceptual ideas to advance aeronautical research.
"This relationship developed into several international scientific papers presented to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Swedish government utilized one of the resultant designs to re-calibrate their wind tunnel." (Samson Sky website)
Bousfield chose Burch to help with the new prototype, and Burch exclaimed that he was as excited to be working on the project as Bousfield was.
"When I first saw this picture of this thing, I told myself, 'I have to be part of this.'"
When he was winding down on his other projects, Burch began working for the Bousfields fulltime in 2013. Burch worked with a young man from Crook County High School, Ronald Forseth, who mentored with Burch over a three-year period. Currently, the Switchblade is on the verge of launching the first flying car flight test.
Burch has two sons and a daughter who live in Prineville. He has nine grandkids who live mostly in Central Oregon, with the exception of a couple of them. Burch delights in his kids and grandkids and has had the opportunity to work alongside his son, Brent, while working on the Switchblade. His pride is evident as he talks about his family.
Burch emphasized that he has worked since he was 10 years old. He would also like to get involved in local politics so he can affect change.
"I love our little town, and I couldn't see myself being anywhere else. Not just because of my kids, but because the world has changed so much so fast, and we still have that little town, pretty much. We are incredibly lucky."
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