Birth of the ATF3 and Site B Test Facility

By: John C. Evans

    To fully appreciate why personnel who worked on the ATF3 program at Site B Torrance CA were so dedicated, loyal, and passionate about their product, you must first have knowledge of the Facility, the program itself, the engine design, background of the personnel, and the Site B working environment.

From the outset GARRETT (AiResearch Manufacturing Company of California) designed the ATF3 Engine Program to assure success and customer acceptance.  Garrett left nothing to chance, designing and building a new state-of-the-art 75,000 square foot jet engine development and test facility in
Torrance CA.  The Site B facility was built and staffed to be self-sufficient, locating all personnel under one roof.  The close proximity of personnel with diverse backgrounds promoted the exchange of ideas and created an excellent atmosphere for OJT (on-the-job-training).  The Site B staff could accomplish literally all aspects of the ATF3 engine development program with the exception proprietary processes and manufacturing large quantities of engine hardware.  Everything in the facility was designed and for the most part built on site by Site B personnel, with the exception of the empty building and engine thrust stands.

Garrett assembled a multi-disciplined ATF3 engine development team, by recruiting from aviation communities worldwide.  They hired the most talented and experienced applicants they could find, offering unmatched wages, benefits, and moving packages to assure qualified individuals would accept their offers. 

Garrett encouraged interaction and cooperation between all ATF3 personnel, to minimize time consuming and costly mistakes.  Honest mistakes did not result in disciplinary actions.  They were treated as learning and training experiences, broadening individual skills and confidence in themselves and their coworkers.  This eliminated the “fear of reprisal factor” resulting in a working environment where employees focused on the job at hand and helping each other solve problems and accomplish tasks with enthusiasm.  The overall attitude at Site B was; if it can be done we can do it.  We have the facility, the personnel, the talent and the wherewithal to accomplish any task.

Capabilities of the Site B facility did not escape notice by other technical and aerospace companies for long.  The facility was soon recognized for its technical excellence, accepting work “job shop style” and providing specialized services.  Site B work scope expanded to include advanced technology demonstrator programs, advanced hybrid automotive programs, state-of-the-art trains and boats, energy-storage-flywheels, and instantaneous-power-supply’s to name a few.   Local companies also recognized Site B’s unique ability to design parts and tooling, manufacture them, create test plans and test equipment, conduct testing and document test results, inspect post test hardware and provide detailed written reports, all under one roof from a single request.  Providing these unique services had the added benefit of expanding Site B facility capabilities.   In 1995 the facility was abandoned, sold, and eventually leveled.


The ATF3 engine was designed to have a power to weight ratio of 5:1, and TSFC (thrust specific fuel consumption) of 0.40 Lb/Hr/LbFn, unheard of for turbofan engines in the under 5000 pound thrust class. When compared to competitors products, the ATF3 engine offered a 25-90% increase in thrust allowing increased aircraft payloads, shorter runway takeoff and landing requirements, direct climb to cruise altitudes, and non-stop coast-to-coast range.  The ATF3s 30-60% reduction in fuel consumption resulted in increased aircraft payloads with non-stop coast-to-coast range in many aircraft applications. The powerful and efficient ATF3 engine’s low fuel consumption substantially reduced aircraft operating cost, a major component in aircraft affordability.


A thorough description of the Site B test facility, with the exception of the office areas, was provided by Jim Wyers and is contained in a Modern Jet Engine Development Facility authored by: Robert L. Olive.  I have added a list of these areas, and improvements in facility capability below.

Engineering Areas - located on the second level of the Site B Torrance CA.

  1. Engineering Offices (Development and Test)

  2. Engine Design Area

  3. Facility Engineering and Design Office

  4. Laboratory Engineering Area

  5. Tool Design Room

  6. Instrumentation Design (collocated with engine design)

  7. Balance and Spin Pit areas


  1. Two vertical-single-plane Schenck balance machines

  2. Two horizontal-two-plane Schenck balance machines

  3. One air-driven high speed horizontal-two-plane Schenck balance machine

  4. One horizontal-two-plane Hoffman balance machine

¬Spin Pits (located between test cells 5 and 6)

  1. One large below ground level spin pit

  2. Maximum speed 60,000 rpm

  3. Maximum drive quill supported weight, 600 pounds (specimen weights can exceed 1,000 pounds when supported with spin pit cover mounted fixtures).

  4. Vacuum pumps could evacuate pit to 25 inches Hg absolute

  5. Manual or automatic operation capable, with safe guards

  6. Instrumentation capable (strain gage, stress coat, temperature)

  7. Destructive test capable (burst shields)

  8. One small above ground spin pit (12 inch diameter by 12 inches high)

  9. Maximum speed 60,000 rpm

  10. Vacuum pumps could evacuate pit to 25 inches Hg absolute

  11. Manual operation only with safe guards

Facility Support Areas

  1. One large conference Room

  2. Facility Offices

  3. Managers, Administrators, Engineering, Secretarial Staff, and Supervisors

  4. Welding area (Heli-Arc and Acetylene located in the Machine Shop)

  5. Material & Planning Area

  6. Shipping and Receiving Area


Recruiting Program 1966 - 1969

Garrett formed a core team then launched an all-out drive searching out and recruiting the most talented personnel they could find.

  1. Top talent within AiResearch Manufacturing Company of California were the first on board.

  2. Key personnel from other Garrett Divisions were selected. next

  3. Garrett then went outside the company placing recruiting ads in newspapers worldwide.

To fill voids in staffing requirements, Garrett began recruiting experienced personnel from many major Aerospace Companies around the world, including the following.

¬Aerojet General

¬Bendix Controls, IN & FL

¬Boeing, WA

¬General Electric, Evendale, OH & Ontario, CA

¬Jet Propulsion Laboratory, FL

¬Marquardt, CA

¬McDonald Douglas, CA

¬North American Aviation, CA

¬Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Hartford, CN & West Palm Beach, FL

¬Rolls Royce England & Canada

¬Numerous other aerospace suppliers

SITE “B” STAFF and PERSONNEL included, but was not limited to the following

  1. Engineering Personnel

¬Aircraft Installations

¬Aircraft Engine Design

  1. Aerodynamic

  2. Mechanical 

  3. Rotating parts

  4. Structures

¬Performance Specialists

¬Fuel Controls and Control Systems Specialists

¬Instrumentation Specialists, all Disciplines

¬Lubrication, Components and Systems Specialists


¬Seals, Stationary, Carbon Face, and Lip Seal Specialists

  1. Non- Engineering Personnel



¬Secretarial staff


  1. Assembly

  2. Engine Assembly

  3. Fuel Control (Components and Systems)

  4. Lubrication (Components and Systems)

  5. Balance (Rotation Hardware)

  6. Spin-Pit

  7. Test personnel

  8. Engine Test, (Development, Production, and Overhaul)

  9. Fuel Control (Components and Systems)

  10. Lubrication (Components and Systems)

  11. Inspectors

  12. Dimensional

  13.   Floor Inspectors

  14. Fluorescent Penetrant and Dye-check

  15. Magna-flux

  16. Quality Assurance

  17. Instrumentation Technicians

  18. Mechanical, Electrical and Pneumatic

  19. Ruby Laser holography, (for failure analysis)

  20. Strain-gage (with Stress-coat and Thermal Paint Capabilities)

  21. Data acquisition

  22. Computer Room Operators, (Equipment Configuration & Data Acquisition)

  23. Test Cell Technicians, (Data Acquisition and Test Support)

  24. Parts Cleaning Specialist

  25. Tool Crib


  1. General Machinist

  2. Tool and Die Makers


Planners of the ATF3 program succeeded in creating a very enjoyable working environment and equipped it with every imaginable piece support equipment.  If you needed it, you could find it in the Site B facility, or 100 yards away in the Garrett Western Avenue facility.  The ATF3 program was the best job I ever had, and nothing I have experienced before or after has impacted my professional life more.  It holds a special place in the hearts of those individuals fortunate to work have worked on the ATF3 program and at Site B.


Created 3/8/2002, Rev. A 3/9/2002, Rev. B 3/11/2002, Rev. C 3/14/2002, Rev D 3/24/2002, Rev E 7/25/2008, Rev F 8/18/2008 Rev G 1/11/2009

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