A walk through the production facility that houses Innovative Solutions & Support lifts the curtain on the wide range of avionics created within, each set on solving a specific issue for a specific aircraft model. Geoff Hedrick founded the company in 1988 to do just that—with great success over the intervening 34 years.
Hedrick died on January 12 following a sudden illness in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 79 years old.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that Geoffrey S. M. Hedrick, our founder, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, has passed away due to complications from a sudden illness,” the board of IS&S said in a statement. “The entire IS&S family mourns this tragic loss. He will be sorely missed.”
Glen R. Bressner, vice chairman of the board of directors of IS&S, said, “On behalf of our board of directors, management team, and employees, we extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Hedrick’s wife, daughter, and loved ones. We will miss the creativity, keen intellect, and leadership Geoff has shown over the past several decades.”
A Long Legacy
Hedrick came from a line of entrepreneurs in the aviation industry—his father, Paul Herrington Hedrick, and uncle, Carl Krause, participated in the development of the Sperry Mk 12 gyrocompass that enabled “accurate under-ice navigation for the USS Nautilus to arrive at the North Pole,” according to Hedrick’s obituary.
He launched his first business, Harlowe Systems, as a joint venture in 1971 after graduating from Cornell University with a degree in electrical engineering. After growing the business substantially, Hedrick spun off Harlowe, and it was acquired by Smiths Industries in 1978.
Hedrick stayed on, rising to the role of president and CEO for Smiths Industries North American Aerospace Companies before leaving to begin IS&S. During the course of his career, Hedrick developed and held nearly 100 patents in the electronics, optoelectronic, electromagnetic, aerospace, and contamination-control fields.
Long-time friend, investor, colleague, and IS&S board member Robert E. Mittlestadt said, “Anyone who has flown on a commercial airliner is likely to have benefitted from one of Geoff’s innovations.”
Among those innovations include advancements in altimetry and air data computers—one of Hedrick’s first patents involved an improvement for an encoding altimeter. He developed a way to build upon solid state barometric altimeters in the early 1990s, those that use pressure sensors rather than expanding bellows for registering changes in air pressure to convert into altitude readings for pilots. This resulted in an altimeter that was 20 times more accurate for the A-10 attack aircraft—and it’s still being sold to the U.S. military.
Another advancement in high-altitude and low-temperature altimetry led to sensors used to assist operators in complying with reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM)—essentially allowing for 1,000 feet of vertical separation between high altitude routes (above 28,000 ft msl) rather than the previous requirement for 2,000 feet of separation.
The New Display Age
Hedrick also identified early on the coming demand for high-resolution flight deck displays, helping to transition CRT displays into the new generation of glass. He focused the company on retrofitting older aircraft that could retain usefulness with the upgraded panels.
American Airlines made good use of the IS&S displays in its Boeing 757 fleet. IS&S holds approval for installation of its hardware on the Boeing 737, 757, 767, and the Pilatus PC-12 and Eclipse—and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.
“From the beginning, we have been focused on solving problems that require unique and truly innovative solutions,” said Hedrick regarding the progression from IS&S’s first products to what they have most recently accomplished. “Along with providing cost-effective and capability enhancing upgrades for a wide array of aircraft, the company has also channeled its considerable resources on developing its ThrustSense autothrottle, a full-regime autothrottle system for turboprop aircraft.”
Hedrick considered the ThurstSense autothrottle—the first one approved for a turboprop aircraft—a crowning accomplishment, for which the company also secured a 2021 FLYING Editors’ Choice Award.
“The ThrustSense autothrottle has been created to solve the ongoing problem of catastrophic upset that can occur when you lose an engine on a multiengine turboprop,” Hedrick said of the groundbreaking achievement. “It solves the VMC problem.”
Hedrick was also a lifelong pilot, obtaining his private pilot certificate at age 16 and owning a series of aircraft, including a PC-12 IS&S has used through the years as a development test bed.