Howard Gammon: From Fiberglass to Refueling

Howard Gammon VITAL STATS

Howard Gammon, Chairman and Vice President of Gammon Technical Products, Inc., talks about the growing pains along the
circuitous route to the successful manufacturing company it is today.

Q.The name Gammon seems to be known widely at airports. Did you start the

A.Yes. It all began in January of 1960 with an office in our basement and my wife, Claudia, did the typing of letters.

Q. How did you get the technical knowledge to be a specialist in jet fuel handling?
A.I have a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Iowa and I formerly managed an aircraft fuel system research and development laboratory. We also performed research projects aimed at understanding how water dissolves in jet fuel. I have always had great interest in instrumentation and the science of fluid flow.

Q.Was it your plan to build a manufacturing and distribution company that specialized in aviation fuel equipment?
A.Absolutely not, it just happened that way. My objective was to develop a sales organization, representing good manufacturers. I really did not care what products were involved, but I wanted to be able to use my mechanical engineering training to do a better job of presenting technical products to potential customers.

Q.How did you start Gammon Technical?
A. 1959 I looked for firms I could represent as an independent representative. The first one of these was a fiberglass fabricator that had advertised in the Wall Street Journal for representation. So the first activities of Gammon Technical was selling fiberglass that was molded into shapes for thermal insulation and acoustic control.

Q.So you really were not involved in aviation refueling at the start?
A..Actually I was, because the most important component of coalescing filter elements, at that time, was fiberglass. That company started a subsidiary to manufacture elements that were better than those that were then on the market. Over a period of years, they became known as Velcon Filters, Inc.; Gammon Technical continues to represent them.

Q.How did Gammon become a manufacturer?
A. Well, it certainly did not happen right away. In the early days, the job was to sell replacement elements so my travels to airports all over the eastern half of the USA let me see the problems of getting clean water-free fuel from the refinery to the aircraft. Our first product was a sampling probe that could reach into the flowing fuel in a pipe and capture a sample for particle determination. The story behind the probe was that we would sell filter elements to a customer who would complain that particles were going through the elements. More than once, I would have to get out of bed at some terrible hour in the AM and rush 200 miles to investigate. Inspection of the pipe fitting, where the sample was taken, often showed a rusty pipe coupling welded to the pipe with a collection of reducing bushings to get down to the 1/8" size of the stainless steel quick disconnect that came with the test kit. Clearly, the problem was that particles tend to collect in non-flowing branches and the customer was thinking that those particles, which may have collected there for years, had passed through our filters. The sampling probe has become very popular all over the world.

Q.Your office has many picture of airplanes. Are you a pilot?
A.Yes, I was licensed to fly our company Baron, but I finally gave it up because it was taking too much of my time to keep my instrument rating valid. I was trained as a navigator in World War II and got my pilot rating after the war.

Q.Are there other manufacturers that Gammon represents in addition to Velcon Filters?
A.Yes, we continue to represent Velcon in the northeast part of the US and in a few selected foreign countries. And we also represent firms such as Whittaker (formerly known as Thiem or Parker). They make refueling nozzles and control valves. We try to function as a "general store" so that a customer can obtain a component or instrument that is needed when fueling an aircraft. Some of the other firms we represent are Hannay for hose reels, Ametek for static bonding reels, OPW for swivels and overwing nozzles, CLA-VAL for filter control valves and Goodyear makes our Jetcraft Aviation Refueling hose. However, Gammon does not represent these companies everywhere.

Q.I have heard that you were given special recognition with the Award of Excellence at the ASTM meeting in Phoenix in December 2003. Can you tell us about it?
A.Yes, I have been active in the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) for 40 years. I have been the chairman of several task groups that have written or amended ASTM test methods and procedures, mostly related to jet fuel cleanliness. Over the years, I have served on several other committees that have written or amended standards for equipment and procedures. For example, National Fire Protection Association-Bulletin 407, Society of Automatic Engineers, Coordinating Research Council, and Air Transport Association-ATA 103.

Q.You have managed Gammon Technical for 44 years. Why haven't you retired?
A.That really is not the case. I still get a salary because I work there every day but my son Jim has been running the business for the last 10 years and he is the one who has been behind our newer products.