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Jack Hope: A life of aeronautical engineering

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
NOTE: This is the final installment of a five-part series leading up to the Highland County Historical Society inducting four more people into its Hall of Fame on August 18. This week, we profile Jack Irvin Hope.

Ladies and gentlemen, with a goal of life in aviation, Jack Hope began flying at age 14.

Colorblindness ended his desire to be a professional pilot as well as a naval aviator, so he became an aeronautical engineer. He worked across the United States from California to Washington, from being flight test engineer for GE to managing engine development. He was involved with design and building of the engine portion of the first nuclear power plant for testing at the Idaho facility. He also worked on development of subsonic and
supersonic aircraft as well as NASA flight tests of hypersonic aircraft.

Hope was born June 11, 1928 at his grandfather’s house in Rainsboro in Highland County. He entered Catholic University in 1947 with a major in aeronautical engineering. During his senior year, he obtained a job at the National Bureau of Standards, where Hope worked for Dr. G.B. Schubauer, who was designing a supersonic wind tunnel to be used in research.

Hope married Anita Mahon during Christmas break of his senior year in college. He graduated from Catholic University June 6, 1951 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

Following graduation, he was employed by the General Electric Corporation and sent to their facility in Schenectady, N.Y. Hope worked as a flight test engineer for General Electric at their flight test center. Here he met Gerhard Neumann, a major developer of GE’s aircraft engine business. Hope worked with him to develop an aircraft engine that would operate on nuclear power.

Hope’s career continued to move forward, and he spent the summer of 1955 in Idaho helping to assemble the first aircraft nuclear power plant in the world. The program was terminated in 1957, and he was transferred to the regular aircraft gas turbine engine group, where he eventually was responsible for all advanced engine studies with the company.

In early 1963, Hope accepted a position at North American Aviation in Los Angeles as director of propulsion and thermodynamics. During this period, the building of the B-70, a 2,000 mile-per-hour aircraft, was completed. He was involved in NASA’s flight tests of the X15 hypersonic test aircraft. During this time period, Hope received a patent on a variable cycle engine that could vary its cycle from turbo jet to turbo fan.

In 1967, Hope accepted the position of vice president for the Cummins Engine Company in Columbus, Ind.

Following his employment with Cummins Engine Company, he was selected by the Secretary of the Army to serve as a member of the Army Scientific Advisory Panel. This appointment consumed a great amount of Hope’s time for several years, with assignments at United States Army bases and research facilities across this country and in Europe.

In December 1971, Hope became a full-time consultant to the White House office of Science and Technology under the Nixon presidential administration. In February 1974, General Electric Corporation requested Hope’s return to GE in order to manage the GE portion of a collaborative project between the United States and France, known as the GEISNECMA CFM56.

When the CFM 56 license was approved by the FAA in 1978, its development was then returned to the regular GE management structure. The CFM56 has become one of the most successful commercial aircraft engines in history and remains in production today.

During 1980, Hope moved his office from General Electric to Ralph Anderson’s new Belcan building in Blue Ash. Contracts were received from the U.S. Army to start development of the GIESEL engine. GE provided the program manager for the first three years of development.

During this period, Hope was invited to the Board of Directors of the Anadite Corporation and participated in the development of composite hybrid components – airplane body parts made of carbon fibers.

Hope’s wife Anita died Feb. 28, 1984. A little over four years after the death of her husband, Patricia “Pat” Stebbins Pierce entered Hope’s life, and they were married April 27, 1994.

Although Hope’s career primarily involved engineering and political endeavors, his lifetime goal centered on returning to his family’s roots in Highland County, which dated back to the early 1800s. His first effort to meet those ideals was the purchase and restoration of the old Barrett Mill Property and later the old McCoppin Mill site on the creek below Rocky Fork Lake dam.

In addition, he purchased several farms in eastern Highland County and also purchased the Parker Hotel and Carousel Lounge, a small part of a larger proposal that he proposed for the restoration of a portion of downtown Hillsboro.

Many of Jack’s dreams were dashed by the total destruction of both grist mills and covered bridge by fire. The moving of many businesses to the north side of Hillsboro resulted in the failure of the downtown Hillsboro restoration project.

Hope has an intense appreciation for the history of this county, as well as the families who helped make this county what it is today. He is a lifetime member of the Highland County Historical Society and has served as a board member. He also spent considerable time in preserving the log cabin, now a part of the society’s property in Hillsboro. In addition, Hope is an active and longtime member of the Highland County Genealogical Society.

In addition to Hope, the Highland County Historical Society will induct Willard Parr and the late Wilfred Konneker and Arthur Milner into its Hall of Fame.

The ceremony will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Hillsboro on Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. The Highland County Historical Society cordially invites the public to attend and honor this outstanding group. For information, call (937) 393-3392 or email the society at

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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