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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Theodore Operhall was born April 13, 1918 in Detroit, Michigan. His life's work devoted to metallurgy, he became an internationally known authority on advanced technologies employed in the manufacturing of gas turbine engine components.
Entry in the investment casting business came in 1942 with employment at the Ford Motor Company's Ceramic and Metallurgical Laboratory on a project for casting supercharger buckets for engines on the B-24 bomber.
Joining Bendix Aviation Corporation's Research Laboratories, he managed the program for development of an improved investment casting process. Early engines supplied with cast components included Pratt & Whitney Aircraft's PT2 and the Curtiss Wright R3350 turbo compound piston engine.
In 1948 Operhall joined Michigan Steel Castings Company in Detroit as a project engineer. Transition from industrial hardware was completed with the establishment of "Misco's" aircraft product line in Whitehall, Michigan.
Operhall became president of the company in 1953. Through acquisition and reorganization came a new name, Howmet Corporation. Named corporate vice president of Howmet Corporation in 1965, he was elected a director of that company in 1970 and became president of its Gas Turbine Components Group in 1973. In 1976 this operating function achieved corporate status as Howmet Turbine Components Corporation, with Operhall as chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer.
Operhall held jointly a number of patents relating to the casting process. One of the most significant related to the "monoshell" casting process, changing the entire mold making method, resulting in the ability to produce complex components at dramatically improved yields. Utilized today by all companies engaged in the casting business, this technology was a major turning point for Howmet, which became the world's largest producer of investment cast gas turbine components under Operhall's direction.
In recognition of his contributions to the industry, he has received the Distinguished Life Service Award from the American Society of Metals, the Insignia of Chevelier of France's Legion of Honor, and the Life Service Award from the Investment Casting Institute.
Operhall was enshrined on October 22, 1994 for the use of his engineering and management skills in advancing the gas turbine engine in the aeronautics industry.