Ranken Technical College


Robert Dunavan

Communications Electronics, 1948

Robert Dunavan is a 1948 graduate of the Communication Electronics program at Ranken. Shortly after graduation he was hired by North American Aviation as a Junior Design Engineer. Robert was assigned to a special group of engineers selected to design the drawings for a pilot control panel that would be installed in F86’s. The purpose of the panel was to release the Sidewinder infrared guided air-to-air missile equipped in all F86 fighter jets.

Robert designed a simple box that was easy to access by the pilot featuring an indicator light, on/off switch, and a volume control. The box was tied into the aircraft and Sidewinder electrical systems. When a heat source was indicated by the box, such as the exhaust from another jet, the device would send a humming signal into the pilot’s earphones.  Once the Sidewinder’s guidance system locked on to the target the tone would change indicating for the pilot to launch the missile.  Robert’s design was immediately manufactured.

Robert has also been directly involved with three items in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. These include a Douglas bi-plane, which was Western Air Express’ first airplane; Apollo command test module 007; and an Apollo command module that had been to the moon and back. Robert served as an engineer on each of these projects.

Robert resides in Sun City, CA with his wife Silda Virginia Glassco Dunavan. Robert was born in 1920 in Amoret, MO and his wife was born in 1922 in nearby Webster Groves.

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