Otto E. (Pete) Bartoe, Jr., is described by a colleague as "a most original and creative design engineer." The devices he has invented have operated successfully in rockets and satellites in space, and withstood the extreme pressure 15,000 feet below the ocean's surface. He has been equally at home heading the 1,800-member Ball Brothers' Research Corporation and as the president and chief engineer of a three-man team building a prototype of a revolutionary aircraft he had invented.
Born in 1927 at Paris Island, S. C. and reared in military installations, Mr. Bartoe learned to fly an airplane at the age of 17. He left the freshman class at CU to enter the Marine Corps the next year, serving for a year aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Palau after the war ended.
He earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1949, and his M.S. in 1954 while working as chief design engineer with the Upper Air Research Laboratory at CU. After a year at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Los Angeles and two years at the Santa Barbara Research Center, he returned to Boulder in 1956 as one of the handful of people who started the Ball Brothers Research Corporation. He did much design work on the sounding rockets that carried scientific apparatus aloft before the days of orbital flight. Among his notable designs was the Orbiting Solar Observatory, the first spacecraft to use a principle called spin-despin for stability and control. For it he received the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) Spacecraft Design Award in 1967.
An unmanned submarine vehicle he designed served as an underwater testbed to carry a television camera 15,000 feet under the sea. The Sea-TV design was recognized by an industrial inventions group as one of the 100 most promising inventions of the year 1968.
Ten solar observatories were built by Ball Research and the firm expanded. It grew to 1,800 employees when Pete Bartoe became its president in 1969.
He resigned the position in 1973 to start a very much smaller Ball subsidiary called the Ball-Bartoe Aircraft Corporation, formed to build an experimental aircraft Mr. Bartoe had designed. The organization consisted of its president, two aircraft builders, and an office manager. Pete Bartoe personally prepared all of the designs and drawings for the unusual Jetwing aircraft. The no-frills approach proved highly efficient.
The craft was designed as a flying laboratory to test a revolutionary wing-engine combination capable of lifting two to three times as much as a conventional wing of the same area; test results justified its designer's confidence. Mr. Bartoe expects the system to be used in airliners and other aircraft of the future. The design is particularly well adapted to aircraft that must operate from short runways and is under study by the Federal Aviation Administration because the aircraft using it is exceptionally low in noise.
Another airplane happened while the Jetwing was being built. Mr. Bartoe had flown two of the small aircraft most popular for aerobatics (which pilots object to calling stunt flying) at air shows. He remarked to his two-man aircraft construction crew that he should design a sport plane combining the good features of both aerobatic aircraft. "You design it and we'll build it on weekends," they said. Components for six were built, and subsequently the Skyote Aeromarine Corporation was formed to market the plans for the plane and some of its harder-to-build components.
Meanwhile, with the Jetwing project brought to a successful culmination, Mr. Bartoe departed to fulfill a dream born during his boyhood in the islands by sailing a 32-foot ketch on a 20,000-mile cruise from California through the South Seas to New Zealand and back. During his two-year absence, aviation enthusiasts had spread word about the Skyote, and despite lack of promotion, 31 of the craft were under construction in early 1981. Mr. Bartoe says that no other plane in its class can equal the Skyote's performance, and unlike other aerobatic planes it lands at slow speeds and can operate safely on short, rough airstrips.
For Pete Bartoe one can only ask "what next?" His "sabbatical" from Ball Corporation is ending, and at the age of 54 he appears to be at his most productive. It is safe to guess that there will be new designs, probably for aircraft, certainly innovative.
Mr. Bartoe and his wife Mary have homes in Boulder and Clark, Colorado. They have two daughters, Carolyn and Sally.