Helicopters Magazine

Donaldson A&D celebrates 100th-anniversary

March 2, 2015  By Donaldson

March 2, 2015, Orlando, Fla. - One hundred years ago, a Utah farmer confronted a salesman with a tractor from his company that put the farmer’s livelihood at risk. It would not run. After an overhaul failed to fix the problem, the Bull Tractor salesman came up with a solution: a filter that blocked dust from the engine and kept that essential piece of equipment – and the farm – operating. Proud of his success, the salesman explained this to his boss. He promptly was fired for pointing out a product flaw.

That move was Bull Tractor’s loss and rotorcraft’s gain. The salesman, Frank Donaldson, went on to launch a century of innovation in advanced filtration solutions that continues today under the banner of Donaldson Company, Inc.

Through that innovation and the acquisition of like-minded companies, Minneapolis-headquartered Donaldson’s solutions today guard the critical performance of thousands of civil and military rotorcraft. Its products also protect thousands more military and commercial ground, fixed-wing air and space vehicles.

“From the start, our company has recognized the need of operators to keep their equipment running and has met that need with innovative, affordable solutions,” said General Manager Mark Rigby of Donaldson Aerospace & Defense. “Everyone at Donaldson is committed each day to continuing that legacy by protecting the safe, reliable performance of helicopters and the people who depend on their critical capabilities.”

Donaldson Company, Inc. is marking that century of innovation at Heli-Expo 2015, where its Donaldson Aerospace & Defense division (Booth No. 4600) is highlighting a growing line of Inlet Barrier Filters, particle air separators and other filtration products for commercial helicopters and other rotorcraft.


In 1915, Frank Donaldson, his father and brother founded the company that bears the family name in their native state of Minnesota. The company soon extended its work to support military ground equipment (supplying air cleaners for artillery tractors in 1917). Today, Donaldson filtration systems protect military ground vehicles throughout the world.

Aerospace began to benefit from the expertise and innovation of Donaldson and its component companies in the 1950s, when U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers first used Donaldson catalytic air cleaners.

Helicopters benefited as well, starting in the early 1960s with the first turbine-engine air particle separator system, using Donaldson's Strata Tubes. The turn of the 21st century saw the U.S. Army’s approval of the first fully integrated Inlet Barrier Filter (IBF). Today, Donaldson IBFs are used to protect engines on helicopters manufactured by AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter and MD Helicopters, as well as a host of military helicopters, and are being developed for some of the world’s newest helicopters. 


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