ITA honors Metallurgist George L. Durfee

13 August 2019

The 2019 International Titanium Association’s (ITA) ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ recipient has been announced. George L. Durfee, a metallurgist who build his career around pioneering applied research projects for the titanium industry while at Wyman-Gordon Co., will be honored at the ITA’s 35th annual Titanium USA 2019 Conference and Exhibition. The event will be held from September 22 to 25 at the SMG Mobile Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama. 

In Durfee’s nomination form, Max Schilenger, President of Flight Rail Corp. pointed out that through Durfee’s insights and efforts, press and hammer optimal forging of titanium alloys—ceramic and nickel-plated—were critical in producing parts on the legendary Lockheed SR71 Blackbird, the high-speed, long-distance reconnaissance jet. The SR71 was an iconic aircraft that played a key role for the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War era of the 1960s. 

Born in 1929, Durfee attended Michigan Tech, now known as Michigan Technical University, where his research on thermal analysis of metals and ceramic coatings used in forgings, would prove to be essential as a foundation for his career in the titanium industry. After graduating from Michigan Tech, he enrolled in graduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  

Durfee joined Wyman-Gordon in 1954, and was assigned to a high-priority project ni 1955, where he developed Ti-6Al-4V forgings, and presented a plan for the approval of Pratt & Whitney for the production of compressor discs. These plans would be used in the J57 engines to power the Boeing B52 long-distance bomber, another iconic military aircraft. 

In another important project at Wyman-Gordon, Durfee created procedures for chemically applying a nickel coating on a proprietary titanium aerospace alloy used for forged aerospace parts. From this, Durfee received a patent for the electroless nickel plating of titanium. In a separate effort, Durfee pioneered flow forming Ti-6Al-4V and, along with co-inventors, was granted a patent. Durfee retired in May 1994, closing out his 39-year career. 

Image courtesy of the International Titanium Association