Of the half a million or so aviation fanatics who will pass through the gates of Oshkosh in a couple of weeks, there are perhaps a mere couple of dozen who have reached the level of “household names”, not just to the aero masses, but more impressively still, in renown and respect from their fellow household names in the greater aviation community. Our world just lost one of those giants.
Burton Montgomery “Monty” Barrett, founder of Barrett Precision Engines of Tulsa Oklahoma, passed away on July 6. On his last days, he had been working on his Pitts Model 12 aircraft.
Naturally intelligent, self-motivated and gifted with innate mechanical abilities, at a very young age Monty started restoring and improving engines and machines. He lived a storied life of diverse accomplishment including as a nationally ranked motorcycle racer, aerobatic pilot, chief mechanic for the United States Aerobatic team, and corporate pilot to movie stars and royalty. On top of everything else, he was also an accomplished musician. Monty started Barrett Precision Engines in 1984 on the premise that his shop’s engines should far exceed factory engines in terms of performance, reliability, quality control and testing. When airshow legend Patty Wagstaff’s aircraft was put on permanent display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, it had a Monty Barrett engine installed. Tens of thousands of engines later, Monty’s legacy of quality and innovation as arguably the world’s pre-eminent engine overhaul facility for experimental, high performance aircraft engines will continue on in the capable hands of his son Allen and daughter Rhonda who continue operate and manage Barrett Precision Engines as they have done since 2005 when Monty retired. Monty is survived by his beloved wife of 60 years, Betty, their four children, and a large extended family.