Hector Randolph Skifter's teachers in elementary school in Austin, Minn., reported that he was a gifted child. He had an intuitive ability to solve math problems and a penchant for taking things apart and putting them back together. Not long after Hector arrived on the campus of St. Olaf College in 1918 as a freshman, his mother was told by Professor Erik Hetle of the physics department that her son was "a genius." By the following summer, Dr. Skifter, with Hetle's support, was operating the College radio station. After graduating, Hector taught math and physics at St. Olaf for several years, and he played a key role at WCAL until 1929.
Dr. Skifter then became chief engineer for Western Radio Engineering Co., St. Paul, owned by members of the Hubbard family, who owned—and still own—KSTP. Maintaining his ties with KSTP, he established H.R. Skifter Consulting Radio Engineers, which provided technical services to many radio stations in the region.
In 1942, Dr. Skifter agreed to do his part for the war effort by directing product engineering and production at Airborne Instruments Laboratory (AIL), then at Columbia University. Soon he moved to Mineola, Long Island, to work on AIL's Magnetic Airborne Detector, which helped the Allied Forces detect and destroy German U-boats. Under Dr. Skifter's leadership, AIL developed systems to control NIKE missile batteries after World War II. AIL also produced ground-control-approach radar used by U.S. and British forces in the Berlin Airlift From the start of the Cold War. Hector was also a valued advisor to the nation's defense establishment and was a part-time consultant to the Department of Defense from 1957 to 1959.
In 1959, as the threat of Soviet missiles loomed ever larger, Dr. Skifter was named special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for research and development. In the late 1950s, his technical and practical skills helped speed the deployment and contain the costs of a missile early-warning system. In addition to its defense-related output, other AIL inventions developed under Dr. Skifter’s leadership included the cardiac pacemaker and other medical products. AIL eventually became a unit of Cutler-Hammer, then of Eaton Corp. Late in 1997, Eaton sold AIL Systems Inc. to management and the AIL employee stock-ownership plan.
From 1964 through May of 2000 AIL Systems continued to develop advanced systems for the US DOD. Three notable programs are the Electronic Reconnaissance System on the SR71, the AN/ALQ-161 Electronic Self Protect System on the B-1B Bomber, and the AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System on the EA-6B Prowler. In 1998 AIL systems continued its growth with the acquisition of the Long Island based antenna company Dorne & Margolin. On April 28th 2000, AIL Systems merged with EDO Corporation, another Long Island based company. EDO Corporation was founded in 1925 and is currently headquartered in New York City.
Today EDO Corporation provides a diverse range of products for the defense industry and commercial markets, and related engineering and professional services. Major product groups include: Aircraft Armament, Defense Electronics, Communications, Undersea Warfare, and Integrated Structures. EDO's advanced systems are at the core of the transformation to lighter, faster, and smarter defense capabilities.