Malabar: An Aviation Ground Support Equipment Pioneer
Malabar Machine Company was started by Mr. E. P. “Ed” Grime as a machine shop for manufacturing items to customer drawings. He was a genius in hydraulic engineering and a man who combined engineering with the pioneering instinct to do what had not been done before.
In 1939, Mr. Grime was approached by Lockheed to design and build the first tripod jacks to be built specifically for aircraft. These hydraulic jacks were the first to incorporate locknuts on the rams, preventing any inadvertent lowering of the jacks. The benefit became an important safety precaution for workers under the aircraft. The Company incorporated the locknut design into all its aircraft tripod jacks and received a patent for this innovation.
From this beginning, Malabar’s primary business became aircraft jacks, including axle jacks for changing aircraft wheels and tires and tripod jacks for in-hangar service. During World War II, it became apparent a larger facility was required to meet production requirements. The Company relocated just a few miles south in the Los Angeles area to what is now Huntington Park.
In 1945, the Company was acquired by Menasco Manufacturing Company and relocated about 10 miles north to Burbank. After 1945, military business was virtually non-existent. Sales efforts were redirected from military to domestic and international airlines and airframe manufacturers.
In 1950, the business was sold to the Osborne Machinery Company and was relocated to San Leandro, California near the Oakland Airport. In the summer of 1951, Roy Hodges, a young college student on his summer job as an aircraft mechanic’s helper at California Eastern Airways in Oakland, often heard from his boss: “Hey Roy, go get the Malabar so we can change this tire!”
In 1968, Mr. Osborne passed away, and Mr. E. D. “Gene” Sweetland acquired Malabar in 1969. The name was then changed to Malabar Hydraulics. The first order of business under the new ownership was to design and build jacks for the new Boeing 747. Business grew very rapidly after 1971, enhancing the Company’s reputation for quality and service. In 1977, the Company had outgrown its facility in San Leandro, so in 1978 a new facility was built in Simi Valley, California. Mr. Sweetland changed the name of the company to Malabar International. The word "international" was used to reflect both the fact that approximately half of the annual sales were outside the United States and that Malabar’s line of aircraft ground support equipment was no longer limited to hydraulics. Wheel and brake equipment, nitrogen service carts, and recovery jacks did not have hydraulic components.
Mr. Gene Sweetland lost a two-year battle with cancer in 1993 and his eldest son, Mr. Eugene "Dave" Sweetland, Jr., became Chairman. Dave Sweetland remained Chairman and CEO of the company until 2009, when the Sweetland family sold its majority interest to Cardinal Growth Fund II and Mr. John E. Carroll, Jr. Dave subsequently retired in 2010 and John became Chairman and CEO. In 2011 the management of Cardinal Growth Fund II changed, and ownership of the company was acquired by Mr. Carroll, certain Sweetland family members including Dave, Tamarix Capital and Fidus Capital.
The company logo has undergone many changes since 1935, but one word has consistently grown in recognition worldwide for quality and reliability in the ground support equipment industry: “Malabar.”