Charles F. Avila
Yankee Atomic Electric Company
Charles Francis Avila was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, 17 September 1906. His facility for resolving seemingly insoluble problems and his vigorous leadership have contributed much to the electrical power industry. There is much in the tradition of Thomas A. Edison in the way he has worked, for Avila has the same far-reaching curiosity, the same unflagging interest in basic principles and the same unremitting perseverance. His early penchant for an engineering career became evident during his pre-high school days through his interest in the care, rebuilding, and refinishing of bicycles. He was recognized as a leader by and was a consultant to his boyhood friends in the numerous areas of model building and mechanical and electrical gadgetry. In high school be was most interested in the science courses and became an enthusiastic builder of amateur radio equipment. His limited budget made him constantly aware of the economic aspects of his projects. This combination of technological interest and economics led him to enter an integrated five-year program in Electrical Engineering and Business Administration at Harvard University from which be was graduated in 1929 with the bachelor's degree. Immediately after graduation he entered the employ of the Boston Edison Company. During these years he took the initiative in analyzing and solving the many problems inherent in the operation of the utility system. His contributions included a method of laying a half-mile length of cable across a lake without a barge to carry the reel; the development of a formula for safe pulling tensions to permit extra long cables between manholes; the design of a metal bellows as a flexible insert in sheaths to allow cable motion; the invention of a thermometer probe to measure accurately the temperature of cable conductors in ducts; the improvement of cable reliability by investigating the complex causes of faults under varying conditions. From this work he derived formulas whereby the combined cost of testing and the cost of outages were made a minimum. Avila designed tanks for transformers applying a zinc spray of bituminous coating to prevent their deterioration when salt water was present. He devised slots in unfastened manhole covers to prevent them from flying up. He was a pioneer in the use of neoprene-jacketed cables to eliminate stray currents and corrosion by electrolysis. He engineered the installation of the first high voltage aluminum conductor cable in this country. As Vice President and a member of the Executive Committee of the Yankee Atomic Electric Company and as a Director of the Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Company, he has done much to develop atomic power in New England.