Made in Manatee

General Pneumatics Airplane Escape Systems are Made in Manatee County

General Pneumatics’ products open emergency slides and rafts.

By Cooper Levey-Baker May 30, 2018 Published in the June 2018 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Image: Shutterstock

General Pneumatics’ valves and aspirators (pumps that create vacuums) have to work every time. No exceptions. Installed on commercial airliners and military transport planes, the company’s products are responsible for rapidly inflating emergency slides and life rafts in case of a crash landing or other type of disaster. When a flight attendant pops open an emergency door, a mechanism instantly opens a General Pneumatics’ valve and begins inflating the escape slide. The system works so quickly that you can open the plane door and jump and expect to be caught by the slide inflating beneath you.


The decade General Pneumatics Inflation Systems was founded in New Jersey.


The year Steve Fournier purchased General Pneumatics and moved operations to Connecticut, near another defense company he owned. When he sold the Connecticut company, he moved General Pneumatics to Manatee.

Tens of thousands

Number of planes General Pneumatics valves can be found in today

3 to 4 seconds

Time it takes to inflate an airplane slide

28 seconds

Time it takes to inflate a life raft


Number of times valves and aspirators can be activated without replacing


Cost of an emergency slide system in a new plane

C-5 Galaxy

The largest plane to install General Pneumatics products. It can carry 281,001 pounds of cargo for 2,150 miles without refueling.

It’s all about the vacuum

The valves and aspirators inject small amounts of either nitrogen or a combination of nitrogen and carbon dioxide into the slides and rafts. The vacuum created inside the material then sucks in huge quantities of surrounding air through the aspirator.

The company recently inked a deal with Airbus to provide 3,000 valves and 3,000 aspirators each year. With the deal, the company expects to grow from four employees to 12.

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