04 May 2006

Stanley Hiller, 1924-2006

The ugly thing you see on the right is a Hiller helicopter.
When I got my Civilian Flight Instructor Certificate, it's the first machine I used to train students. They're relatively big, noisy, obviously ugly, and built like tanks.... heavy.
A great trainer.

Mr. Hiller is gone.........
ThirdWaveDave forwarded me the New York Times Obituary....
(they couldn't even get that right.....said this machine was used in the TV series MASH. That was a Bell 47, which I also have a bunch of time in!)

Thanks for thinking of me Dave!

I have a soft spot for this old bird........I've flown this machine in it's "B", "C", and "D" versions, and probably have 500 hours in the various iterations. It was terribly underpowered, but was forgiving in it's flight characteristics. It was slow, slow, slow........when the wind was blowing 20 knots on your nose, it was obvious that cars and trucks on roads beneath you were making better time to their destinations.

Stanley Hiller was born in 1924. When he was 8 years old, he invented a toy car with an engine that would propel it to 60 miles per hour, and sold a bunch of 'em.......made $100,000 on them in one year. Do the math with me: 1924 plus 8 years equals 1932.
$100K in the heart of the depression made 8 year old Stanley the envy of 99% of the U.S. population!

He was brilliant. It's hard to tell looking at the above picture, but his control system for the helicopter was unique: The Pilot's control inputs actually flew a set of paddles located 90 degrees ahead of the rotors. This control system negated the effects of gyroscopic precession and gave the Hiller it's slow, forgiving control quality.

Hiller, along with Arthur Young of Bell Helicopter, made the helicopter industry of today possible.
Igor Sikorsky invented the first practical helicopter, but Bell and Hiller made them dependable and (somewhat) affordable.

Thank you Mr. Hiller.
Rest in Peace.


Dave Starr said...

Very nice commentary. Since I was never a "heli" guy I never knew much about the machines.

The inaccuracies in even the New York Times are lamentable. We Americans tend to think that we are the world leader in just about everything ... well off the mark at times. However, there's little argument that we have been the overwhelming force in aviation.

Yet even the premier media icons in the country care so little about aviation they don't even bother hiring reporters who care or editors who can inspire them to care. It's as if aviation and aviation pioneers were too humdrum to warrant even mediocre writing.

An interesting counterpoint this AM in the Wall Street Journal, highlighting the ever-increasing outsourcing of US commercial pilots to foreign airlines. We were at one time essentially the air carrier to the world ... now million-dollar per year execs moan about losing 12 cents per pax on a SAN-LAX or DEN-SFO 'cattle haul', while executives and pilots with enough gumption and "worldliness" to actually possess a passport are building (and making profits) around the world ... think how Lindbergh and the other's who built the routes for entities like TWA must be feeling about now.


The nitwits at the NYT took one look at the picture, saw the bubble canopy and thought of MASH. Even I can tell that is not the model used on TV.