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2008 Hall of Fame Inductee: Frank Piasecki

Frank Piasecki is one of the original pioneers of the U.S. Helicopter Industry.  Mr. Piasecki has over 60 years experience as an aeronautical/mechanical engineer, test pilot, entrepreneur and industrialist.

Born in Philadelphia on October 24, 1919, Mr. Piasecki studied mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and in 1940 received a B.S. Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Guggenheim School of Aeronautics of New YorkUniversity.

In 1940, Mr. Piasecki founded the PV-Engineering Forum and in 1943 flew the second successful helicopter in America, the PV-2.  Mr. Piasecki was then awarded a contract for the development of the first U.S. Navy helicopter, the XHRP-1 “Dog Ship” in 1944.  This was the first successful tandem helicopter in the world.  Designed, built and flown within thirteen months, the XHRP-1 had a useful load three times greater than any existing helicopter at the time.  Mr. Piasecki’s tandem helicopter design led to the first practical application of the helicopter to critical Naval missions such as: search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, vertical replenishment, and pioneered the use of the helicopter for aerial minesweeping and vertical assault.

The Company name was changed to the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation in 1946.   In addition to over 300 HRP and HUP production models built for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Piasecki Helicopter produced 750 H-25 and H-21 tandem rotor helicopters for the U.S. Army and Air Force, as well as the Canadian, German, and French armed forces. Mr. Piasecki also designed the World’s first twin turbine helicopter, the 40 passenger YH-16, which flew in 1953.  The World’s largest transport helicopter at the time, this technology contributed to the development of today’s modern tandem helicopters, the CH-46 Sea Knight and the CH-47 Chinook.  Beginning with the French Algerian campaign in 1956 and subsequently in Vietnam, helicopters using Mr. Piasecki’s tandem rotor technology have played critical roles in all major military conflicts since that time.

In 1955, the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation, at the time the largest helicopter company in the world, became Vertol, and was sold to what is now the Helicopter Division of the Boeing Company.  With this transition, Mr. Piasecki left the company to form the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to continue research on advanced Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) technologies.  These efforts resulted in the successful development and flight testing of many innovative experimental aircraft, such as: the “Sea-Bat” VTOL Drone; the “Aerial Geep”, flying car; the “Ring-Tail” high speed compound helicopter; and hybrid heavy lift aircraft.  Mr. Piasecki has been awarded over 25 patents in the aerospace field.

In recognition of Mr. Piasecki’s contributions to the development of the U.S. helicopter industry, President Reagan in 1986 awarded Mr. Piasecki the country’s highest technical honor, the National Medal of Technology.  In March of 2005, Mr. Piasecki was awarded the Smithsonian Air and SpaceMuseum’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  Mr. Piasecki is a long standing Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, an honorary Fellow and past President of the American Helicopter Society and former member of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.  Mr. Piasecki has lectured before leading U.S. and International technical societies, and has given expert testimony before U.S. House and Senate Committees.  Many of the aircraft designed by Mr. Piasecki are in the Smithsonian’s NationalAir & SpaceMuseum helicopter exhibit, now on loan with the AmericanHelicopterMuseum.

Presently, Mr. Piasecki is focusing his efforts on development and flight demonstration of the Vectored Thrust Ducted Propeller (VTDP) compound helicopter technology as an affordable means of upgrading existing helicopter performance, improving survivability, and reducing operational costs.