Frank N. Piasecki
Frank Nicholas Piasecki, aeronautical/mechanical engineer, pilot and pioneer in the development of transport helicopters and vertical lift aircraft was founder of Piasecki Helicopter Corporation and Piasecki Aircraft Corporation.
It was in 1940 that the 21-year-old Piasecki and other young engineers from the University of Pennsylvania founded the PV Engineering Forum which eventually evolve into what is today the Rotorcraft Division of the Boeing Company. Piasecki flew their first helicopter, the PV-2, on 11 April 1943. It was the second successful helicopter to fly in America. The single seat, single rotor helicopter with anti-torque tail rotor, and used full cyclic rotor control with dynamically balanced blades is now on exhibit at the National Air & Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
This technical achievement of this flight attracted the attention of the U.S. Navy, who awarded the young designer a contract for the construction of his proposal for a large tandem rotor helicopter capable of carrying heavy loads in a large cabin. Thirteen months later in March 1945, Piasecki flew the world's first successful tandem rotor helicopter (the XHRP-1) which was also the first helicopter designed for the U.S. Navy. Popularly called the "Flying Banana", it was the forerunner of the modern tandem rotor transport and was capable of carrying as many passengers as comparably powered fixed wing airplanes and is entrusted to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington as one of America's historic aircraft.
The XHRP-1 was capable of carrying three times the payload of any helicopter flying at the time. It was Piasecki's innovative tandem rotor design that is largely credited with transforming the helicopter from a small aerial observation platform into an aircraft with broad military, commercial and humanitarian applications. Piasecki's signature tandem rotor designs led to the development of the Marine Corp's primary assault helicopter (the CH-46), and the Army's primary cargo helicopter (the CH-47) which continue to play critical roles supporting US Armed Services around the world.
In 1946, the P-V Engineering Forum became Piasecki Helicopter Corporation, with Piasecki as the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Piasecki sparked further design and production of transport helicopters which saw service in the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy and Air Force, and the French Navy. These included the HRP-1, the first Service transport helicopter, the HRP-2 for the U.S. Marine Corps; the XHJP-1 and its production models HUP-1, -2, and -3 used throughout the world in Navy and Army rescue roles; the 22-place H-21 transport and rescue helicopter for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army; the two prototypes of the 40 passenger H-16, the world's largest transport helicopter.
The Piasecki Helicopter Corporation was sold to Boeing Airplane Company and its name changed to the Vertol Division. In the late 1950's, Piasecki and his original founders formed the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) to continue research work on new VTOL aircraft.
A series of unique experimental aircraft were developed and flown by PiAC, including the "Sea-Bat", an omni-directional VTOL Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV); the "Aerial-Geep", a compact out-of-ground effect VTOL, the 16H-1 Pathfinder "Ring-Tail" shaft driven Compound Helicopter, first flown in 1962 followed by a larger version (16H-1A) that reached 225 MPH in 1966; and associated vertical lift innovative developments.
In 1986 Piasecki developed and flew a hybrid dynamic-static heavy lift demonstrator called the Heli-Stat. It was the world's largest flying aircraft ever built, and achieved the precise level of in-flight controllability required of heavy lift operations. Piasecki is currently developing a multiple external lift system (MHELS) which has the potential of doubling the lift capacity of existing aircraft in the interest of cost efficiency and safety.
The Piasecki 16H-1 pioneered the compound helicopter concept that lives on today with the Piasecki X-49A experimental compound and other advanced compounding concepts.
During his career, Mr. Piasecki was the recipient of 24-patents for his pioneering work, and numerous honors. Piasecki was the first man to qualify with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (now FAA) as a helicopter pilot prior to receiving his fixed wing pilot's license. He did most of the original test flying on his early helicopter designs and has flown more than 20 different models of rotary wing aircraft in this country and abroad. He was made an Honorary Helicopter pilot of the U.S. Coast Guard at Fort Bennett Field on 23 April 1945.
Mr. Piasecki served on numerous corporate and charitable boards. He was a director of Crown, Cork and Seal Company (Crown Holdings, Inc.), The American Helicopter Society, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), The American Helicopter Museum, The Foreign Policy Research Institute, The Kosciuszko Foundation and the Piasecki Foundation. His life was also enriched by relationships with other aeronautical pioneers, including Louis Breguet, and Giovanni Agusta.
His personal interests included a passion for music, dancing, photography and sailing. As a student he was a concert violinist, serving as the concertmaster of the University of Pennsylvania Orchestra, and was famous at parties for spontaneously serenading friends and family with his violin. He was an avid amateur photographer, an avocation which he shared with many of his children. While known as an intense worker, his most relaxed moments were shared with family on board his sailboat, Tandemeer.
Mr. Piasecki was born in Philadelphia on October 24th 1919 and was the only son of Polish immigrants, Nikodem and Emilia Piasecki. He graduated from Overbrook High School, and went on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, before earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Guggenhiem School of Aeronautics of New York University in 1940. Prior to college, Piasecki was employed by Kellet Autogryo Company and Aero Service Corporation, both of Philadelphia. Following graduation, he was a designer at Platt-LePage Aircraft Corporation, and later as aerodynamicist for Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company, Aircraft Division.
Mr. Piasecki is survived by his wife of 50 years (the former Vivian O'Gara Weyerhaeuser), seven children, and his grandchildren.