By Thomas A. Horne
Frank Piasecki, a pioneer helicopter designer and AOPA charter member ( AOPA 60631), died Feb. 11 at his home in Havertown, Pa. He was 89.
Piasecki joined AOPA in 1949. He formed his own company and developed the tandem-rotor helicopter configuration in 1945.
The twin-rotor design—with one rotor in front and one in back—could carry three times the weight of a conventional helicopter. The technologies from his tandem-rotor work later were incorporated in the Army’s CH-47 Chinook and Navy’s CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.
According to The Washington Post, Piasecki faced an awkward situation when in 1943 he became the second American to ever fly a helicopter (Igor Sikorsky was the first). Prior to the flight, an official asked to see Piasecki’s pilot certificate, but when he said he didn’t have one, Piasecki was instantly granted the first pilot certificate with a helicopter rating.
Piasecki received many awards. Among them were the National Medal of Technology and the National Air and Space Museum’s lifetime achievement award. He was also inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
February 14, 2008