Entrepreneur, Rotorcraft Designer
Aero-News has learned of some sad news from California. United
Helicopters and Hiller Aviation founder Stanley Hiller, Jr., passed
away last week from complications caused by Alzheimers. The noted
designer of the first-ever FAA certified helicopter, the Hiller
360, was 81.
Hiller had a nose for business from a young age. By the time he
was 15, Hiller had been building stock cars -- based off his
original made from soapboxes, and powered by an old washing machine
motor that allowed it to travel 60 mph -- for three years, earning
an annual gross income of just under $1 million. At 18, however,
Hiller's dreams truly took flight... and he started looking at
After being told by a professor at University of
California-Berkeley that his design for a counter-rotating-blade
helicopter would never fly, Hiller set out to prove him wrong --
eventually securing funding to move his company, now named United
Helicopters Inc., to Palo Alto, CA. It was here Hiller built his
first successful helicopter, the UH-4 Commuter.
He later went on to develop the Hiller 360, the first-ever
FAA-certified helicopter -- itself a remarkable accomplishment. But
you should see the wide range of aircraft Hiller and company
There was the flying
submarine, the flying bridge, the flying jeep, and the 40 passenger
"SkyBus" (right). He also designed and built the storied Flying
Platform, as well as the one-man, foldable Rotorcycle and the
Hornet, which was powered by rotor-tip-mounted ramjet engines. On
the more practical side, there was the aforementioned UH-4 --
which, yes, featured counter-rotating blades -- and the remarkably
United Helicopters Inc. produced over 3,000 helicopters in Palo
Alto, before Hiller moved his company again to Menlo Park, CA.
Many of Hiller's aerial inventions are featured at the Hiller
Aviation Museum, which is also a big sponsor of the EAA's Young
Eagles program. In June, the museum will sponsor its annual
"Vertical Challenge," devoted to educating the public about the
critical role helicopters play in our national economy.
Stanley Hiller, Jr. died at his home in Atherton, CA April 20.
He has gone west... where he now watches as people fly in amazing
machines that some said could never take flight.