The Flight of Eugene Ely

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2016 by hillermuseum


By Nelson Baltazar

Many historic aviation events took place in Northern California, including Eugene Ely’s legendary landing aboard a naval carrier. The late aviator was credited with having used a ship to successfully take flight and land. On January 18, 1911, the young adventurer landed a Curtiss Pusher airplane onto the USS Pennsylvania, stationed within the waters of the San Francisco Bay. Having survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906, Ely was no stranger to danger. The Iowa-born daredevil had left the Tanforan Racetrack in the nearby city of San Bruno a short time earlier before touching down on the ship. As a result of his brave feat, the utilization of aircrafts carriers as mobile marine runways became commonplace for aviation pilots.


Aside from the Curtiss Pusher replica on display in the museum, flight gear belonging to Ely can be found within the gallery. This wonderful exhibit includes his leather pilot’s helmet, which resembles the kind worn by early football players, and his pilot’s license, featuring an original photograph of the mid-western aviator. The latter serves as a testimony that Ely was indeed a “certified and skilled aviator.”


The Combat Medic in Flight

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2016 by hillermuseum

CM 1

By Nelson Baltazar

Within the U.S. Military, there exists a special elite force whose primary mission is to render first aid and urgent care on the battlefield and in the air. They are known as combat medics or PJ’s (Pararescuemen).

CM 2

Historically, combat medics do not pack a weapon and wore a red-cross insignia that served to distinguish them as non-combatants. However, in modern day warfare, such as the war in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom), the enemies are often insurgents. As such, this highly dangerous and elusive enemy does not recognize specific articles of the Geneva Convention. One such article states that military personnel whose job entails caring for the injured and or dying, are exempt from engagement.


The modern day combat medic, sometimes referred to by other soldiers as “Doc” out of respect, is almost indistinguishable from other soldiers. They wear the same uniform and carry the same combat gear as primary battlefield personnel. However, the piece of equipment that differentiates them from their brothers-in-arms is their backpack, which contains everything they need to administer emergency medicine if the occasion arises. In addition to their medically equipped backpack, medics feature a patch on their uniform with the letters, “PJ,” further identifying them as medics.


The assistance of specially designed aircrafts is an essential aspect carrying out rescue/medical evacuation missions. In modern day combat rescue, the medic usually transports patients in a black hawk helicopter known simply as “The Bird.” At this year’s Helifest at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA., the black hawk’s predecessor, the Bell UH-1 “Huey” will be available for public viewing. Visitors will have the unique opportunity to be face to face with this Vietnam era military helicopter, which was used to remove wounded soldiers from the battlefield. Aside from medical evacuation, this legendary aircraft also transported battle ready soldiers to the frontline.

Lastly, within the museum’s gallery sits an orange colored prototype Med-Evac helicopter, the Del Mar DH-20, which could accommodate one pilot and one patient. While it never made it to full production, its existence was the product of human innovation and creative spirit.


Paying Homage to Dr. Valerie Andre

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2016 by hillermuseum

Valerie Andre

By Nelson Baltazar

Valerie Andre, medical doctor and aviator, was the first woman in the French military to earn the rank of General Officer and later Inspector General of Medicine. She was a pioneer helicopter pilot who used a Hiller 360 Model to rescue wounded and dying soldiers from the battlefield during the French-Indochina war. During her career as a pilot/flight physician, Dr. Andre piloted 129 helicopter missions in hostile jungles rescuing 165 soldiers in the process. On several occasions, Andre engaged in parachute jumps in order to treat wounded soldiers requiring immediate medical attention such as surgery.
In 1953, Captain Andre was knighted into the (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur) Legion of Honor, France’s highest order for military and civil merits. At the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA, visitors can see a Hiller 360 MediEvc helicopter, the same model aircraft used by Valerie Andre. Seeing the Hiller 360 exhibit and reading the story behind it rekindled in me former aspirations of being a combat medic in flight. I have a deep appreciation for past, current and future flight medical personnel who risk their lives so that others may live.

Editor’s Note: The Hiller 360 will be available for patrons to view on Saturday, June 4th, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. at this year’s Helifest.


Between Two Worlds

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2016 by hillermuseum

Developing Tilt-Rotor Aircraft

By Jon WelteMV-22 at Hiller

During the first half of the twentieth century aircraft development evolved into a tree with two branches. Fixed-wing aircraft were fast and efficient, carrying people and cargoes at speed or across long distances. Rotary-winged aircraft were more maneuverable and capable of vertical takeoff and landing, but at a cost of being more complex and having a slower maximum speed. For half a century, the choice of lifting device—a wing or a rotor—determined many of the characteristics of an aircraft. Entering the second half of the twentieth century, serious efforts were made to develop a hybrid aircraft featuring the best features of both.

Early on, the concept of tilting rotors in flight was explored as an avenue to hybrid flight. The first to fly in 1954 was the Transcendental 1-G. This small single-engine airplane foreshadowed later developments by featuring propeller pods at each wingtip that could be adjusted through 90 degrees of arc by small electric motors.

The Bell Aircraft Company soon produced a tilt-rotor of its own. Designated XV-3, this aircraft had the cockpit and landing gear of a helicopter but the fuselage and wings of an airplane. Like the 1-G it was powered by a single engine mounted in the fuselage, with tilting wingtip rotors linked to a single drive shaft. The XV-3 first flew in August 1955, but suffered its first of many crashes only a week into flight testing. Two XV-3s were built (and frequently rebuilt following mishaps). They provided Bell with a wealth of data regarding inherent instabilities in the tilt-rotor design.

The XV-3 was tested at the NASA Ames Research Center, only a few miles from the Menlo Park factory of the Hiller Aircraft Company. Founded by Stanley Hiller, Jr., the company often designed innovation solutions to vertical flight. In 1955 Hiller took on the challenge of a hybrid aircraft, but using a subtly different approach. Rather than tilting the rotors alone, the entire wing of the aircraft would rotate.

Designated X-18, the new Hiller aircraft first flew in 1959. Unlike the earlier tilt-rotors, the X-18 had two engines, with no provision to transfer power from one to another in the event of an engine failure. This arrangement virtually guaranteed a crash in the event of an engine failure. The large, tilting wing acted like a sail in low speed hovering flight, making landing difficult. However, the X-18 demonstrated high speed horizontal flight with vertical takeoff capability.

The follow-on Tri-Service Assault Transport program was launched in 1959, with Hiller Aircraft joining a team to build the XC-142. The XC-142 was larger than the X-18 and powered by four turboprop engines, each linked to all the others to ensure that, in the event of an engine failure, power would be supplied to all four rotors. Five XC-142s were built and flown, with maximum speeds of over 400 knots—far faster than any helicopter could fly. The XC-142 experienced many stability problems but nonetheless provided a dramatic example of what hybrid flight might achieve.

The XC-142 flew for the last time in 1970. In 1971 NASA took on research into hybrid aircraft in the form of the Bell XV-15. Managed through the Ames Research Center, this tilt-rotor first flew in 1977. The XV-15 was by far the most successful of the hybrid testbeds. Two aircraft were built, with research flights extending over more than two decades. The second XV-15 prototype spent much of its career developing technology to support the Bell Boeing V-22, the world’s first operational tilt-rotor aircraft.

The requirements that led to the V-22 had their roots in the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, an ill-fated 1980 attempt to rescue hostages held at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran. The range and speed limitations of the helicopters used that night made the operation more complex and success less likely. Development of what became the V-22 was launched just one year later, with the V-22 achieving first flight in 1989.

Named “Osprey” after a sea-going raptor able to hover in flight, the V-22 entered a protracted and torturous development program. Although based on the successful XV-15, the V-22 was five times heavier and intended for the rigors of operational use. The test program experiences several fatal crashes, and the MV-22 version did not become operational with the United States Marine Corps until nearly two decades after its first flight.

The Ospreys in use today bear little resemblance to their forebears. Able to carry 10 tons of cargo nearly 900 nautical miles at top speeds approaching 300 knots, the V-22 is vastly more capable than the conventional helicopters it replaced and rivals the abilities of some fixed-wing transports. With the aerodynamics of tilt-rotor flight now well established and training procedures fully developed, the MV-22 has become one of the safest aircraft in military service, with a mishap rate below that of any conventional helicopter operated by the US Marines.

In addition to its mission for the Marines, the CV-22 version of the Osprey is operated by the United States Air Force’s Special Operations squadrons. By the end of the decade the United States Navy will take delivery of its CMV-22 version for at-sea supply delivery. After a full half century of development, the capabilities of the hybrid aircraft have at last become a reality.

On Saturday, June 4th, the Hiller Aviation Museum hosts HeliFest, a celebration of vertical flight. Among the aircraft planning to participate this year are V-22 Ospreys operated by both the Marines and Air Force, along with a bewildering range of more traditional high performance rotorcraft. Make your plans to join us for this event and experience some of the world’s pre-eminent vertical takeoff aircraft firsthand.

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Fokker Dr.I being built at Hiller

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2016 by hillermuseum Tagged: ,


A restoration shop volunteer starts work on the fuselage of the Fokker Dr.I replica


A completed Fokker Dr.I replica

The Red Baron is coming to the Hiller Aviation Museum or at least a replica of his airplane. The restoration crew has begun the project of building a replica Fokker Dr.I Triplane.

In 1917 during WWI Manfred Von Richthofen (The Red Baron) flew the celebrated Fokker Dr.I Triplane, the distinctive red three-winged aircraft with which he is most commonly associated.



Rise of the Machines

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2016 by hillermuseum


Boeing Condor – one of the world’s largest drones


Drones and Remotely Piloted Aircraft

By Jon Welte

Even before Wilbur and Orville Wright flew in 1903, aircraft have flown without pilots. In 1871, Frenchman Alphonse Penaud developed a technique of propelling small airframes with rubber bands turning a propeller. Considered a toy today, in the 19th century such technology was harnessed for aerial experimentation. Competitions involving such rubber-powered models shaped new generations of aircraft designers.

As engine technology advanced, so too did the size and scope of unmanned aircraft. In 1896, Samuel Langley flew a steam-powered, unpiloted model airplane a distance of nearly a mile. Although Langley’s later efforts to build and fly a full size airplane failed, designers continued to use flying models to further research into airfoils and control systems.

These early model aircraft could not be controlled in flight. In some cases it was possible to pre-set control surfaces prior to launch, but full control from a distance was not possible. As the Wrights had discovered, controllability is the key to aviation—and its first flowering in unmanned flight stemmed from the Navy’s need for air defense.

In 1921, General William “Billy” Mitchell led a dramatic demonstration in which a detachment of US Army airplanes sank a number of ships with aerial bombs, most famously a World War I German battleship. Developing countermeasures against hostile aircraft became an important consideration for navies around the world, and the British Royal Navy placed a high priority on air defense.

By the early 1930s, Royal Navy warships were fitted with anti-aircraft armament, yet training was not realistic. Gunnery practice consisted of firing on target banners towed behind manned aircraft. Banner-towing planes could not replicate the flight paths an actual hostile aircraft might take, and the gun crews were restrained for concern of accidentally hitting the tow aircraft. In 1932 the Fairey Aircraft Company converted three of its scout biplanes into Fairey Queens, able to be flown by remote control. The first two aircraft crashed just seconds into their first flights, but the third survived multiple missions and demonstrated the ability of a remote-controlled, full-size airplane for use in drilling air defense gunners.

Encouraged by the technology, Great Britain commissioned the development of a new remotely piloted airplane, the de Havilland DH-82B Queen Bee. Derived from the de Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth training biplane, the Queen Bee could be flown either by a pilot aboard the airplane or by a simple rotary dial controller and radio system that could be placed on the ground, in a ship, or even aboard another aircraft. The sturdy and stable trainer proved to be an ideal platform for a simple robotic airplane; the rear cockpit was converted to hold mechanical servos to manipulate the controls, and to simplify matters the ailerons were locked in place. Flight was managed with elevator, rudder and throttle control only. Over four hundred Queen Bees—named partly in reference to the earlier Fairey Queen, and consistent with de Havilland’s policy of naming aircraft after insects—were built and flown through the 1930s.

Development of the Queen Bee coincided with negotiation of the London Naval Conference. A US Navy admiral present for the negotiations observed an early test flight and directed development of a comparable American aircraft under the leadership of Lt. Col. Delmar Fahrney. Radio equipment was fitted to two different airplane types, including the Stearman-Hammond Y-1. Redesigned the Stearmond-Hammond JH-1 when fitted for remote operations, Fahrney dubbed the aircraft “drones” partly in homage to the de Havilland aircraft that inspired their development and partly in recognition of the fact that the aircraft, much like drone bees, were expendable if necessary while completing their mission. Only a handful of Stearman-Hammond airplanes were built, with a surviving Y-1 on display at Hiller Aviation Museum.

Drones of the 1930s and 1940s were “remotely operated” in the truest sense; a human pilot had to directly observe the drone’s flight and manipulate the controls by radio in real time to maintain safe flight. Gradually, they became more capable. Autopilot technology, developed for manned aircraft during the first half century of flight, was equally applicable to unmanned operations. Such systems allowed drones to control themselves to an extent when commanded to fly a prescribed heading and/or altitude, as opposed to a pilot continually manipulating the controls by radio to achieve the same results. Later, the combination of growing computer technology and better navigation tools—initially inertial navigation systems, and later Global Positioning System satellites—made it feasible to build robotic aircraft able to take off, fly a route, and land without direct human intervention.

The Boeing Condor, designed and built in the late 1980s, was the first drone to fully incorporate this technology and fly autonomously from takeoff to landing. Conceived as a high-altitude, high-endurance reconnaissance platform, the Condor’s 200’ wingspan carried it and a simulated instrument package aloft to altitudes of over 60,000’. Ultimately considered unsuitable for operational use, only two were built; one hangs in the collection of the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Today, the promise of the Boeing Condor is realized in the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, a reconnaissance airplane with a wingspan of over 130’, takeoff weight over 30,000’ and the ability to remain airborne at extreme altitude for over 24 hours. One of the world’s premier observation platforms, his aircraft and its mission are similar to that conceived of for the Boeing Condor some ten years earlier.

While enormous drones like the Global Hawk fly missions spanning seas and continents, much recent attention has focused on the tiniest unmanned aircraft. Small helicopters powered by symmetrically arranged rotors have exceptional maneuverability and can be easily launched and operated from almost any location. The proliferation of these tiny drones has raised questions ranging from air safety to privacy, while opening new opportunities in fields ranging from agriculture to community policing. In recognition of this new field in aviation, the Hiller Aviation Museum opened its Drone Plex flight center in January 2016. High fidelity flight simulation equipment provides an opportunity to gain experience in remote aircraft operations, and a large, screened flight area allows both for introductory flight experiences and exciting demonstrations by proficient pilots. The Drone Plex is open to the public on weekends and select holidays, providing an opportunity for all visitors to launch a firsthand drone flight experience.


Brook, Henry. Drones, 2015


Signs in the Sky

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2016 by hillermuseum Tagged: , , ,


Travel Air Pepsi Skywriter


The Evolution of Aerial Advertising

By Jon Welte

Hanging near the front of the Hiller Aviation Museum’s Beginnings of Flight gallery is a full-scale replica of a Wright Model B flyer. This particular airplane, modified into a Model EX for cross-country touring, recreates one flown by pioneer aviator Calbraith Rodgers on the first transcontinental flight in 1911. Surprisingly, the real airplane is better known by another name, that of an otherwise long forgotten soft drink—the Vin Fiz.

The Vin Fiz name originated in the sponsorship Rodgers acquired to support the daunting logistics of his multi-week transcontinental odyssey. To fund the endeavor, Rodgers courted food magnate J. Ogden Armour. Armour agreed, provided that the airplane’s wings be emblazoned with the name of a new grape soda being distributed by his company. Rodgers duly launched from New York in September, 1911, With “Vin Fiz” printed on its wings and stabilizers.

Aerial advertising had its start long before Cal Rodgers set off to fly across a continent, and in fact predated the Wright Brothers’ development of the airplane. At the dawn of the twentieth century Englishman Stanley Spencer undertook to build and fly the first powered dirigible in Great Britain. He succeeded in 1902, launching his Airship No. 1 into British skies. Spencer also discovered that displaying the name of a sponsor’s product high above the ground was a powerful lure to prospective funders—his No. 1 airship took flight with the name of Mellin and Company, a baby food manufacturer, printed on its envelope.

Even as airships were overtaken by airplanes in the realm of aerial transportation, they retained the advantage of a far larger surface area to use as advertising space. In 1925 the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company launched a new powered dirigible, the Goodyear AD. Goodyear had manufactured blimps and balloons for nearly a decade prior to the AD, seeking a market for military airships and leisure craft. The AD was originally conceived as a personal aircraft as well, but when launched with the name “Goodyear” proudly stenciled on its side it quickly took up a mission of corporate advertising for a company that ultimately found automobile and aircraft tires to be more lucrative than airships.

During the same period, aviation opened an even larger tapestry to marketing departments around the world—that of the open sky. During the Panama-Pacific Exhibition of 1915, pilot Art Smith had been a driver working an automobile exhibition when famed aviator Lincoln Beachey perished in an accident during an aerobatic routine. Smith was subsequently hired to replace Beachey flying daily routines over the exhibition. He discovered that adding oil to the hot exhaust manifold of his airplane generated copious amounts of white smoke able to leave a distinctive trail in the sky. Smith used this ability to write farewell messages to his crowds at the end of his performances, giving birth to the art known today as skywriting.

Skywriting was used sporadically to promote products and services in both North America and Europe over the following years, but found its full flowering at the hand of pilot and entrepreneur Sidney Pike. Pike founded a company of skywriters for hire in 1932 and shortly thereafter landed a contract to promote Pepsi Cola. Pike’s pilots flew thousands of missions across the United States promoting Pepsi Cola. Its Travel Air airplanes—including one originally flown in a record-setting endurance flight by pilot Louise Thaden, which is currently displayed at the Hiller Aviation Museum—were painted in Pepsi colors and flew about the countryside, painting the Pepsi name into the sky time after time.

In the years leading up to World War II, a different form of advertising took flight. Arnold Butler used a small fleet of Piper J3 Cubs to tow large banners bearing messages from his home field in New England. Banner towing combined the large message size and message persistence of an airship with the ease of operation of an airplane. Butler developed many specialized tools to facilitate banner tow operations, and following the war relocated to Florida to pursue aerial advertising along Florida’s long, straight beaches.

The end of World War II also caused a flood of surplus aircraft to become available. Sidney Pike’s Skywriting Company acquired a full squadron of Navy SNJ airplanes in 1946. These were used to develop a new technology in aerial advertising, often known as skytyping. In skytyping, five aircraft fly in line-abreast formation at relatively high altitude, typically 10,000’. Smoke is released sequentially from the airplanes as they fly along in a pattern commanded by a simple computer program. The result is a dot-matrix set of letters across the sky. Skytyping requires five aircraft instead of one and involves a more sophisticated smoke distribution system, but is capable of creating messages more quickly than traditional skywriting and can often be seen across a wider area.

Today, aerial advertising remains an eye-catching form of promotion. Skywriting and sky typing capture the attention of passers-by, and banner tow aircraft are a fixture over beaches and sporting events to this day. Goodyear finally exited the niche field of airship manufacturing, but continues to operate a small fleet of promotional airships. Spirit of Innovation, its last non-rigid airship, operates from a special airship base in Carson, California, just south of Los Angeles. Wingfoot One, based near Goodyear’s home in Akron, Ohio, is a semi-rigid airship constructed by Zeppelin NT in Germany.

Aerial advertising has been part of sports championships for over 60 years—Goodyear’s first such appearance was at the 1955 Rose Bowl. On Saturday, February 6th, the Hiller Aviation Museum celebrates the amazingly diverse world of aerial advertising, in all its many forms. Make your tailgating plans today to join us for the festivities.


Roberts, Rachel. Art Smith, Pioneer Aviator, 2003