Ford in Flight

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2016 by hillermuseum

trimotor-sf-gateThe Birth of the Ford Trimotor
By Jon Welte

In the first decade of the 20th century the Wright Brothers introduced the world to the modern airplane. With a three-axis control system, an internal combustion engine, and wind tunnel-designed wing and propeller airfoils, the Wright Flyers possessed the same key components used by 21st century air transports. Within a few years the Wrights and others designed, built, and flew airplanes in a bewildering assortment of shapes and sizes, but the successful ones retained the same core features.

To the casual observer, however, a state-of-the-art airplane from 1910 bears more resemblance to a modern box kite than a modern airliner. The materials used were primarily wire-braced wood and fabric. Safety was also quite poor. The Hiller Aviation Museum’s early flight collection is filled with examples of aircraft flown by such noteworthy aviators as Montgomery, Ely, Rodgers, Beachey and Kearns—all of whom perished in accidents.

Despite more powerful engines and larger airframes, the basic design of airplanes remained essentially unchanged through the First World War. Shortly after the armistice brought an end to the fighting, an aircraft designer named William Stout proposed another way. Stout, who had worked before and during the war with a variety of nascent aircraft manufacturers, realized that the wire-braced biplane airplanes so common during World War I suffered severe limitations from parasitic drag. Experiments with an internally-braced monoplane constructed of laminated plywood combined with advances in aluminum alloys convinced Stout that a single, all-metal wing would offer dramatic performance advantages over a traditional wood-and-fabric biplane.

Stout first designed and built the Stout ST, a torpedo bomber built under contract for the United States Navy. Its aluminum construction was corrugated, or wrinkled, to increase strength and decrease weight—though with the penalty of increasing the very drag that Stout originally sought to minimize. This technique was originally developed by German aircraft designer Hugo Junkers a decade earlier.

Gifted with a talent for self-promotion, Stout solicited $1,000 investments from a range of corporate financers in the Detroit area—including one Edsel Ford and his father, Henry. Edsel saw an opportunity for his father’s company to enter the new field of aviation. With Edsel as his advocate, Stout tapped Ford for increasing levels of support—including the construction of Ford Airport in Dearborn, Michigan, which opened in 1925. Featuring concrete runways and, later, a terminal building, Ford Airport in itself represented a giant leap forward for commercial air travel.

Intrigued with the potential of commercial air service, Ford sought to operate a small, internal airline to demonstrate the concept. Using the new single-engine Stout 2-AT, Ford initiated the Ford Air Transport Service. Carrying mail, auto parts and passengers on a regular schedule between Ford facilities in Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland, this aerial shuttle introduced many innovations—ranging from scheduled service to uniformed flight attendants—used by commercial airlines ever since.

Before the end of 1925, Stout sold his operation to Ford entirely, creating the Stout Metal Airplane Division of the Ford Motor Company. Production of the Stout 2-AT had continued, but at a modest pace—scarcely a dozen of the planes had been built when construction ended. Stout continued working for Ford and designed a new aircraft with three engines instead of one in an effort to boost safety. Aircraft engine failures were common in the 1920s, and contributed mightily to the high accident and fatality rates experienced in commercial air service—particularly air mail delivery. Many accidents occurred with single-engine airplanes, but at the time even twin-engine craft were incapable of maintaining altitude should one of the engines stop working. The solution, grasped by Stout and others, was the inclusion of a third engine. In Europe, Anthony Fokker introduced his first Fokker Trimotor in 1924. Stout, meanwhile, directed development of a three-engine airplane of his own—though not the one that would famously carry the Ford name.

The 3-AT rolled out at the end of 1925. It held none of the grace of its single-engine predecessor, bearing instead a faint resemblance to a collision between three 2-ATs and a railroad boxcar. The aircraft’s test flight performance was as homely as its appearance: the arrangement of engines on the wing reduced the wing’s ability to create lift. After only a handful of test flights the 3-AT was destroyed in a mysterious hangar fire, and William Stout was eased out of engineering by Henry and Edsel Ford.

A small band of Stout’s engineers under the leadership of Thomas Towle were commissioned by Henry Ford to design a new aircraft. The 4-AT took shape quickly, combining the best characteristics of the earlier Stout designs and avoiding the engine/wing problem of the hideous 3-AT by placing the left and right engines beneath, instead of on, their respective wings. The resulting aircraft took flight in mid-1926, and the aircraft known today as the Ford Trimotor was born.

Just under 200 Trimotors—4-ATs and, later, 5-ATs—were built between 1926 and 1933. These aircraft were operated in scheduled airline operations and on missions of exploration to the far ends of the world. When introduced, the public viewed them as a marvel of aeronautical technology compared to the wood-and-fabric aircraft of the past, and air transportation began to be accepted as a reasonable option. By the time the last 5-AT was delivered in 1933, however, technology had in fact passed Ford by. That same year, Boeing introduced its Model 247—a high performance twin-engine airliner with cowled engines and retractable landing hear. By 1934, the Douglas DC-2 appeared—the immediate predecessor of the legendary DC-3. In less than a decade, the Trimotor had gone from the cutting edge of aeronautics to obsolescence. Yet during its time the Ford Motor Company transformed commercial aviation, advancing a new airline industry and fostering its acceptance to travelers worldwide.

Today, a handful of the sturdy Ford Trimotors continue to ply the skies. On October 20th, the Hiller Aviation Museum welcomes a 5-AT operated by the Experimental Aircraft Association. From October 20th-23rd EAA will operate this aircraft from the Museum’s ramp, with scenic rides available to the public. Come out to the Museum to see aviation history take flight on the wings of a Ford.


The Fabulous Ford Tri-Motors, Henry Holden, 1992
Ford Trimotor Instruction Manual, Michael Rice, 1973


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.

Resources Downloaded 21 April 2016 Downloaded 21 April 2016 Downloaded 21 April 2016 Downloaded 20 April 2016



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