Highest Step in the World

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2017 by hillermuseum

Parachuting From Extreme Altitudes
By Jon Welte

Between the end of World War II and the dawn of the Space Age, aircraft performance led pilots to ever higher altitudes and faster speeds. The stresses on both pilot and aircraft were extreme, and the consequences of a pilot being forced to eject from an aircraft were dire.

In 1958 the United States Air Force launched Project Excelsior. The mission plan for Project Excelsior was outwardly quite simple: launch a helium-filled balloon to extreme altitude, and have the pilot within exit by parachute. Parachutes had been used since the 1780s, but a jump from 100,000’ or more is daunting. At altitudes above 60,000’, air pressure drops to a point at which water boils at human body temperature. Depressurization results in unconsciousness in seconds, and death in minutes.

The pilot for Project Excelsior was Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger. Kittinger traveled to altitude in an unpressurized balloon gondola, wearing a pressure suit and multiple layers of insulating clothing. The first jump, from 75,000’, took place in November 1959. A series of mishaps during exit caused Kittinger’s drogue chute to open early. The chute tangled around Kittinger’s neck and he entered a spin of over 100 rpms. Kittinger lost consciousness in the 20 g spin, and the tangled drogue was unable to extract the main parachute aas planned. Kittinger survived only through the automatic deployment of his emergency parachute. Many modifications were made, leading to an uneventful second test just one month later.

Excelsior III was the final jump in the series, and intended to reach the highest altitude. Riding the balloon to an officially recorded altitude of 102,800’, Kittinger stepped out into the void—Air Force crew had emplaced a plaque at the foot of the balloon’s egress port helpfully stating “This is the highest step in the world”. Kittinger fell for over four and a half minutes, reaching a speed of Mach 0.9 – nearly the speed of sound – in his rapid descent.

The Excelsior III gondola held its billing as the world’s highest step for over half a century. Earth’s atmospheric pressure at 100,000’ is about the same as the mean atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars, and accidental depressurizations proved fatal for two would-be record breakers in the 1960s. This altitude—some 20 miles above sea level—is well below the internationally-recognized line at 62 miles considered to be the boundary to space, or even the 50-mile limit at which NASA and the United States Air Force issue astronaut wings to pilots and flight crew. Nonetheless, the low atmosphere pressure poses many of the same challenges faced by astronauts working in space.

It was not until 2012 that Joe Kittinger’s record was finally broken. Professional skydiver Felix Baumgartner joined the Red Bull Stratos project in 2010 with the goal of breaking the altitude record. Unlike Project Excelsior, Stratos involved an ascent in a pressurized balloon gondola. This added complexity to the balloon system, but meant that the pressure suit need only provide primary life support for a span of minutes, not hours. The concept was demonstrated successfully in a pair of test jumps in early 2012. In October 2012 Baumgartner successfully jumped from an altitude of 127,800’. During nearly 4 minutes of free fall Baumgartner reached a maximum descent speed of Mach 1.25—jumping without a drogue chute to stabilize his descent allowed a faster free fall. Despite some stability problems early in the jump, Baumgartner maintained control and landed safely.

While the Red Bull Stratos project was under development, Alan Eustace became intrigued with the concept of exploring the stratosphere by balloon and descending via parachute. Eustace partnered with Paragon Space Development in Roswell, New Mexico, to develop a system capable of supporting a record-breaking launch and descent in a new project named StratEx. Unlike Excelsior or Stratos, StratEx did away with the balloon gondola altogether. Like Kittinger, Eustace would be protected by his pressure suit for the entire mission. Unlike either Kittinger or Baumgartner, Eustace would not need to exit a gondola. Suspended directly from the balloon, just beneath the balloon’s avionics bus, Eustace would start his descent by simply firing explosive bolts to separate his pressure suit from the balloon assembly. This simplified the mission profile and removed appreciable risk: in 1962, Soviet test pilot Pyotr Dolgov was killed in a jump from over 90,000’ when his helmet faceplate impacted part of the balloon gondola during exit, causing a lethal depressurization of his pressure suit.

Eustace’s flight began at dawn on October 24, 2014, as he was lifted in a face-down position from a launching platform. It took over two hours for Eustace and the StratEx balloon to rise to the mission’s maximum altitude of over 135,000’, nearly two miles higher than Baumgartner’s previous record and more than six miles higher than Kittinger’s mark from Project Excelsior. Following separation, Eustace returned to Earth in just 15 minutes, free falling for over 120,000’.

Despite its apparent daredevil aspects, extreme skydiving has had the practical effect of boosting access to the stratosphere for both scientific and commercial purposes. Paragon Space Development has leveraged its experience with StratEx to support World View, an organization focused on providing high altitude balloon flights for both research missions and private sightseeing flights. With operational flights planned for later in 2017, World View expects to offer missions to 100,000’ in gondolas containing two crew and up to six passengers. During recovery, the entire gondola will separate from its balloon, descending to land beneath an enormous parawing parachute.

Resources , downloaded 2 February 2017 , downloaded 1 February 2017 , downloaded 1 February 2017 , downloaded 2 February 2017



Flights of Mercy

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2017 by hillermuseum

Captain Valerie Andre

Helicopter Medical Evacuation
By Jon Welte

In April 1944, Japanese forces in occupied Burma shot down a Stinson liaison aircraft that had been carrying three wounded British soldiers to safety. The pilot and all three passengers survived the downing, but their location behind enemy lines in remote and rugged terrain would have permitted little opportunity for their rescue—except for the presence of a new technology at the front. Flying an experimental Sikorsky YR-4B helicopter, pilot Carter Harmon of the US Army’s First Air Commando Group flew to the crash site to rescue the downed pilot and soldiers. The early helicopter’s performance limitations, combined with hot-and-high conditions at the crash site, limited Harmon to carrying only a single passenger at a time. Over two days Harmon, who later received the Distinguished Flying Cross, ferried the men one by one to a nearby landing strip where a larger fixed-wing aircraft flew them out to safety.

These pioneering flights were the first use of a helicopter for medevac, or medical evacuation. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, aviation promised a solution to a vexing problem—transporting injured soldiers and civilians from combat zones and accident sites to medical facilities. Rapid advances in medicine meant that casualties provided with prompt attention were far more likely to survive, but all too often help was a long and difficulty journey away.

Shortly after World War II, Captain Valerie Andre, a doctor serving in the French Army, faced much the same situation in her efforts to treat soldiers in French Indochina (modern day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). An experienced airplane pilot, Capt. Andre realized that the helicopter provided a ready solution to the problem of medical evacuation. She returned to France to earn a helicopter rating and arrange for the purchase of two Hiller 360 helicopters, which she had shipped to the front lines. Over a period of 3 years Capt. Andre flew over 100 combat missions, some under enemy fire, to insert herself into areas with wounded soldiers in need of treatment and/or to evacuate casualties to proper medical facilities that might have been hours or even days away by surface transportation. Andre chose the Hiller 360, manufactured at the Menlo Park factory of the Hiller Aircraft Corporation, for its simplicity and reliability. The aircraft was easy to maintain in the field and, crucially, could carry stretchers mounted externally for the transport of seriously wounded patients. Valerie Andre was ultimately promoted to general and received the National Order of Merit among other decorations in recognition of her service to France.

Elsewhere in Asia, the United States further developed the role of helicopters for medevac operations. During the Korean War the US Army and Marine Corps were similarly bedeviled by rugged terrain and poor roads. Helicopters such as the Hiller UH-12 (derived from the Hiller 360) and Bell 47 were tasked with transporting wounded soldiers to medical facilities. These helicopters evacuated an estimated 20,000 wounded servicemen during the war. By the end of the Korean War the fatality rate for casualties wounded in battle had been cut nearly in half compared to World War II due largely to developments in medevac procedures and technology.

Helicopter technology continued to advance, and when the United States joined the Vietnam War some ten years later the mission had been largely taken over by the new Bell UH-1 Iroquois, universally known as the “Huey”. Powered by turbine engines and able to carry heavier loads than earlier piston-powered Hiller, Bell and Sikorsky aircraft, the UH-1 could carry patients internally rather than strapped to the helicopter’s exterior. This made it possible for medical personnel to begin basic treatment while the patient was in the air prior to reaching the medical center. Over one hundred thousand US soldiers were evacuated via medevac during the Vietnam War, and the ability to provide treatment in the air caused the fatality rate to fall in half again compared to the mid-1950s.

By 1969, soldiers wounded in action in Southeast Asia had lower mortality rates than drivers and passengers involved in serious automobile accidents on American highways, suggesting that a medevac program could provide lifesaving support to civilians in peacetime. A pilot effort to evaluate helicopter medical evacuation services was introduced that year in Mississippi. Three Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 helicopters were purchased and operated to transport patients to medical facilities in cases of extreme need. The program was deemed a success, and throughout the 1970s medevac helicopters and helipads at major hospitals grew increasingly common.

Today, modern medevac operators continue the tradition of using helicopters to quickly and safely transport individuals with serious injuries or critical illnesses directly from incident sites to medical centers able to provide life-saving treatment. Stanford Life Flight, a local operator, embodies the best practices in use for civilian medevac helicopter operations. An Airbus Helicopters EC-145 allows operations in all weather conditions. The aircraft’s raised tail boom and rear clamshell doors permit stretcher loading directly into the rear of the aircraft. Specially-trained flight nurses provide in-flight emergency care comparable to or better than what a ground-based emergency medical technician could provide, and medical centers around the San Francisco Bay area train to operate with Life Flight to receive patients requiring urgent and immediate attention. The Bay Area also hosts medevac resources of the uniformed services, with United States Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco operating its Eurocopter HH-65 helicopters from San Francisco International Airport, and the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Field in Mountain View flying Sikorsky HH-60s along with fixed-wing Lockheed C-130 tanker aircraft.

The Hiller Aviation Museum’s collection preserves glimpses of the early development of medical evacuation flights, while San Carlos Airport supports medevac operations in the present day. A Hiller 360 similar to those first flown by General Andre is displayed in the main Gallery, and a Hiller H-12 configured as a US Army medevac aircraft is suspended from the Gallery’s ceiling. San Carlos Airport serves as an essential waypoint for modern medevac aircraft, with Stanford Life Flight and the US Coast Guard frequent visitors for both training and operational missions.

The exploits of General Andre feature prominently in the Museum’s new Women in Aviation exhibit, which documents the exploits of female aviators from the early 20th century through the modern day. On Saturday, January 14th the Hiller Aviation Museum will dedicate this new exhibit and open it to the public. Come join the festivities and celebrate an important dimension in the history of aviation.


Andre, Valerie. Madame le General, 1988., downloaded 1 November 2016., downloaded 1 November 2016.

Whitcomb, Darrel, Call Sign Dustoff, 2011.


The Fokker Dr. 1

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2017 by hillermuseum

The Fokker Dr.1 is beginning to be a work in progress. We officially have 2/3 wings assembled for the replica aircraft. Head over to the Hiller Aviation Museum to check it out!


Aviation Dreams – Michelle Tripp

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2016 by hillermuseum


The following remarks were delivered at our recent Aviation Dreams Gala on November 12, 2016. Three young people whose lives intersected at Hiller Aviation Museum—participating in and delivering programs—spoke to an audience of Museum supporters about their experience. Installment 3 of 3. Thank you for your support of Aviation Dreams!

I feel like I have been pursuing my aviation career since the late 1990s when I told my kindergarten class I was going to fly a spaceship and be a pilot like my dad.

During middle school and high school, there were many times when my peers would tell me that women aren’t pilots. Women are flight attendants or they work the ticket counters, but they aren’t pilots, I was told. Unfortunately, statements like these can be a deterrent to young girls who want to enter STEM fields like aviation. To be honest, I didn’t let these opinions phase me, because, if my dad can fly a plane and a helicopter, why couldn’t I?

After I graduated high school, I began attending my dream school, Embry – Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. I had never wanted to go anywhere so much in my life. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for a short while, and when I had to leave due to financial reasons, I was absolutely devastated.

For a while, I set my aviation ambitions aside and focused on other interests. I went back home to Southern California and pursued teaching and music. However, even after getting three Associate Degrees, I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to be a pilot. With that in mind, I packed my bags and headed off to study Aviation Operations at San Jose State University. My move to the Bay Area also signaled my arrival at Hiller Aviation Museum.

I am eternally grateful for how Hiller Aviation Museum allowed me to grow as a young professional. Starting at as an Assistant, an Instructor, Assistant Camp Director, and this fall as a Program Manager, I know that my experience at Hiller has given me more opportunity than I could have ever dreamed of. I also came to realize that my father, who is a retired army helicopter Vietnam pilot, flew Hiller helicopters during his training. For me, that is an amazing connection in and of itself.

I’d like to share with you just a few of the many things I have learned at Hiller Aviation Museum.

First, everyone learns differently. When trying to explain concepts like aerodynamics and how things fly, it is good to know how to explain something more than one way. Hiller Aviation Museum has increased my knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math. In return, I am able to impart that knowledge to visitors and program participants no matter their age or learning style.

Second, adventure rules. You have probably taken the time to read some of the history of the early aviators, and their whole life was an adventure! If you were an early pioneer of aviation you may not have even lived long enough to see your aircraft sustain flight. Being at Hiller has encouraged me to find my own sense of adventure in aviation and to be creative and innovative when looking at some the more relevant issues our aviation communities face, such as noise abatement, air traffic congestion, airport safety, general aviation airport closures, proper integration of UAVs, etc.

Third, aviation is a real world wide web. It allows us to travel to new places and it fosters relationships impacting business, family, and friends. It is a network of airlines, airports, air traffic controllers, and organizations that link the major cities and small communities of the world, 24 hours a day with very advanced aircraft. With this in mind, my personal aviation goal is to further the cause of aviation in all of its branches and to instill in the public mind a confidence in aviation and in the aviation industry.

This May I will graduate college with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Operations. While I have been in school, I have immersed myself in the aviation industry by getting involved with different SJSU organizations, internships, volunteerism, and all the while increasing my aviation knowledge with my experience at Hiller Aviation Museum. Once I have finished my private pilot license, I will continue to get my ratings and gain the further pilot training and experience needed to one day be a medevac, search and rescue pilot, and later on a missionary pilot.

My name is Michelle Tripp, and I’m a future helicopter pilot. Thank you for supporting Hiller Aviation Museum and its STEM education programs.

Michelle recently became the Education Program Manager at Hiller Aviation Museum. When not completing her degree in Aviation Operations at San Jose State University, Michelle is developing and overseeing the Museum’s public programs and special visitor activities that incorporate science, engineering, and technology, particularly involving the Museum’s Invention Lab and Drone Plex on the weekends.

Visit to make a gift today and help inspire the next generation of aviators.


Aviation Dreams – Jake Jacot

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2016 by hillermuseum


The following remarks were delivered at our recent Aviation Dreams Gala on November 12, 2016. Three young people whose lives intersected at Hiller Aviation Museum—participating in and delivering programs—spoke to an audience of Museum supporters about their experience. Installment 2 of 3.

I don’t exactly know where my passion for flight originated. No one in my family was a pilot or even in the aviation field. And yet even before my age reached double digits I was giving grade school speeches on Charles Lindbergh and on the difference between the Thunder Birds and Blue Angles.

I do know that Hiller Aviation Museum is a place that fosters passion for aviation, and I was fortunate enough to be part of the education department teaching summer aviation camps and after school programs. I hope I was able to share my passion for aviation and pass it on to the children I got to work with through this Museum’s programs.

During my time here, when I was still an engineering student, I found the diversity of technical achievements to be incredibly intriguing. I would routinely look up at the AR-5 and think about building my own small plane and how I would build a component or layout a configuration of my own.  I would point out to kids some of the things I found most interesting like the oblique wing of the NASA AD-1 and encourage them to test the concept with the balsa gliders we would fly. I would show them all the different configurations Stanley Hiller Jr. made like coaxial rotating blades, no tail rotor helicopters, and tip jet rotors, and encourage them to think outside the box, experiment, and to try anything.

In a way, my career so far, has been the grown-up version of a Hiller Aviation Camp. In camp I would build and launch rockets with children. In my career I have built and tested full-size rocket motors for the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo at Scaled Composites. In camp I would help kids figure how to build balsa rubber powered band airplanes. In my career I now figure out how to build airplanes. In camp I would teach kids the basics of flight in the Flight Sim Zone and tell them where to go. In my career I now get to be a flight test engineer and tell the pilot where to go to collect the data I need.  All of this is a testament to authenticity of the aviation experience that this Museum provides for so many kids.

For me, flight is something that never loses its wonder. It doesn’t matter how many calculations I do, how many wind tunnel experiments I perform, or flights I go on, I still find flight fascinating and magical. I still stop and watch an airplane take off with a sense of wonder that an invisible fluid is able to lift thousands of pounds into the air.

Hiller Aviation Museum is a place that can plant that seed and develop a child’s interest in aviation. Just like myself having no major event, but rather a handful of small encounters, this museum provides those encounters with aviation and allows visitors and program participants to gain a sense of wonder, experience the excitement, and interact with people who inspire them to consider aviation as an avenue worthy of their exploration. Those interactions can propel a person for the rest of their life.

My name is Jake Jacot, and I’m a Design Engineer at Epic Aircraft working on the certification effort of the E1000, a six-place all carbon-fiber turboprop aircraft. I want to say thank you to Hiller Aviation Museum, and thank you to you for making Aviation Dreams possible.

Visit to make a gift today and help inspire the next generation of aviators.



Aviation Dreams – Sarah Farney

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2016 by hillermuseum


The following remarks were delivered at our recent Aviation Dreams Gala on November 12, 2016. Three young people whose lives intersected at Hiller Aviation Museum—participating in and delivering programs—spoke to an audience of Museum supporters about their experience. Installment 1 of 3.

Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m an aviation geek. A total plane nerd. The polite phrase is “very interested,” but if you asked my friends and family, they would use the word “obsessed.”

I didn’t always want to be an air traffic controller. When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian and later went to California State University, Chico for nursing. But, by the end of my first semester, I found that although I enjoyed nursing, I didn’t love it. That realization was a defining point for me, and I recognized that for me to be happy, I would need to find a career I loved. I needed to look forward to my work every day, and I would need to be challenged to be excellent.

I grew up about a mile from SFO and always had an interest in aviation. But from my point of view, aviation wasn’t a career that was open to me. It’s not that I was discouraged from pursuing it, but I didn’t let myself truly consider it. The industry is extremely male dominated for one thing. It is also heavily STEM-oriented, and math and science were not my favorite subjects in school, which led me to believe I wasn’t good at them. And that’s where Hiller Aviation Museum comes in.

One of my favorite experiences at the museum was when we had a field trip group of high schoolers from a low-income school in Monterey, who had recently been studying aviation. One young lady was explaining to me that this interested her, but that she felt somewhat alone and that she wasn’t sure she would succeed.

I too had been in that situation and I knew that sometimes words just aren’t enough to banish the feeling of not being good enough. At that point she and I listened to the live air traffic control at San Francisco Tower and watched the Lufthansa A380 roll gently into its left turn to line up for approach at SFO, and the commanding voice of Kerstin Felser, one of the first women to pilot the A380, checked on the frequency. “She’s flying that?” the student asked me and watched in awe as the largest commercial aircraft in the world, weighing 1.3 million pounds, cut gracefully through the sky. The student told me at the end of the day that she planned to be the first in her family to attend college, and intended to get her degree in aviation, realizing that she, in fact, did belong in this amazing community.

So to me, Hiller is not just a museum and the people aren’t just my colleagues, but my family. I was given a place where my dreams were reality. My museum family encouraged me at every step through my year-long Air Traffic Control Academy application. Now having passed the academy, I will continue to be a part of this family, as I complete my training over the next three years at the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center.

By giving to the museum, you’re not only helping preserve valuable aviation history, you’re also ensuring that children will have access to science, technology, engineering, and math. You’re the reason why our tomorrow will be brighter than our today. You’re the reason why a child will be empowered to achieve what was once impossible to them. You’re the reason why innovation and inspiration will thrive.

My name is Sarah Farney, I’m a developmental air traffic controller, and I want to say thank you.


Visit to make a gift today and help inspire the next generation of aviators.




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.