Rotorcraft Pioneer Charles Kaman Passes Away

 - February 3, 2011, 8:29 AM

Helicopter pioneer, inventor and philanthropist Charles Huron Kaman died Monday at the age of 91. Kaman earned an aeronautical engineering degree in 1940 and later was employed at United Aircraft’s Hamilton Standard division, where he worked with Igor Sikorsky. In 1945, at age 26, he founded Kaman Aircraft and served as its CEO until 1999 and chairman until 2001. Under Kaman’s leadership, the company introduced many firsts, including rotor-blade servo flaps, intermeshing main rotors (which eliminated the need for a tail rotor), composite main rotor blades, single and twin gas-turbine-powered helicopters and the first remotely piloted helicopter. The company’s legacy helicopters include the H-43 Husky, which flew more rescue missions during the Korean and Vietnam wars than any other helicopter, the SH-2 Seasprite and the K-Max “aerial truck.” Kaman also founded Ovation Instruments in 1966, producer of the iconic rounded-back acoustic guitar of the same name and a flat-bodied model with active electronics called the “Breadwinner.” Ovation later became Kaman Music and was sold in 2007 to Fender Musical Instruments. In 1960, Kaman and his wife, Roberta, created the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation to breed and train Bavarian German Shepherds to act as guide dogs for the blind.