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RCP0110_0_Hangar Talk 2/15/10 5:01 PM Page 13
Frank N. Piasecki
By Brad McNally - Contributing Editor
Frank Nicolas Piasecki was born in mates at the University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia on October 24, 1919. From into the PV Engineering Forum. The “P”
a young age he was fascinated with avia- stood for Piasecki and the “V” stood for
tion and spent his spare time building Venzie, as in Harold Venzie, a member of
models and reading aviation magazines. the forum and one of his classmates. This
When he was seven years old his father group was commissioned as an informal
paid for him to go flying with a barn- engineering collaboration that intended to
stormer and he got his first ride in an air- develop products for commercial applica-
plane. In high school he was president of tions. Within its membership there was
his school’s aero club and was able to tremendous engineering, managerial and
gain an introduction into the Philadelphia skilled trade talent (Brandt & Davies).
aviation industry that few people his age Frank Piasecki’s excitement for the heli-
could acquire. In 1936, at the age of sev- copter was so great and his belief in the
enteen, he was able get a ride in a Kellett
KD-1 Autogiro (Spencer, 1998). This ex- Frank Piasecki continued to be an integral part of
perience peaked Frank Piasecki’s lifelong
the Piasecki Aircraft Corporation into his late 80s.
interest in rotary wing flight. After grad-
(Photo courtesy of the Piasecki Aircraft
uating from high school he worked sev-
eral entry level jobs at the Kellett Aircraft
Corporation and the Aero Service Corpo- ate level class in rotary wing flight which group so strong that he persuaded the rest
ration. It was at the Aero Service Corpo- increased his interest in helicopters. of the members to design and build their
ration where he was encouraged to attend After graduation he returned to the own model. The group faced a tall task
engineering school. He started at the Uni- Philadelphia aviation industry working as as there had only been one successful
versity of Pennsylvania’s Towne School a junior engineer for the Platt-Lepage Air- American helicopter up to that time and
of Engineering majoring in mechanical craft Company. While at Platt-Lepage he it had been designed, built and flown by
engineering but switched to New York worked closely with noted aeronautical Igor Sikorsky and his team. The Sikorsky
University’s Guggenheim School of engineer Elliot Daland who would later team had much greater resources and
Aeronautics to finish his degree in aero- join forces with Piasecki and play a sig- more fixed wing aircraft experience than
nautical engineering (Spencer). While at nificant role in developing several mod- the PV Engineering Forum did. In truth
the Guggenheim School he took a gradu- els of Piasecki helicopters (Brandt & they had hardly any resources and very
Davies, 2007). Frank Piasecki then little fixed wing aircraft experience out-
worked as an aerodynamicist for Budd side of Elliot Daland who Frank Piasecki
Frank Piasecki poses before a flight in winter
Manufacturing. In 1940, while working had persuaded to join the group. This was
flying attire. (Photo courtesy of the Piasecki
Aircraft Corporation)
at Budd Manufacturing he organized a but a minor hurdle in the mind of Frank
group of his former engineering class- Continued on page 14 • February 2010 13
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