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Stanley Hiller, Jr.

AKA Stanley Van Winkle Hiller, Jr.

Born: 15-Nov-1924
Birthplace: Berkeley, CA [1]
Died: 20-Apr-2006
Location of death: Atherton, CA
Cause of death: Alzheimer's

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor, Business
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Helicopter designer

At the age of eight, Stanley Hiller Jr built a racing buggy, powered by a motor scavenged from his mother's washing machine. He formed his first business when he was twelve years old, manufacturing model racing cars and toy "Hiller Atom Ray Guns" with financial backing and technical help from his father. The elder Hiller was a pioneer in early aircraft design and co-founder of Hillcone Steamship Company, and clearly deserves some credit for Junior's early success — as Hiller said, "I was fortunate in my choice of a father." But the boy was precocious indeed. Both father and 13-year-old son were listed as co-inventors of a die-casting machine that helped make the toy business profitable, and within three years the company had 300 employees, mostly teenaged boys.

At 17 he founded Hiller Industries, which soon won a major federal contract to manufacture parts for combat aircraft, and Hiller's most important innovations and inventions revolved around the design of helicopters. His work in aviation is especially impressive considering that he had no college degree and little formal training in engineering. He attended U-Cal Berkeley for one year, long enough to meet the woman who became his wife, then dropped out after showing his helicopter sketches to an instructor in mechanical engineering, who told him that the contraption would never fly.

But fly it did. In 1944, Hiller developed his sketches to build a co-axial helicopter — the first helicopter with a double set of blades spinning in opposite directions on the same stem. Called the Hiller-Copter, this innovative design served to stabilize its flight, and helped make rotating-wing aircraft less rickety, more safe, and more commercially feasible.

With Henry J. Kaiser, he founded United Helicopters (later Hiller Aircraft Company) in 1947, and introduced the Hiller 360, the first "commuter helicopter", offering Hiller's simplified and patented rotormatic control system. The company's best-known helicopter was either the OH-23 Raven, introduced in 1948 and used as a medical evacuation craft during the Korean War, or the Hiller XROE-1 Rotorcycle, a collapsible one-man helicopter that weighed barely 100 pounds and could be disassembled to the size of a large suitcase, and first flew in 1957.

A 1946 profile in Pageant magazine described Hiller as "so utterly humorless that he never makes a joke and looks bewildered when anyone else does." He left the aviation industry in 1964, when he sold Hiller Aircraft to Fairchild Industries. He later founded The Hiller Group, a consultancy that specialized in turning around troubled businesses, and spent his last decades as what Business Week called a "Green Beret of corporate management." He died in 2006, of complications from Alzheimer's disease.


[1] San Francisco, according to some sources.

Father: Stanley Van Winkle Hiller, Sr. (inventor, b. 30-Sep-1888, d. 8-Aug-1968)
Mother: Opal Perkins Hiller
Sister: Patricia Hiller Chadwick
Wife: Carolyn Balsdon Hiller (m. 25-May-1946, two sons)
Son: Jeffrey Hiller
Son: Stephen Hiller

    University: University of California at Berkeley (attended, 1940-41)

    Bekins Company Past CEO
    Key Tronic Past CEO
    Levelor Blinds Past CEO
    York International Past CEO
    The Hiller Group Founder (1968)
    Fairchild Industries Co-Founder & CEO, Hiller Aircraft Company (1947-64)
    Member of the Board of Boeing (1976-98)
    Fawcett Aviation Award 1944
    National Defense Transportation Association ward 1958
    Army Aviation Hall of Fame 1989
    National Air and Space Museum Trophy 2002
    American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    Bohemian Grove
    Hiller Aviation Institute and Museum Founder, 1998
    National Academy of Engineering
    National Republican Congressional Committee
    Republican National Committee
    Plane Crash (survived at least 3)
    Draft Deferment: World War II
    Swiss Ancestry Paternal


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