Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 35

Pitcairn's prime objective was to
develop safer and easier-to-fly
aircraft than those available in
the 1920s.

in their future by developing dozens of improvements that might
be used when production could be started up again.
Through the 1930s Pitcairn spent over $4 million of his own
money and owned over 200 patents, so it became virtually impossible for any other parties to produce autogiros or helicopters
without being obliged to pay some royalties to Pitcairn's company.
Also at the end of the 1930s Igor Sikorsky flew America's first
practical helicopter, the VS 300, a one-man experimental model
for which Sikorsky bought a license agreement to use several of
Pitcairn's patents.
In the normal course of affairs, Pitcairn's heavy investment in
rotary-wing research and development would be expected at last
to generate a good deal of royalty cash flow, but World War II
intervened. To support the war effort the U.S. government required
that all of his patents should be shared with his competitors
for a mere pittance for the duration of the war plus six months
thereafter. Pitcairn patriotically agreed to the government's
terms. But after the war was over the government changed the
rules and declared that the competitors, including Bell, Piaseki,
Hiller, Sikorsky, Kaman and others could continue to use the
fruits of Pitcairn's research at no charge, effectively taking away
Pitcairn's hard-won intellectual property and giving it to others.

The Lawsuit

The Pitcairn AC-35 Autogiro prototype developed in 1936
incorporated many updates and refinements from the original
fabric-covered, open cockpit models from 1930. The AC-35 was a
side-by-side, fully enclosed two-seater. Just ahead of the pylon
supporting the rotor head is an angled drive shaft to pre-spin
the rotor, then power was switched to the propeller, enabling
the aircraft to take off in less than 50 meters. The rotor could be
folded as shown and the engine power switched to the rear wheel
making it "street-legal." Photo: National Air and Space Museum.

Pitcairn threatened to sue, and the government's reply was
essentially, "Go ahead. Sue us. We have more time, more money
and more lawyers than you. You'll run out of money before we do."
Much as he hated to sue his own government, Pitcairn knew he
was being treated unfairly, and the government's action would
also discourage other inventors in other fields. Pitcairn's Autogiro
Company of America filed its suit in 1951, seeking just compensation for the taking of taking its intellectual property. The government's lawyers dragged out the litigation until 1966, resulting
in over 18,000 pages of testimony, but the government lost the
case. An appeal and re-trial process followed, running on to 1977
when the Court of Claims finally awarded the company damages
and interest for over $32 million. Sadly, by then Harold Pitcairn
had passed away, and the rotary-wing industry had largely moved
on to the helicopter.

What Happened to...
Pitcairn's Mailwing, was the first good, special-purpose mailplane. The first Mailwing now hangs from the ceiling inside the
Air & Space Museum in Washington, directly under the DC-3.
Pitcairn's airfield at Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, was acquired
by the US government in 1943 and later became the Willow Grove
Naval Air Station. The property is currently being decommissioned
for return to civilian, non-aviation purposes. The Harold Pitcairn
Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, with a large collection of
historic aircraft, is located on the property.


Legacy of Wings, the Harold F. Pitcairn Story, by Frank Kingston Smith, published
by the author, 1981.
Harold F. Pitcairn; Aviator, Inventor, and Developer of the Autogiro, by Carl R. Gunther,
Bryn Athen College Press, 2009.

Autogiros like this one still live on as light sport aircraft that are
inexpensive and easy to fly. Photo by Pilot Micha.

On YouTube, under the title of "Legacy of Wings," there is a five-part video documentary on Pitcairn and his autogiros.

Jetrader  *  Spring 2015 35


Jetrader - Spring 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Jetrader - Spring 2015

A Message from the President
Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr. Honored for Excellence in Aviation
2015 Poised to be Strong Year for Global Leasing
Aircraft Finance Outlook: Boeing's 2015 Perspective
Celebrating the Holidays with ISTAT
The Sweet Sound of the Drone
Aviation History
Q&A: Incoming ISTAT President Marc S. Allinson
Can the Commercial Aircraft Backlog Withstand 50% Lower Fuel Prices?
Aircraft Appraisals
ISTAT Foundation
Advertiser Index
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - cover1
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - cover2
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 3
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 4
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 5
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 6
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - A Message from the President
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 8
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 9
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Calendar/News
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 11
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr. Honored for Excellence in Aviation
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 13
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 14
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 15
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 2015 Poised to be Strong Year for Global Leasing
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 17
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 18
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 19
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Aircraft Finance Outlook: Boeing's 2015 Perspective
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 21
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 22
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 23
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Celebrating the Holidays with ISTAT
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 25
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 26
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 27
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 28
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - The Sweet Sound of the Drone
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 30
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 31
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Aviation History
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 33
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 34
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 35
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Q&A: Incoming ISTAT President Marc S. Allinson
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 37
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 38
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Can the Commercial Aircraft Backlog Withstand 50% Lower Fuel Prices?
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 40
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Aircraft Appraisals
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 42
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - ISTAT Foundation
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 44
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - 45
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - Advertiser Index
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - cover3
Jetrader - Spring 2015 - cover4