Aviation Pioneer Founder Of Kaman Aircraft Passed Away At 91


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Aviation Pioneer Founder Of Kaman Aircraft Passed Away At 91

By Daniel Baxter

February 2, 2011 - Charles Huron Kaman, founder of Kaman Aircraft, was one of the leading aviation pioneers of the 20th century died on Tuesday, Bloomfield, CT. He was 91. Mr. Kaman was a 26-year-old engineer in 1945 when he founded Kaman Aircraft Company in the garage of his mother’s West Hartford, Connecticut home with $2,000 invested by two friends. 

He started the company to demonstrate a new rotor concept he devised to make helicopters more stable and easier to fly. Over the next half-century, Mr. Kaman built the company into a worldwide leader in the aviation industry. Kaman Aircraft, now Kaman Corporation, has become a billion-dollar company. 

A pioneer in rotary-winged flight and one of Connecticut’s great inventors and innovators, Kaman’s helicopters achieved many breakthroughs, including the first gas turbine-powered helicopter, the first twin-turbine-powered helicopter, the first remotely controlled helicopter and the first all-composite rotor blade. Over the years his helicopters set numerous records for performance and altitude. 

The company produces and/or markets widely used proprietary aircraft bearings and components; complex metallic and composite aerostructures for commercial, military and general aviation fixed and rotary wing aircraft; safing and arming solutions for missile and bomb systems for the U.S. and allied militaries; subcontract helicopter work; and support for the company’s SH-2G Super Seasprite maritime helicopters and K-MAX medium-to-heavy lift helicopters. 

Charlie Kaman, as he was affectionately known by so many, was a bona fide aviation pioneer and helicopters were his first love. He founded Kaman Aircraft Corporation in 1945 and went on to lead our company as CEO for an astounding fifty-five years. He led a remarkable life as an inventor, entrepreneur, musician, humanitarian and visionary. His career was, in many ways, the epitome of the American dream.

While Kaman Corporation stands as a testament to his significant business accomplishments, a series of distinguished awards speak to his technological and humanitarian achievements. Mr. Kaman received many honors from his peers and other admirers.

The Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite is a ship-based helicopter with anti submarine, anti-surface threat capability, including over-the-horizon targeting. This aircraft extends and increases shipboard sensor and weapon capabilities against several types of enemy threats, including submarines of all types, surface ships, and patrol craft that may be armed with anti-ship missiles. It was originally developed for the United States Navy in 1980s.

In 1997, he joined other aviation greats Charles Lindbergh, Jimmy Doolittle, Neil Armstrong and Igor Sikorsky as a recipient of the National Aeronautic Association's Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the nation's premier aviation award. President Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest recognition for contributions to technical excellence, in 1996. He founded the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, which has enabled thousands of the visually impaired to live more independent and productive lives. 

In the end, Charlie Kaman was all about human potential. Of all of his technical accomplishments, he was most proud of the more than 15,000 lives that Kaman helicopters were estimated to have saved in rescue missions over the second half of the 20th century. In the company’s 1967 Annual Report, he said, ‘Kaman Corporation is people. The most important factor in our growth has been the demonstrated capability of our people to rise to new challenges, meet them, and go on from them. Their devotion and dedication to our common goals is a source of strength and inspiration to all of us. 

Charles H. Kaman was intent, in all of his endeavors, on creating an environment of integrity where people could realize personal and mutual achievement while serving the customer to the best of their abilities. In doing so, that brought them satisfaction and success as well as benefits to many other people. That’s what excited Charlie Kaman and that ideal will live on in the company he founded.


While building a worldwide reputation as a successful inventor and entrepreneur, Mr. Kaman also became admired for his humanitarian efforts in connection with his work for the vision-impaired. With his late wife, Roberta, he founded Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, a groundbreaking business which breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind at its Bloomfield, CT headquarters.  

Kaman was inducted into the Hall of Honor of the National Museum of Naval Aviation and was named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He also received honorary doctorates from the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, of which he was one of a group of founders, and the University of Colorado. At the time of his death, Mr. Kaman was chairman emeritus of the corporation.

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