An Industry Struggles

Key Dates


The aftermath of World War II was a time of promise for the helicopter industry as the technology began to mature, but it was first and foremost a time of survival as the economic pressures on helicopter manufacturers and operators threatened the very survival of the rotary wing industrial base that had emerged from the wartime economy. Sikorsky, which had been the dominate force in the American helicopter industry for the duration of the war, found itself a mere three years later on the brink of ruin as it had lost successive military contracts to Piasecki and had failed to generate the projected number of commercial sales by a wide margin. New manufacturers such as Kaman and Hiller found that there was room for technological niches, but also found that public’s enthusiasm for the helicopter as a concept did not translate into actual sales, particularly as any prospects for economical helicopters were not likely to occur without volume production.

Ultimately, military spending once again preserved and advanced the industry as the initial phases of the Cold War forced the United States to continue to develop its defense industries. In some cases, the Pentagon issued aircraft orders as a form of corporate charity to simply insure the survival of the industrial base. The end of the decade found the helicopter industry with much brighter prospects than it had a year or two earlier as Cold War tensions escalated and new designs with considerably more capability than their World War II brethren were on the way. Though the late 1940s were a disappointment to many who invested in helicopters as “the next big thing”,


Application and Operations

Design and Manufacture

Government Involvement

Representative Designs

Notable Personalities