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ISSUE 131 - August 2010
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Hiller Aviation Institute & Museum

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Roslin, Ontario, Canada

The Hiller Aviation Museum is located in San Carlos, backing on to the airport and fronting on Highway #101.

Did you know that there was an American attempt to build a Concord-like SST jetliner in the 1960s? Have you ever seen the "Eksoskeleton Flying Vehicle" in the movie "Agent Cody Banks?" These are but two of the many pieces of aviation history you can find at the Hiller Aviation Institute & Museum in San Carlos, California, about 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco.

This photo/mural graces a wall at the end of the museum when you
first walk in to the aircraft and memorabilia display area.

The museum backs on to San Carlos Airport to the back and just off Highway 101 to the front so it's easy to get to by car or airplane. It doesn't look all that large, but looks are certainly deceiving. The museum houses many aircraft inside including the front fuselage and cockpit section of the Boeing SST Supersonic Transport that never was. There are also many other airplanes situated on the museum floor or hung from the building's roof structure.

The Hiller J-10 "Commuter" helicopter that used a forced air system instead of a tail rotor, left. The popular workhorse H-23 helicopter, shown here in U.S. Army markings, right.

As you first enter the museum area you see a portrait of Stanley Hiller Jr., the man responsible for designing and building the first successful helicopter in the U.S. in 1944, the XH-44. Hiller went on to design and fly numerous helicopters with his company including the UH-12, used extensively in both Korea and Vietnam. In fact, the helicopter flew in several civilian capacities and some still fly today.

The world's first ducted fan, vertical take-off & landing aircraft, the Flying Platform, left. What dreams are made of, the "Eksoskeleton Flying Vehicle, seen in the movie "Agent Cody Banks," can reach a maximum speed of 69mph, right.

Hiller's company designed and built many unusual flying vehicles including the Rotorcyle and the Flying Platform, among others. Though the company was quite successful with many of its aircraft, Hiller merged with Fairchild and moved on to other endeavours, including the preservation of aviation history and the creation of the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Designed and built by John Montgomery, the cambered-wing Gull was the first successfully controlled glider at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1883, left. Montgomery flew the Santa Clara Glider for 15 minutes over the Santa Clara Valley, right.

There are many unique and interesting aircraft found at the museum from early gliders to supersonic jet aircraft. In 1883 John Montgomery designed and flew the first successfully controlled glider flights in the Gull glider, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina some 20 years before the Wright Brothers first powered flight. In the Santa Clara Valley area, Montgomery flew a glider called "The Santa Clara," launched from an altitude of 4000', for 15 minutes before landing at the Santa Clara College (now Santa Clara University) at a predetermined spot.

A model of Americas attempt at a Concorde-like SST, left.
The cockpit flight deck of the SST, right.

One of the most unusual pieces of American aviation history is the Boeing SST (supersonic transport) front fuselage and cockpit. Boeing won the competition to build the SST over Lockheed, but it seemed the airplane was doomed from the start. At the same time, Boeing was in the process of marketing their 747, dealing with various issues including a lack of engines, all while trying to develop the SST. Though development progressed, there was much opposition to the airplane, and in 1971 it was cancelled after more than three billion dollars and had been spent.

The historic Fowler-Wright 4-cylinder, 30 HP engine, left. The first wind tunnel used to study propeller efficiency for the U.S. Government, right.

Among the various aircraft found at the museum are a number of historic aviation artifacts. One of the more historic is the Fowler-Wright engine, on display inside a glass case. This engine, an original Wright 4-cylinder, 30 horsepower engine, powered a Wright Mod "B" aircraft across the U.S. in 1911, from west to east, the first aircraft to make the flight. The engine held several other records such as the first flight across the San Francisco Bay, first non-stop flight over 100 miles, and the first flight across the California state line. Another unique piece of aviation history is the first wind tunnel to study propeller efficiency, built by Dr. William Durand at Stanford University. With this wind tunnel, Dr. Durand provided the first comprehensive assessments of propeller contour, blade width, and pitch.

The beautiful WACO 10, left. Pepsi-Cola Company
Travel Air D-4-D skywriting airplane, right.

The Waco 10 was a new design in civilian pleasure and utility aircraft that featured steel tube fuselage, bracing struts, new manufacturing techniques, and light air-cooled engines. Part of the Waco's success came from a choice of engines that appealed to every budget. They ranged from war-surplus OX-5s, the more powerful Hispano Suizas, and the preferred radial engines of the day. Another very interesting airplane is a 1928 Travel Air, model D-4-D. The airplane flew more than 72 years in variety of different roles, finishing with the Pepsi-Cola Company after having been modified for skywriting, with a bigger, more modern 300HP Lycoming engine.

The AR-5 Sport Monoplane, with a Rotax 582, holds the world speed record at 213.18mph for an airplane weighing under 661lbs, left. Burt Rutan's personal canard Defiant could carry four passengers faster and farther than any twin of its time, right.

If you like speed, small, and cool looking then consider the AR-5 Sport Monoplane. This sharp, almost Focke Wulf-like, little airplane is an amateur designed, all moldless composite homebuilt airplane that set a world speed record of just over 213mph in a category of aircraft weighing in at less than 661lbs. If that's not amazing enough, it flew that speed with a Rotax 582, two-cycle, liquid cooled, 65HP engine. Just a stone's throw away is another unique airplane called the Model 74 Defiant, a Burt Rutan prototype aircraft. Built in 1978 and first in its class, this airplane is a canard-configured, centre-line thrust, multi-engine aircraft that could carry four people and do it faster and farther than any other production twin engine aircraft on the market at the time. It was never put into production and fewer than ten of them are flying today.

The Ames-Dryden-1 (AD-1) pivoting wing design.

One of the most unusual airplanes is the AD-1 (Ames Dryden-1) which was designed to explore the flight characteristics of the pivoting wing, known as the oblique wing concept. Though its maximum speed was only 300 knots, a production version oblique was expected to fly at supersonic speeds. The wing could be swung through a maximum of 60 degrees from its initial setting of 90 degrees to the fuselage, take off and landing with a conventional wing configuration and flying in the swept wing configuration for speed.

The famous link trainer, left, and the instructors plotting table and 'crab,' right.

Take a step back from today's form of instrument flight training, and step into the cockpit of a Link trainer. First built in 1929, these pilot training aids were used and made famous during World War II by many nations for training pilots to fly on instruments. The pilot sat in the trainer while an instructor sat at a large map table/desk where a unit known as the 'crab' recorded the pilots actions on a glass surface over a map, plotting the pilot's track. The pilot and instructor could communicate using headphones and microphones making it a relatively realistic and very useful training experience.

The front fuselage and flight deck of a Boeing 747, left.
A single engine and an extra engine nacelle from the 747, right.

Currently, the only outdoor exhibit is the front fuselage and cockpit/flight deck section of a former British Airways Boeing 747 that was generously donated by ARR of Roswell, NM. Once 'rescued' from the cutters torch, disassembled and trucked back to San Carlos, CA, through three states, the section was restored & reassembled by many volunteers. It has been painted in the livery of the Flying Tigers, as requested by the main benefactor of the section, Capt. Al Silver. Along with the fuselage section, there is an engine and an extra engine nacelle on display alongside it.

A view across the museum at some of the many amazing aircraft and exhibits, left. Not long after the war between the states the Avitor became the first powered, unmanned airplane in the world, right. It flew in San Francisco using a 1HP steam engine, with a hydrogen filled balloon type structure, sustaining flight for one mile.

This is a mere glimpse of what there is to view at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California. Apart from quite a few more aircraft such as the 1931 Buhl Autogiro, the 1960 Pietenpol, the 1928 Monocoupe, and the Seabee, to name but a few, there are many more artifacts and pieces of aviation memorabilia to see. It's well worth the drive or the flight to San Carlos to see the museum, you won't be disappointed. However, before you leave, make sure you visit one of the best aviation museum gift shops going, you won't leave empty-handed!

For more information about the Hiller Aviation Museum visit

A piece of local history, a poster-flyer for the Livermore Air Show from earlier days, left. The magnificent wood fan-propeller, driven by an electric motor in order to provide 'wind' for the wind tunnel, right.
The Nelson 1955 (motor-glider) was built by the Nelson Aircraft Company in Livermore, California. It had a relatively light-weight Nelson 2-cycle engine with a pusher propeller. Once the glider reached the desired altitude, the engine was stopped and the engine retracted into the fuselage reverting the aircraft back into a glider.

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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