Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Hiller Test Pilot Bruce Jones was the first person to autorotate a tip-powered helicopter. Ground observers stood aghast as he hurtled downward in the HJ-1, came to a radical flare in the nick of time, and settled to the ground. With a mix of relief and anger, Hiller's non-pilot contracts manager ran up to the Hornet, shouting that the craft was not insured. "Listen," the pilot replied hotly, steadying himself on rubbery legs. "I'm lucky to be alive! The aircraft was falling at 15m/s and I was falling at 10, and I barely caught up with the controls to land the damn thing!" Jones, a veteran World War II flier and a former Bell helicopter demonstration pilot, soon became the undisputed master of Hornet autorotations. An argument arose on the Hiller flight line one summer day in 1951 over what accuracy, if any, was possible during "deadstick" landings. Jones settled the issue once and for all by autorotating from 900m to land within 15m of dead center of the Hiller apron.