Charles H. Kaman, aviation pioneer, dies at 91

Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 9:35 PM

Charles H. Kaman, an aviation pioneer who founded Kaman Aerospace Corp., died Jan. 31 in Bloomfield, Conn., of unreported causes. He was 91.

The Bloomfield-based company said Mr. Kaman was a 26-year-old engineer when he started Kaman Aircraft Co. in the garage of his mother's Connecticut home in 1945 with $2,000 from two friends. He was chief executive from 1945 to 1999.

He started the company to demonstrate a rotor concept he devised to make helicopters more stable and easier to fly. Today it's a $1.2 billion company that makes and distributes a wide range of parts for commercial, military, and general aviation fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

Mr. Kaman's company has been credited with breakthroughs including the first gas turbine-powered helicopter, the first twin-turbine-powered helicopter and the first remotely controlled helicopter.

Charles Huron Kaman was a native Washingtonian and a 1940 aeronautical engineering graduate of Catholic University. During World War II, he worked for United Aircraft's Hamilton Standard division and rose to chief aerodynamicist, working on propellers.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded Mr. Kaman the National Medal of Technology, the nation's highest recognition for contributions to technical excellence. A year later, he received the National Aeronautic Association's Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for his contributions to American aviation.

With his wife, Roberta, who died in June, Mr. Kaman founded the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, which breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind.

He had three children.

- Associated Press

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