Retired Coast Guard Capt. Frank A. Erickson, 71, who helped pioneer the use of helicopters for military and rescue purposes, died Sunday in a Nassau Bay, Tex, hospital of complications following hip surgery.
Capt. Erickson was designated the Coast Guard's first helicopter pilot in 1943 after training at the Sikorsky aircraft plant in Bridgeport, Conn.
In January 1944, he flew the first lifesaving mission that used a helicopter, according to a Coast Guard spokesman.
Capt. Erickson piloted his helicopter from New York City to Sandy Hook, N.J., carrying a load of blood plasma for sailors aboard a crippled Navy destroyer. All winged craft had been grounded due to bad weather.
Capt. Erickson was a native of Oregon. He was a 1931 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
He served during World War II on a joint Anglo-American project that studied the use of helicopters operating from ships.
Capt. Erickson helped develop flight stabilization equipment for helicopters and inflatable pontoons that allowed helicopters to land on water, according to the Coast Guard.
He served in Washington during the 1950s. He was Coast Guard liaison officer with the Naval Aircraft Test Center for two years, worked at Coast Guard headquarters from 1951 to 1952, then was assigned to the air development board of the old Civil Aeronautics Administration for a year.
Capt. Erickson was operations officer of the 3rd Coast Guard district, based in New York, from 1953 until his retirement in July 1954.
He was a member of the Retired Military Officers Association and the American Helicopter Assocation.
Survivors include his wife, Betty, of the home in Texas City, Tex,; two daughters, and two sisters.