Photo of Frank Piasecki

Frank Piasecki

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Aerospace
Development of the tandem rotor helicopter (Flying Banana), the compound aircraft (an innovative VTOL design), and other contributions to vertical lift aircraft, as well as creation of what has become the Boeing Vertol Company with annual sales over $500 million and over 6,000 employees.

In 1940, 21-year-old Frank Piasecki and other young engineers from the University of Pennsylvania founded the PV Engineering Forum which eventually evolved into today’s Rotorcraft Division of the Boeing Company. Piasecki flew their first helicopter, the PV-2, in April 1943– the second successful helicopter to fly in the U.S.

Piasecki’s flight attracted the attention of the U.S. Navy, who awarded the young designer a contract for the construction of his proposal for a large tandem rotor helicopter capable of carrying heavy loads in a large cabin. Thirteen months later, Piasecki flew the world’s first successful tandem rotor helicopter, the first helicopter designed for the U.S. Navy.

Popularly called a “flying banana”, it was the forerunner of the modern tandem rotor transport and capable of carrying three times the payload of any helicopter flying at the time. Today, the largest tandem-rotor helicopter, the Chinook, can carry up to 30,000 pounds or 44 passengers.

By Jen Santisi