Kaman Corp. founder Charles H. Kaman, noted helicopter pioneer, humanitarian and inventor, died on Jan. 31. He was 91.
At age 26, he founded Kaman Aircraft Company in 1945 in the garage of his mother’s home in West Hartford, Conn. Among the breakthroughs credited to the company’s early rotorcraft designs include the first gas turbine-powered helicopter, twin-turbine-powered helicopter, remotely controlled helicopter and the first all-composite rotor blade. The first Kaman-built helicopter, the K-125, took off on Jan. 15, 1947. The U.S. Navy bought two of the helicopters the following year for evaluation. Other helicopter models from Kaman through the years include the SH-2 Seasprite line, H-43 “Husky” and the K-MAX aerial truck, introduced in 1992.
Among the awards Kaman received were the National Medal of Technology, the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal and the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Award. He was inducted into the Hall of Honor of the National Museum of Naval Aviation and named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Aviation wasn’t his only passion—Kaman founded Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, which breeds and trains guide dogs for the blind. He also formed Kaman Music, which designed and built the Ovation series of guitars.
Two sons, a daughter, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren survive him. Memorial contributions can be sent to the C.H. Kaman Charitable Foundation, c/o John C. Yavis, Jr., Murtha Cullina, LLP, City Place I, 185 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT 06103-3463.