Former Sikorsky Aircraft President and CEO Gerald Tobias, a driving force beyond the development and sales of the Black Hawk and S-76 helicopters, died Nov. 14, 2015, in Huntington Beach, California, after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, according to an obituary in The Los Angeles Times.
A U.S. Army Air Force WWII veteran, Tobias worked for the Martin Company, managed Boeing’s turbine division for the first 747 and served as vice president of Rohr Industries’ aerospace group. In December 1973, he took over as Sikorsky’s president and CEO.
Under his direction, according to Sikorsky, the UH-60A won the nearly $3 billion U.S. Army Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) competition over Bell Helicopter and Boeing Vertol in 1976. That was the largest helicopter procurement contract awarded in the preceding decade. Today, according to the company, more than 2,300 H-60 variants are in service in 25 nations.
Tobias also oversaw the development, introduction and production of the company’s and the U.S.’ first privately financed, medium-lift commercial helicopter: the S-76.
Additionally, in February 1978, Sikorsky said, it received the go-ahead from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for production of “the free world’s largest helicopter,” the CH-53E Super Stallion. The company currently is developing its successor, the CH-53K, for the Marines.
Former R&WI Editor-in-Chief Dave Jensen in 2007 said that “the flamboyant” Tobias “perhaps best marketed corporate helicopter use in the early 1980s.” Jensen noted that Tobias set up “point-to-point races with fixed-wing jets. While fixed-wing transport had to factor in cab service to and from the airports, the S-76 could take off at the start point and land at the destination, guaranteeing its win.”
Tobias retired from Sikorsky in 1981 and moved to Port Angeles, Washington, the Times reported. But he came out of retirement to work for Rogerson Aircraft of Irvine, California, as president of Hiller Helicopter.