|Jeff Pino, former president of Sikorsky Aircraft and vice chairman of XTI Aircraft, died Feb. 5. Photo courtesy of XTI Aircraft Company
A legend in aviation, Jeff Pino, was killed Feb. 5 when his P-51D crashed in Maricopa, Arizona.
Pino had a long and distinguished aerospace career that began in the early 1980s when, as a young captain, he began U.S. Army flight training. As few years earlier, he was a tank platoon leader in gunnery training “at a very cold tank range” in West Germany when he was instructed to stop firing to allow a helicopter to dump ordnance.
“I was just looking up” at the Bell Helicopter AH-1 Cobra firing its rockets and gun, Pino recalled, “and I said, ‘You know what? That’s the way to go.’” He added, “It’s just been helicopters since that for me. Nothing else.”
Pino had just been appointed president of Sikorsky Aircraft when he shared that story with R&WI in 2006. (Before joining Sikorsky, he had worked at Bell Helicopter for 17 years in military program and commercial sales management.) He led Sikorsky until 2012, overseeing that manufacturer’s ramp-up to support expanding U.S. combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That burgeoning work left Sikorsky flush with funds for independent research and development, which Pino used to have the company design and fly the high-speed X2 Technology Demonstrator. In 2010, the rigid coaxial-rotor X2 achieved 250 kt in level flight. The X2 led directly to Sikorsky’s development of the S-97 Raider and the follow-on SB>1 Defiant for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator initiative to develop high-speed vertical-flight aircraft.
Most recently, he served as vice chairman of XTI Aircraft, leading that company’s early effort to develop the TriFan 600 high-speed, five-passenger, vertical-takeoff-and-landing business transport. To drum up interest in that effort, XTI in August 2015 ran a contest offering as a top prize a ride with Pino in his two-seat P-51D, “Big Beautiful Doll.”
That flight was scheduled to take place the day after the crash that killed Pino and friend Nicholas Tramontano.