Harold Frederick Pitcairn

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Harold F. Pitcairn
1930 Collier Trophy.jpg
The 1930 Collier Trophy awarded to Pitcairn
Born 1897
Hawthorne, Iowa
Died 1960
Occupation Aviation Designer
Children Joel, John, Charis, Stephen, Robert, Judith, Bruce, Edward

Harold F. Pitcairn (1897–1960) was an American aviation inventor and pioneer. He played a key role in the development of the autogyro and founded the Autogiro Company of America. He patented a number of innovations relating to rotary wing aircraft.

A Pitcairn Mailwing displayed at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

Pitcairn's start in aviation was as an apprentice at Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company[1] He attended the Curtiss Flying School in Newport News in 1916.[2]

Pitcairn founded Pitcairn Aviation (later to become Eastern Airlines), and Pitcairn Aircraft Company which manufactured efficient airmail biplanes, and autogyros. He bought the right to license Juan de la Ciervas patents for the United States for $300,000 in 1929.[3]

He was awarded the Collier Trophy in 1930 for development of the autogyro.[4] USA President Hoover awarded the trophy on the lawn of the White House in 1931, where a Pitcairn PCA-2 landed as the first aircraft ever.[3]

In 1960, it was reported that he had committed suicide at his home in Philadelphia shortly after a party celebrating his brother's birthday.[3][5] According to more reliable sources and police reports the death was accidental and was caused by a faulty Savage Model 1907 0.32 automatic pistol.[6] Pitcairn was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995.[2] In 1977, 17 years after his death, the Supreme Court of the United States awarded Pitcairn $32 million from the US government for rotorcraft control surfaces patents used by military rotorcraft.[3][7]


  1. ^ Donald M. Pattillo. A history in the making: 80 turbulent years in the American general aviation ... 
  2. ^ a b "Harold Pitcairn". The National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Charnov, Bruce H. Cierva, Pitcairn and the Legacy of Rotary-Wing Flight Hofstra University. Accessed: 22 November 2011.
  4. ^ "Collier Trophy". Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  5. ^ "HAROLD PITCAIRN TAKES LIFE AT 62; Plane and Autogiro Pioneer Shoots Himself at Home in Philadelphia Suburb". New York Times. April 24, 1960. 
  6. ^ Frank K. Smith. Legacy of Wings, The Harold Pitcairn Story. 
  7. ^ "Rotorcraft pioneers". Retrieved 23 January 2011. 

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