Hiller Aircraft

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Hiller Aircraft Company
Founded1942 (1942)
FoundersStanley Hiller

Hiller Aircraft Company is a small private aerospace company, based in Firebaugh, California, with subsidiary operations in China. It was founded in 1942 as Hiller Industries by Stanley Hiller to develop helicopters.


Stanley Hiller, then seventeen, established the first helicopter factory on the West Coast of the United States, located in Berkeley, California,[1] in 1942, under the name "Hiller Industries," to develop his design for the coaxial-rotor XH-44 "Hiller-Copter" for the U.S. Army. The XH-44 became operational in 1944.[2] In collaboration with Henry J. Kaiser, it became United Helicopters in 1945. In the postwar years, United Helicopter produced a number of innovative helicopter designs for military and civilian purposes, including coaxial-rotor and tailless designs, as well as more conventional models. In January, 1949, a Hiller 360 became the first civilian helicopter to cross the United States.[2]

Besides helicopters, in the year after World War II, Stanley Hiller researched a two-man rocket-jet aircraft design that took off and landed vertically, called the VJ-100, in which he tried unsuccessfully to interest the U.S. military.[3]

The company was renamed Hiller Helicopters in 1948. It was involved in the development of a number of prototype helicopters. From the early 1960s to 1969, its Palo Alto plant served as a CIA cover for the production of the CORONA reconnaissance satellites.[4]

Hiller was purchased by Fairchild Aircraft in 1964.

Jeff Hiller, the son of Stanley Hiller, repurchased the company in 1994 with the help of a dozen Thai investors led by Patrick C. Lim, part owner of Siam Steel and many other Asian ventures. For ownership of Hiller aircraft, these investors helped cover the company's liabilities about $1 million and commit about $10 million to build at least 30 new helicopters at the new East Bay production site and also setting up the first aerospace company in Thailand.[5]

Stanley Hiller donated money and a number of aircraft to form the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California, which opened in 1998.

In 2009, the Hiller (China) Aircraft Manufacturing Company [6] began construction of a production facility in Zhangjiakou City, northwest of Beijing. The company is a joint venture between Hiller Aircraft Corporation, Zhangjiakou Chahar General Aviation Company. At the time, Zhangjiakou Chahar General Aviation was already carrying out low-rate production of UH-12 parts and sub assemblies.[7]

In July 2018 an accident in which a truck driver drove over his co-driver occurred at the Hiller Firebaugh facility. On May 4 a jury found Hiller 70% at fault for the accident and awarded the injured driver over 9 million dollars in damages.[8] The company's website news update from February 15, 2021, indicates the company is struggling financially with the owners hesitating to provide further funding to keep the company operating.[9]


1956 Hiller YROE-1 one-man "Rotorcycle" being tested at NASA Ames Research Center
Model name First flight Number built Type
Hiller XH-44
Hiller VJ-100
Hiller Autogyro
Hiller X-2-235
Hiller J-5
Hiller UH-4 Commuter
Hiller UH-5 Rotormatic
Hiller UH-12 Single piston-engine observation helicopter
Hiller HH-120 Hornet
Hiller HJ-1
Hiller VXT-8 N/A Coleopter
Hiller YH-32 Hornet 1950 18 Ramjet engine helicopter
Hiller VZ-1 Pawnee 1955 6 "Flying platform"
Hiller ROE-1 Rotorcycle 1956 12 Ultralight piston-engine helicopter
Hiller X-18 1959 1 Experimental twin engine tiltwing
Hiller Ten99 1961 1 Single turbine engine helicopter
Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 1963 253 Single turbine engine helicopter
Fairchild Hiller FH-227 1966 78 Twin-engine turboprop commercial airliner


  1. ^ Berkeley Historical Society Newsletter, Summer 2006, p.6
  2. ^ a b Hiller Helicopters timeline (accessed Nov 9 2011)
  3. ^ "Blue Print For Passenger Rocket" Popular Mechanic, July 1949
  4. ^ "NRO review and redaction guide (2006 ed.)" (PDF). National Reconnaissance Office.
  5. ^ Sinton, Peter (June 2, 1995). "San Francisco Chronicle, June 2, 1995". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. ^ "Hiller (China)". Archived from the original on 2013-12-25.
  7. ^ "Shephard Media, May 21, 2009".
  8. ^ "Truck driver wins $9.3 MILLION after he was run over by co-driver in alleged $50 turn-around trap". 6 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Hiller Aircraft Update 02/15/21 – Hiller Aircraft Corporation". Archived from the original on 2021-05-18.

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