Vertical Flight Heritage Sites

PWC CeremonyThe Vertical Flight Society launched its Vertical Flight Heritage Sites Program in 2013 to highlight the important vertical flight historical sites around the world. VFS hopes to promote to the public the rich history of the world-wide vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft community through this program.

Since 2013, VFS has selected the following Vertical Flight Heritage Sites:
  1. The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) was the first awardee of the Vertical Flight Heritage Sites Program. The induction ceremony was held on Sunday October 27, 2013 as part of festivities recognizing the 75th anniversary of the First Rotating Wing Aircraft Meeting, originally held at the Franklin Institute on October 27-29, 1938. This historic gathering was the first international meeting on rotary-wing aircraft and marked a turning point from autogyros to helicopters. It was from this event that the American helicopter industry was born. Flight magazine noted at the time that the Rotating Wing Meeting was held in Philadelphia because “this is the town in which practically all the rotary-wing activity in the United States takes place.” [Press Release | Ceremony Brochure]
  2. Pratt & Whitney Canada Plant (Longueuil, Québec, Canada): where the iconic PT6 helicopter engine was developed and is still produced today a half-century later, powering more than 25 different types of rotorcraft. Selected: March 2014; Dedication: May 22, 2014. [Press Release | Ceremony Brochure]
  3. Bell Helicopter Gardenville Site (Cheektowaga, New York, USA): the site of Bell’s initial helicopter developments, including construction and first flights of the three Model 30 prototypes, which would lead to more than 6,000 Bell Model 47s over four decades. Selected: March 2014; Dedication: June 25, 2015  [Press Release | Ceremony]
  4. NASA Langley Research Center (Hampton, Virginia, USA): Langley Research Center has had a long and distinguished history in powered lift technology development. This research has formed the foundation of knowledge for the powered lift community worldwide. Since the dedication of Langley in 1920, it has contributed to the understanding, design, analysis, and flight test development of experimental and production vertical flight configurations. Selected: March 2015; Dedication: May 8, 2015 [Press Release | Ceremony]
  5. Piasecki/Vertol/Boeing “Morton” Site (Springfield, Pennsylvania, USA): On this site, from March 1947, Piasecki Helicopter Corp. developed its tandem rotor helicopters, the XHRP-X / HRP-1 Rescuer, the HUP Retriever and H-21 Workhorse/Shawnee. As Vertol, the company continued development of the tandem helicopter, resulting in what would become the Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight and the CH-47 Chinook. Selected: March 2015; Dedication: June 17, 2016  [Press Release | Ceremony]
  6. Leonardo da Vinci’s Studio, first known VTOL design (Milan, Italy): While working for the Ludovico il Moro Duke of Milan (c. 1487), Leonardo da Vinci produced the concept of a flying machine capable of vertical take-off and landing using a rotating wing, the Helix Aerial Screw, which is generally considered to be the first proposal for a helicopter. Selected: March 2016; Dedication: Sept. 13, 2017 [Press Release | Ceremony]
  7. Kingsley Flats, first VTOL flight in US (Hammondsport, New York, USA): On May 22, 1908, the experimental helicopter of John Newton Williams, powered by an engine designed and built by Glenn Hammond Curtiss, lifted a person in vertical flight for the first time in the United States. This site, known as Kingsley Flats, hosted the work of Alexander Graham Bell’s Aerial Experiment Association in the support of the Williams’ Helicopter experiments and testing from January to May 1908, resulting in this aeronautical first. Selected: March 2016; Dedication: July 5, 2019 [Press Release | Ceremony Brochure]
  8. Bell Helicopter Fort Worth Plant, for its historic significance (Fort Worth, Texas, USA). Since 1951, Bell Helicopter’s Fort Worth campus has been the source of some of the most iconic, reliable, enduring and recognizable helicopters in the world. Selected: March 2017; Dedication: Dec. 18, 2018 [Press Release | Ceremony]
  9. The Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia, USA). Founded in 1930 through a grant via a Guggenheim Aeronautics Grant, it was one of the first universities in the United States to offer a formal education in rotorcraft. Selected: March 2018 Dedication: Nov. 28, 2018 [Press Release | Ceremony]
  10. Weston-super-Mare Airport (Somerset, Great Britain). The site has been involved with helicopters since in 1945. The factory was involved in Westland Helicopter production and overhaul work from 1960 to 2002. Today, the Helicopter Museum, which opened on the property in 1989, keeps the heritage of the site alive. Selected: March 2018; Dedication: Nov. 15, 2018 [Press Release | Ceremony]
  11. The Henrich Focke Wind Tunnel (Bremen, Germany): The wind tunnel, finished in 1963, was built by German helicopter pioneer Henrich Focke and was his last research laboratory. In addition, the site was previously the workshop of the carpenter who had built the first wind tunnel model for Focke-Wulf in 1923. Selected: April 2019; Dedication: Sept. 15, 2019 [Press Release | Ceremony]

  12. The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (St. Louis, Missouri, USA): In 1943, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (MAC), established a helicopter division to embark on new rotorcraft designs that advanced the state of the art. At this site (now Boeing), MAC designed, developed and flew record-setting twin rotors, tipjet rotor and compound tipjet powered helicopters. Selected: April 2020; Dedication: TBA [Press Release]
  13. The former Hughes Helicopter Culver City Plant (Playa Vista, Los Angeles, California, USA): This was the site of all Hughes Helicopter research, development and production from 1948 to 1983, including the XH-17 and XH-28 tipjet flying cranes in the 1950s, and the Model 269 and 369 light helicopters. This is also where the AH-64 Apache was designed and developed. Selected: March 2021; Dedication: TBA [Press Release | Hughes Heritage Site Backgrounder
  14. Sikorsky’s Bridgeport facility (Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA): This facility is recognized for 70+ years of historic contributions — from its start in 1943 as the production site for “the world’s first production helicopter,” the Sikorsky R-4, to modern engineering and technological contributions to the vertical flight products of Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company. Selected: March 2022; Dedication: TBA [Press Release]
  15. The Sikorsky Development Flight Center (West Palm Beach, Florida, USA): This facility is recognized as the test site for dozens of significant research, development and certification programs. It has been the home to a significant number of rotorcraft technology breakthroughs, including fly-by-wire flight control systems, next-generation coaxial rotor development and the practical demonstration of full autonomous flight, and has witnessed numerous helicopter world speed and altitude records. Selected: March 2023; Dedication: TBA 2024 [Press Release]
  16. Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel at the University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland, USA): The wind tunnel has been the site of many tests of VTOL aircraft designs and associated components beginning in the 1950s and continuing to the present. Vertical flight aircraft tested include helicopters (tandem and single rotor); jet VTOL; tilt-wing; rotor research; aerodynamic; component drag and stability studies. Selected: March 2024; Dedication: TBA 2024 [Press Release]

The VFS Vertical Flight Heritage Sites Program grew out of the AIAA Historic Aerospace Sites Program. Members of the VFS History Committee supported AIAA's program by making numerous successful vertical flight site nominations for recognition. The Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in 2013 was the last ceremony for the AIAA Historic Aerospace Sites Program; after it was discontinued, VFS initiated the Vertical Flight Heritage Sites Program to carry on the tradition of recognizing the most important historical sites for the vertical flight community. 

Nomination packages for Vertical Flight Heritage Sites including nomination form, endorsements and all supporting documentation are be due at the beginning of February each year. See the Heritage Sites nomination application for requirements and details and the VFS awards nomination page

To be recognized as a VFS Vertical Flight Heritage Site, the location should be:
  1. Historically significant in the development or operation of rotary-wing or VTOL aircraft
  2. Historically significant in the life or career of a vertical flight pioneer
  3. Approved for recognition by the current property owner
  4. Easily accessible to the public.
Last updated: 2024-03-22