AHS logo, 1943
The original 1943 logo

The Establishment of the Vertical Flight Society

After organizational meetings at Sikorsky Aircraft were initiated in January 1943, the Society was founded on February 25, 1943, and was officially recognized by the State of Connecticut as "The American Helicopter Society, Incorporated" on June 25, 1943. In our 80 years of working to advance the state of the art of vertical flight technology, we have created an incredible legacy of advocacy, technical papers, publications and contributions to vertical flight. The name of the society has changed over the years, but our mission has remained constant: advancing vertical flight. 

Read this early retrospective by Harry M. Lounsbury, the first AHS Executive Secretary; it was published in 1956 in the first issue of The Journal of the American Helicopter Society to see how it all began. For a more comprehensive review, check out “Advancing Vertical Flight: A Historical Perspective on AHS International and its Times,” presented at Forum 72 in May 2016 by M.E. Rhett Flater (AHS Executive Director, 1991-2011) and L. Kim Smith (AHS Deputy Director, 1993-2011).

This extensive paper was further expanded into a 75th anniversary book in 2019, Advancing Vertical Flight: A History of the Vertical Flight Society, available for free download by VFS members from our Vertical Flight Library. Download it and read about the incredible legacy of the Vertical Flight Society!

Looking for helicopter history? Download the "The American Helicopter (1909-1999)" (pdf) booklet, written by VFS Executive Director Mike Hirschberg in 2000.

The First Annual Forum

The first American Helicopter Society Forum was held at the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, at 1317 Spruce Street, less than 3,000 ft (1 km) from today’s convention center. The one-day meeting, on Monday, April 23, 1945, started with a technical and engineering session at 1:30 pm, followed by an economic session and dinner at 6:30 pm. This seminal event — originally referred to as the Annual Philadelphia Helicopter Forum — "covered a wide range of subjects on which some 13 speakers presented their ideas to the gathering," according to Lounsbury's retrospective. 

The First Annual Dinner

1st Banquet photo The First Annual Dinner of the American Helicopter Society was held on October 7, 1944 in New York City (six months before the first Annual Forum). Check out a group photo or review the program below (click on each image for a high resolution close-up). You may recognize some of the pioneers! 

First Annual Dinner Program First Annual Dinner Program


Charles L. (Les) Morris (Sikorsky), President of AHS
James A.J. Bennett (Cierva), Vice-President of AHS
Prof. Igor A. Sikorsky (Sikorsky), AHS Technical Committee Chairman

First Honorary Fellowships:

COL H. Franklin Gregory (Army Air Corps)
Igor I. Sikorsky (Sikorsky)

This program was also signed by other founding pioneers:

Ralph P. Alex (Sikorsky) — Founding President of AHS
Arthur M. Young (Bell)
CAPT William J. Kossler (USCG)
W. Laurence LePage (Platt-LePage)*
Frank A. Tichenor (Aero Digest)
Wg Cdr Reggie Brie (RAF)

* misprinted as "W. Lawrence Le Page" in the program

More On History

Did you know the Annual Forum was held in Washington, D.C. for 31 of our first 36 years? Want to know where else we've been for the past seven decades? Check out our complete listing of Annual Forums!