The Hummingbird Logo

Vertical Flight Society logo (linear)

On April 19, 2018, the American Helicopter Society International, Inc. announced its new brand name as the "Vertical Flight Society," and its new logo. (A logo guide on usage is also available.)

Since the idea of forming the American Helicopter Society was first conceived in February 1943, the hummingbird has been its symbol. Nicknamed "Hovey," she has changed over the years but has remained the enduring symbol of the Vertical Flight Society.  

In a "Letter to the Editor" in the March/April 1995 issue of Vertiflite, AHS founding member Chester (Chet) D. Mayerson recalls:

I proposed the society's logo — the silhouetted hummingbird. I won a contest over such other entries as a dragonfly, the VS 300 and various combinations of the letters A-H-S. My sketch pictured the bird in forward flight enclosed in an ellipse. An artist [Ron Canaverde] pulled the bird's tail down and encircled the silhouette with the words American Helicopter Society. And there she has hovered untiringly for 50-plus years.

During the two years that I was on the board, the AHS conducted the first of many technical meetings, held the very successful October 1944 banquet, published its first document (a Semi-Technical Note), established remote (to Bridgeport) chapters and recruited a membership of many hundreds, with assorted genders, citizenships, and backgrounds. I am most fortunate to have been a part of this history.

An explanation of the symbolism of the logo was first included in the “The American Helicopter Quarterly,” Vol. I, No. 1 (unfortunately the only issue ever printed) published in January 1946.

In the helicopter man has emulated one of nature’s most beautiful, agile and maneuverable creatures of flight:  the humming bird.  Like this tiniest of all birds, the helicopter can hover in free air, move with equal ease sidewards, backwards, up, down, or in an iota of time be buzzing forward at a comparatively high rate of speed.  It required little argument to convince the Society’s membership that the humming bird should serve as the central figure in the Society’s emblem.

Original AHS member pinThe emblem, as it is duplicated on the Society pin – and reproduced on the cover of The Quarterly – embodies the silhouette of a blue humming bird hovering on a white circular background.  Between two concentric gold circles ringing the white is printed, in gold on red, the name of the Society.  The color scheme of red, white and blue, of course, emphasizes the American origin of the Society.

These words were expanded in scope by 1970 as the word "helicopter" was expanded to mean all vertical flight aircraft: 

The American Helicopter Society

 . . . The Society for Vertical Flight 

In the helicopter and other types of direct-lift aircraft man emulates one of nature's most agile and maneuverable creatures of flight, the hummingbird. Like this tiniest of all birds, these VTOL (vertical take-off-and-landing) machines can hover in free air, move with equal ease sidewards, backwards, up, down, or accelerate rapidly to forward flight. Appropriately, the Society's emblem embodies the silhouette of a hummingbird. The bird, in blue, is outlined in gold and hovers on a white circular background. Name of the Society appears in gold on red between two gold concentric circles ringing the white area. The red, white and blue color scheme emphasizes U.S. origin of the Society.

AHS logo: Forum 22 (1966)AHS logo: Forum 14 (1958)

In 1957, the "Inc." was dropped on the logo used in the Forum program and the letters were stretched to fill the circumference of the logo, while shrunk in height, creating a modern look for the font. The black & white logo to the right appeared on the cover of the Forum 14 program that year. (Interestingly, on the AHS Newsletter — the precursor to Vertifilte — the older "Inc." logo was used for several more years, as can be clearly shown in the famous photo with President Eisenhower on the May 1960 cover.)

A color version of the logo appeared on the cover of the Forum 22 program in 1966.  

AHS Inc. The Society for Vertical Flight 1969Over the years, there were many cases of overlapping logo useage.

Although the "Inc." had first been eliminated in the 1957 Forum program, for the 25th Annual Forum in May 1969, the Forum program "Day-by-Day" schedule used the original logo but with an added "The Society for Vertical Flight" underneath the logo.

(The "Inc." logo occasionally reappeared, and can even be seen in 1982 issues of Vertiflite.) 

AHS International logo, Vertiflite 1982In the 1970s, the Annual Forum was called the “Annual National V/STOL Forum,” but then the Society’s leadership recognized that “National” and “American” were no longer sufficient to represent the organization.

From the July/August 1977 issue of Vertiflite to early 1982, the Society added the word “International” below the AHS logo. (Beginning with the March/April 1982 issue of Vertiflite, the masthead changed to have no logo.)

AHS AHS Nikolsky MedalIn the 1980s, the image of Hovey was altered for the first time. She was outlined in yellow, with definition of some individual feathers added.

This is the image that was cast for the annual Alexander A. Nikolsky Lecture medallion that was awarded from 1981 through 2016, when the last of the "feather bird" medallions was bestowed. 

AHS International logo (circa 2011)In the early 1990s, as the Society approached its 50th anniversary, it again considered how best to descripe the technical society that was far more expansive than helicopter technology developed or flown in the United States.

Having used "American Helicopter Society" with "International" as far back as 1977, and used words like "The Society for Vertical Flight" as far back as 1969, the Society began calling itself “An International Vertical Flight Organization” in 1992. 

Most profound, however, was when the Society unofficially changed the name to “AHS International” in 1997 with the tagline “The Vertical Flight Society.” Hovey's feathers were trimmed again with the new logo, which also went digital for the first time, and assumed her now iconic shape.

A wide variety of color schemes and accents were used during the 2000s by Kay Brackins, who was serving as the AHS Art Director at the time.

2016 Avenir logoIn mid-2011, with the arrival of Mike Hirschberg as Executive Director, the tagline was changed to "The Vertical Flight Technical Society" to highlight the unique focus of the Society (though this was later seen as overly specific and difficult to say as part of a name). At the same time, the process to change the legal name of the Society — to "The American Helicopter Society International, Inc." — was begun, which became official in January 2012. 

In 2016, to emphasize that AHS was far beyond helicopters, the tagline "The Vertical Flight Technical Society" was appended to the logo and used into 2018. The colors were also corrected to the official Pantone colors of the US flag. 

The Vertical Flight Society

Vertical Flight Society logo (small stacked)Today, the rebranded Vertical Flight Society has continued this long tradition and brought Hovey into the 21st century, freeing her from the bounds of the more convention rings of the AHS logos, as she accelerates forward to the next generation of vertical flight. 

The new logo, designed by VFS staff member Randy Johnson, was unveiled in April 2018, with this explanation in Vertiflite, May/June 2018 issue:

The colors of the AHS logo have long been the red, white and blue of the American flag, signifying the heritage of the Society; these colors are retained in the new logo. The hummingbird, named “Hovey” decades ago, endures as the symbol of vertical flight and of the Society; she also remains outlined in yellow to evoke the gold fringe and eagle that embellish the flag. The name of the Society is also in blue, providing an enduring bond with the vertical flight capabilities of the hummingbird. Finally, the red arc depicts the tip path of rotating blades that generate lift or thrust — the quintessential essence of technology that defines the domain of the Vertical Flight Society.