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The last American helicopter pioneer takes off 270

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From the American Helicopter Website.

Glidden (Glid) Sweet Doman, a pioneer in the helicopter industry, died Monday, June 6, 2016. He was an Emeritus Member of AHS International, having joined the then-American Helicopter Society in 1945.

Doman was born in Syracuse, NY in 1921. In his teens, he built motorized go-carts and an aerodynamically streamlined Soapbox Derby racer; when he was 15, he was the winner of the 1936 Syracuse Regional Soap Box Derby race, and competed in the national race in Cleveland.

After he graduated from the University of Michigan, his brother invited him to attend a Society of Automotive Engineers (now SAE International) meeting where Igor I. Sikorsky was speaking. That sparked an interest in helicopters — still a very new invention — and their rotor blades, which back then suffered quickly from fatigue.

In 1943, Doman went to work for Sikorsky (then the Vought-Sikorsky Division of United Aircraft) in Bridgeport, Connecticut, participating in intensive experimentation and flight testing, and making considerable improvements in the helicopters’ blade life. It was during World War II, and his contributions were so vital that Igor Sikorsky himself appealed to the draft board to keep him on the test program.

In 1945, Glid Doman founded Doman Helicopters Inc., which built several small helicopters and was headquartered at Danbury Airport. Although not finding commercial success, Doman developed innovations decades earlier than larger competitors; some of them are now standard in today’s helicopter technology.

The pinnacle of Doman’s helicopter development was embodied in the LZ-5 “Air Taxi.” The LZ-5 went through a series of design refinements and the Doman-Fleet LZ-5 (built by Fleet Aircraft in Fort Erie, Ontario) in the mid-1950s was the second helicopter developed in Canada.

The company closed in 1969, having peaked at 130 employees. Two Doman helicopters are now on display at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. After his company went out of business, Mr. Doman spent the next few years with Boeing, designing rotors for its Vertol XCH-62 heavy-lift helicopter and performing other rotor research.

He then turned to a new career, becoming chief systems engineer of the wind energy program at Hamilton Standard, developing very large wind turbines, which have some common technology with helicopters. In 2003, he formed a new company, Gamma Ventures Inc., to market production rights for the Gamma turbines he helped design in Italy.

Doman, who lived in Granby, Connecticut, remained active well into his 90s and, until his death, was the last founder of one of the original half-dozen companies in the US helicopter industry still living.

A retrospective on Glidden Doman was featured in the AHS Vertiflite magazine in the Fall/Winter 1998 issue. His earliest AHS technical paper (“Attacking the Maintenance Problem through Mechanical Design”) was presented at the 4th Annual Forum in 1948.

Mr. Doman presented a comprehensive history of Doman Helicopters and his lifetime of work at the August 2013 meeting of the AHS International History Committee, which is available for download. AHS International is now accepting donations for a Vertical Flight Foundation scholarship award in Doman's name. Contributions may be made at www.vtol.org/vff.
 
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