Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America
Dr. W. Laurence LePage received the Society's Honorary Fellowship in 1980 in recognition of his over thirtyfive years of contributions to the helicopter field. A true pioneer, Dr. LePage aggressively campaigned with the U. S. Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and the Postal Service for support of the Dorsey Bill (HR-8143) to provide funding for helicopter development.
In his early career, LePage helped form Kellett Autogiro Corporation where he was Vice President and Chief Engineer until 1933. At Keflett, LePage became acquainted with Haviland Platt during development of his Cyclogiro.
LePage formed Platt-LePage Aircraft Company in 1939, combining the talents and abilities of LePage, Platt, Laurence Rockefeller, and Grover Loaning. He formed the company specifically to design and build the PL-3 twin-rotored helicopter, later designated by the Army as the XR-1
Under his leadership as President and Chief Engineer, the company was awarded the U. S. Army contract for the XR-1 in July 1940, with the first flight taking place in April, 1941, and the first delivery to the U. S. Army in 1944
"The history of aviation seems to be one of extremes. The first flight of the Wright Brothers — the first flight in history — was made at forty miles per hour, not because they wanted to fly at that speed, but because it was at that speed the plane could fly. Indeed, speed became part of the success of the achievement. The early pioneers soon learned it was easier to fly faster than slower. In fact, airplanes flew so fast in those days that the landing speed became a hazard, and designers built 'spoilers' into the wings so that pilots could make safer landing.
Indeed, one remembers the air races, airplanes racing past and round pylons, the Schneider Cup Race once a year for airplanes with pontoons instead of wheels for landing on water. And so speed became a main feature of aviation.
Because private flying and business aviation, as well as air transportation, grew rapidly, engineers began to look for something new and adaptable to the needs of the private flyer. In England, Juan de la Cierva, the brilliant young engineer from Spain, developed models which, with a spinning rotor made of bamboo, just glided gently to the ground.
To read the rest of the reflections of Dr. W. Laurence LePage click here