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Memoirs of a Helicopter Pioneer

Lee L. Douglas (Author)

ISBN: 0-7414-2563-7 ©2005
Price: $13.95
Book Size: 5.5'' x 8.5'' , 146 pages
Category/Subject: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Science & Technology

Surrounded by men with legendary egos, Leon L. Douglas was “down to earth”. His motto was “Get to the Point”. He kept his nose to the grindstone and didn’t seek recognition for himself.

Lee L. Douglas was an internationally recognized helicopter pioneer. In spite of this recognition, he wanted to be known simply as a gypsy engineer because of his early job shuffling during the Depression years. But Lee was so much more. He led the engineering team that built the only successful tandem rotor helicopter still in service today. He was a past President of the American Helicopter Society. He won many awards and patents especially the Alexander Klemin award which is the highest award given by the American Helicopter Society. He graduated at the top of his engineering class at New York University.

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Customer Reviews

  An engineering associate's review , 10/11/2005
Reviewer: Carl Albrecht
I just recently finished reading "Memoirs of a Helicopter Pioneer". I was very impressed with the book and felt obligated to help promote it. I had worked with Lee for many years but I never really knew him as well as I do now. If you thought you knew him, well think again, read his book since there is a treasury of things I'm sure you never knew about Lee. In the early 90's I became aware that Lee was writing his memoirs. He offered to let me review his writings whenever he finished a chapter. I asked Lee if he intended to publish the material. The answer was no. He said he had been advised not to publish for personal reasons. I was pleased to learn that recently Lee's son,Dave, had the book published. In my estimation, Lee was an amazing person, an outstanding engineer, hardworking, outspoken, dedicated, and had a sense of humor that I never recognized until I read the book. He had an extremely broad and diverse knowledge base and was well known throughout the aircraft industry. His recollection of facts used to prepare this book is absolutely amazing. Even though the book is entitled "Memoirs of a Helicopter Pioneer", I think Lee would just as well have called it "The Adventures of a Gypsy Engineer". Lee had graduated from college during the depression ERA in the early thirties. Since there were no jobs on the east coast, he traveled westward hobo style. Lee talks about one of his earliest assignments in helping make mulligan stew at a hobo camp. One of his last assignments for Boeing was waste disposal. What a wide range of talent. What happened in between was even much more interesting and challeging. Lee's book covers his experiences at Piasecki Helicopters, later to become Vertol and then Boeing Vertol, and then Boeing Helicopters. The gypsy engineer never had to change locations during this period. During this time it is interesting to note what happened when the Boing culture met the Vertol culture and eventually resulted in changes to the management style. Lee covers many trips, meetings and experiences with people like Bill Allen, then President of Boeing, George Martin, Wellwood Beale, Ed Wells and George Schairer, then Boeing Vice President of Technology. Schairer was a constant visitor to Boeing Helicopters. I found Lee's relationship with his wife Sabina very interesting. Incidents involving both of them occured several times throughout the book. One of the funniest was when Sabina complained about the designs on the bedroom wall moving while she was trying to sleep at night in a first rate hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. It turned out that there were Chameleons placed intentionally in the rooms to take care of insects and bugs in this tropical humid climate. This is sinilar to many cultural differences around the world that I too have witnessed and found unusual. One of the most interesting stories about Lee involved his trip to Algeria, for the French to help them solve problems related to the H-21(that bucket of bolts) helicopter. On one of Lee's last trips, Setif the Commandant said "Lee Douglas is now inducted into the Army(French Foreign Legion) and will not leave until the helicopters are flying again". When the problems were solved there was a dinner party, attended by the commandant, during which Lee was made an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion Squadron and had the insignia, pinned on his lapel. I could go on and on but then I would be spoiling it for you. Another event I also found interesting was a meeting in France where Lee was having a discussion with a Professor Verhulst who predicted that should the United States try to replace the French in Indo-China they would fail and stated to Lee "No Nation has yet learned how to cope with insurgency warfare involving indigent peoples". My first thoughts on this were IRAQ-DON'T WE EVER LEARN? History repeats itself. So what else is new?

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