10-Jun-2011 Source: HAI
Helicopter pioneer, Harold “Hal” W. Symes paid a visit to HAI Headquarters on Wed., June 8, to speak with Martin J. Pociask, Helicopter Foundation International’s (HFI) vice president/curator about his long and noteworthy career. Symes has agreed to be a subject for an upcoming HFI Heritage Series interview—a series which charts helicopter history. The interviews are first published in ROTOR® magazine and then posted on HAI and HFI’s Web sites for access and study by students and researchers.
During his visit to HAI, Symes met with HAI President Matt Zuccaro. Symes and Zucarro enjoyed a long discussion, covering many aspects of the early days of rotorcraft flight and many of the men and women, past and present, who have contributed to the industry.
Symes began his career in the Army Air Force in World War II where he flew B25s and also served as an instructor. After the war, he joined Bell Aircraft Corporation, working for founder Larry Bell, and logged time in NC1H, the first C.A.A. licensed helicopter in the United States. Symes was Dick Stanbury’s first student at Bell’s newly started flight school. He was the 26th helicopter pilot to be trained at Bell. It took Symes three months and 25 hours to complete his training.
Symes flew with notable pilots and industry giants such as Wes Moore, Elton Smith, Tug Gustafson and Joe Mashman. He was among a group of pilots sent to Argentina to eradicate locusts. This was the first time helicopters were used for locust eradication missions; airplanes had been used since 1924. He then went to work for the U.S. Forest Service in California, where he served on the first Forest Service contract. Following that he briefly went to work for Hiller. Symes also trained the first Whirly-Girl, Ethel Schafer.
After Hiller, Symes went to work at Chicago Helicopter Airways alongside Wes Moore, with whom he had worked in Argentina. There he delivered mail to 28 cities around Chicago three times a day. A year later, the airline purchased S-55s and S-58s and began flying passengers. He worked there for 17 years.
He later went to work for Evergreen, where he demonstrated the commercial use of the S-64 Skycrane helicopter in construction. The first year at Evergreen, Symes arranged four helicopter construction projects, then 12 the next year, and 16 the following year, working with Carson and St. Louis Helicopters on many of those projects. Some notable projects include taking down climbing cranes from the tops of buildings in Atlanta, setting electric transmission towers (one 150 miles above the Arctic Circle in Sweden), and setting twin TV towers on top of the 1,500 foot high Sears Towers in downtown Chicago. He worked for Evergreen for 10 years.
Symes career included flying many famous people, including Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. Other luminaries he transported include aviation entrepreneur Howard Hughes and radio/TV personality Arthur Godfrey.
“I truly enjoy those times when I can speak with the pioneers of our industry such as Hal. As I listened to him speak of his career I felt as if I were watching a Discovery Channel special on the history of the helicopter industry,” said HAI President Matt Zuccaro. “People such as Hal Symes created the industry all of us are now making our living in and enjoy, and for that I thank him and the other pioneers.”
HFI looks forward to completing the interview with Hal Symes in the near future, and making it available to students and researchers, and sharing it with the international helicopter community.