16-Nov-2015 Source: HAI
Jim Ricklefs — founder of Ricks Helicopters, the last surviving founding member of the California Helicopter Association (which would grow to be HAI), and the first president of that association — passed away last Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. He was 101.
“The loss of Jim Ricklefs is the loss of part of our institutional heritage,” said current HAI President and CEO Matt Zuccaro. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ricklefs family.”
Jim Ricklefs was born on March 9, 1914. He learned to fly fixed-wing aircraft in 1933, while attending Stanford University. He married is wife Nadine in 1936. They had three daughters.
Ricklefs first soloed a helicopter in 1947. In 1948, he purchased two Bell 47s and started Ricks Helicopters, which grew to be the world’s largest civilian helicopter operator in the world for a time in the 1950s.
Also in 1948, Ricklefs and 11 other helicopter operators in California met to discuss matters of mutual interest to the fledgling industry. From that meeting was born the California Helicopter Association, with Ricklefs as its first president. CHA’s reach very quickly grew nationwide and the organization rechristened itself the Helicopter Association of America. Then in 1981, with a burgeoning worldwide helicopter industry, the association took its current name, Helicopter Association International.
Ricklefs was an avid restorer of classic aircraft — both fixed-wing and rotor. Among others, he restored a Sikorsky R4B, two Sikorsky R6As, “a couple” of Hiller Rotorcycles (in Ricklefs’ words), a number of Fairchild fixed-wing aircraft, and two World War I–era aircraft: a 1916 Spad fighter and 1916 Sopwith Scout, nicknamed the Sopwith Pup.
Ricklefs was a member of numerous aviation organizations, including Helicopter Club of America, American Helicopter Society, National Aeronautic Association, the Aero Club of Northern California, Quiet Birdmen, the Early Birds, Air Force Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, OX-5 Aviation Pioneers, Twirly Birds, Whirly-Girls Men’s Auxiliary, Western Aerospace Museum, the Hiller Aviation Museum, and the American Aviation Historical Society.
“It was my sincere honor and pleasure to know Jim, a true gentleman with a passionate life-long commitment to the helicopter industry,” said Zuccaro. “We in the industry owe a debt of gratitude to Jim and his peers for creating HAI, which gives voice to thousands of helicopter operators worldwide and allows us to represent the interest of the international helicopter community.”
Ricklefs is survived by two daughters, 11 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife and a daughter.
A graveside service is scheduled at the El Carmelo Cemetery in Pacific Grove, California on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015.