Worked To Further Legacy Of Father's Company, Aircraft
Aero-News learned with
sadness this week that autogiro proponent Steven Pitcairn
passed away Saturday, March 29, at the age of 83.
The Experimental Aircraft Association notes Steven was the son
of Harold Pitcairn, the founder of Pitcairn Aircraft and the
original license holder to built autogiro aircraft based on the
designs of inventor Juan de la Cierva. A subsidiary of the aircraft
manufacturer, Pitcairn Airways, was the founding company for what
later became Eastern Airlines.
Building upon his father's legacy, Steve Pitcairn (shown above,
with EAA President Tom Poberezny) was a successful businessman in
his own right, and an aviation enthusiast in the broadest sense. As
his resources allowed, he began to collect and have restored many
of the aircraft built by his father’s company.
In a tribute to Steven on the EAA website, the organization
recognized him as an active participant in both the research and
restoration of his aircraft, noting he worked to ensure that the
contributions of his family to aviation history would not fade from
existence. The first to be restored was a PA-5 Mailwing.
Three of the aircraft built by his father’s company -- a
Pitcairn PCA-2 autogiro, "Miss Champion," a PA-7S Sport Mailwing,
and a PA-39 autogiro built for the Royal Air Force -- are now part
of the EAA collection.
The Mailwing, NC95W, is a movie celebrity, having been used in a
number of Hollywood movies, including Blaze of Noon starring
William Bendix and Claudette Colbert.
The PCA-2 is one of only two remaining examples of the unique
aviation artifact. Formerly owned by the Champion Spark Plug
Company, and used for promotional purposes, it was later placed on
display in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. From
there it went to a small museum and then storage area in Vermont,
where it was discovered by Steven Pitcairn and restored with the
help of George Townson, one of the pioneers of the autogiro era.
When Pitcairn flew it to the EAA Convention in 1986, it was the hit
of the event.
"Steve was a dedicated aviation historian and he exhibited a
quiet passion for aviation," said EAA president Tom Poberezny. "He
enjoyed sharing his passion with his fellow EAA members though his
activities and when demonstrating the Pitcairn aircraft he brought
to our convention. His contributions to aviation history and his
willingness to share his expertise will be missed."
Steve Pitcairn was an active contributor to the EAA Aviation
Foundation, on which he served as a director, and he continued to
be an important and valued advisor and contributor to EAA’s
programs. His generous underwriting of the construction of the
Pitcairn Aviation hangar at EAA’s Pioneer Airport, which was
dedicated in 1993, will long serve as a reminder of the legacy of
the Pitcairn family, and of the generous spirit of Steven