The year is 1945, the World is still in chaos with World War Two finally being over. Europe is in the stages of being rebuilt and divided.
Norman Edgar is in the United States starting his newest company, the Helicopter Air Transport. Located in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Edgar and Jonathan Wilford would become the very first company to operate helicopters commercially.
As the company began Helicopter Air Transport (HAT) began hiring ex Army Air Corp helicopter pilots and former World War Two pilots. Pilot Peter Wright, a former Second World War pilot with the “Flying Tigers” in China, was hired as the sales manager. The new chief pilot was Major Frank T. Cashman, a former Army Air Force chief instructor pilot on helicopters at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. On July 29, 1946, Sikorsky Aircraft became the first to deliver a helicopter — the S-51 — for commercial use.
The aircraft had its airworthiness certificate, and would be operated on a temporary type certificate until the official one was awarded the following year. HAT would later order two more S-51s on order for general and charter use, at a cost of $48,500 per aircraft. As it turned out, HAT received the S-51s at a bargain price, as the type later sold at $70,000. Bell Aircraft delivered the first of three Bell 47Bs to HAT on Dec. 31, 1946. Each one cost $25,000, taking HAT’s investment in its first six helicopters to over $220,000. As they grew their contracts also grew, flying everything from passengers to US Mail, the cost to rent a Bell 47B was about $75/hour and around $125/hour for the larger S-51. This was a considerable amount of money in 1946. The passenger rate per mile (one way) was estimated to be about 35 cents.
During the fall of 1946, all three S-51s were put to work. They moved commuters and executives, inspected powerlines and pipelines, carried out water surveys, helped police departments, performed experimental forest fire patrols, and completed some limited crop dusting and spraying of crops and pesticides. They also offered simple helicopter rides, flew publicity flights at baseball and football games, served as aerial taxis from Philadelphia to the Atlantic City racetrack, transported politicians on campaigns, performed aerial photography, and even transported Santa Claus over the holidays.
That September, an S-51 was destroyed in a training accident. Around the same time, HAT’s financial problems began to be a serious issue. There was simply not enough cash coming in to cover the costs of running a helicopter company. As a result, on Oct. 21, it filed for bankruptcy.
It was given 30 days to reorganize, but unfortunately it was forced to shut down.
Sikorsky repossessed HAT’s two S-51s, and later sold them to the U.S. Coast Guard and to the French government. The three Bell 47Bs were taken back by Bell, and sold to Rick Helicopters and New England Helicopter Service.
HAT’s assets were sold in a public auction at the Central Airport in Camden on April 2, 1948. The XR-1A was sold to Frank Piasecki, and was flown to the Piasecki facilities by Leavitt.