East of downtown West Chester off Paoli Pike, just a brief stroll from QVC Studio Park, you’ll find the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center, a different breed of national treasure altogether. Small but significant, AHMEC celebrates the history, science and technology of rotary-wing aviation—perhaps more thoroughly than any such museum in the country.
With over 40 civilian and military autogiros, convertiplanes and helicopters in its collection, AHMEC has been restoring and displaying historic aircraft since 1996. As you’d expect, its exhibits chronicle the efforts of all the helicopter-industry heavyweights, among them Delaware County’s Frank Piasecki.
An AHMEC director and active supporter until his death in 2008, Piasecki was the world’s second successful helicopter engineer, and he may be best known for his tandem-rotor designs. His family’s considerable aviation legacy is the subject of senior writer J.F. Pirro’s “Nowhere to Go But Up” (page 50), a feature five years in the making, with various starts and stops. “Ever since about a year after Frank’s death, I’ve thought that a local inventor-pioneer of his stature deserved our salute,” he says.
As he gathered information, tracked down sources, and conducted interviews, Pirro found that he could relate to the Piasecki family’s story. “I was raised with the same driving, domineering work ethic, with an emphasis on education,” Pirro says. “In several instances, I felt like I was talking to myself when I spoke with Frank’s children. We had the same upbringing—though far from the same financial base—with the same leveling factor: an emphasis on traditional values.”
For Pirro, work ethic and education transcend all financial factors in a world of increasing disparities between the haves and the have-nots. “The constant has to be the traditional and family values, the things that seem to be lacking in those who can’t—and aren’t—keeping pace in the world today,” he says. “I’ve had that, and am still fortunate to have that. The Piaseckis had that in two incredibly influential parents. Too many of our young people today don’t. In my mind, that’s what allows people to either succeed or fail.”
WINNING WORK: Congratulations to Main Line Today contributor Vlad Alvarez, who has twice made the cut for the prestigious Creative Quarterly. His illustrations for April 2014’s End of the Line column and our most recent Healthcare Guide’s “Toddler Therapy” feature will be included in the fall and winter issues, respectively. To see more of Alvarez’s work, visit www.vladalvarez.com.
Hope you’re having a great fall.