Atomic Hangovers

The Cold War That Wasn’t – The Hiller Pawnee

I sniped you!

Look Ma no wires!

There are some ideas that are just so nineteen fifties that you expect Sid Ceaser to jump out of the screen while you read about it. This is one of them.



How do you we get our soldiers across the battlefield of the future as quickly as possible. More importantly how can we do this in as futuristic a way as possible. Hiller was always a step of everyone else with their designs and would step up once again with the Pawnee. Because, let’s face it, nothing says mobile soldiers flying platform like the word Pawnee.

So in practice it actually worked pretty well. It balanced well and did everything that it was designed to do. There was just one issue really. Which was the idea of putting these into the hands of Army privates with little training.  Now go look at the opening picture to this article and think about the reality of that kind of thing and you can see why the US military had their doubts about this.  The idea of being able to just knock soldiers who were sitting out in the open like this was too hard for them to accept. Later variants of this would start to work on fixes for this. Until then the future would have to wait.


General characteristics

Crew: one
Payload: 185 lb (84 kg)
Length: 8 ft 4 in diameter (2.54 m)
Rotor diameter: 7 ft (2.13 m)
Height: 7 ft (2.13 m)
Empty weight: 370 lb (167.8 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 555 lb (251.7 kg)
Powerplant: × 2 × Nelson H-56 piston engines, 40 hp (30 kW) each
Propellers: 2 × contra-rotating two-bladed aluminum
Transmission: Hall-Scott helicopter variant

Maximum speed: 16 mph (26 km/h)
Service ceiling: 32.8 ft (10 m)

Someday this concept will be revived again. You just know it will.

The lone Hiller camouflaged among the pack

This is one of those fun flip of the dice concepts. It’s so close to being a good idea and so close to being a bad idea. Hiller was a great company for this. This is also a great example of where adding a skirt to the bottom would have made it a viable platform but I digress.   So imagine a Cold War where the Hiller was produced. Which would have forced the Russians to do the same thing. These are rather simple designs with dual forty five horsepower piston motors. Every border crossing would have soldiers floating instead of walking along. We really would have seen the future. Right until the motor backfired and the opposing soldier opened fire.

  • Rob Connolly

    This sounds bonkers for a supposed ‘scout’! I presume it would be loud, so it would instantly draw hostile attention. If the payload is only 84 kilos then your crewman can carry a radio or binoculars or a rifle with ammo – not all three. And it would elevate him high in the sky, absent any cover or concealment. What about bird-strike? Or folks out hunting ducks?

  • Victor

    That had to be a shaky platform,any gust of wind would skew your flight pattern. Recipe for disaster.

  • P161911

    “Look Ma no magazine!” That carbine doesn’t even have a magazine. Maybe ammo was over the weight capacity.

  • Batshitbox

    I see this thing whenever I visit the Hiller Aircraft Museum in San Carlos, CA, along with a lot of other Hiller machines you wouldn’t think feasible if there weren’t archival footage of them working.

    I think it would have been good for the West Siberian Plain, if we ever had troops out there. You’re right, though; given what happened when GIs got Jeeps I think this would have increased our losses in personnel.

  • Wayne Moyer

    Just to let you and the others know. I haven’t stopped writing.I just got wildly overloaded at work. I have several things waiting to go to start the next series. I hope to get the next one started tomorrow. It also means i keep pushing the big series off. I’m actually quite looking forward to writing it since i have gotten input from here and G+ about what I should put in it.
    So I’m sorry there has been a bit of a lull. I will try to catch up with “Antiquity in the Time of the Atom” before we get to the Cold War Flying Boats that been on the back burner for two years.

    • P161911

      I still keep thinking that i should write an article that ties together Winchester, General Motors, IBM, Rock-Ola, National Postal Meter, and National Hardware. The M-1 carbine!

    • Vairship

      Cold War flying boats? I hope you have access to: I mean, otherwise you’d miss out on talking about things like the concept for a sea plane version of the B-36…

      • Wayne Moyer

        That book has been on my Amazon wish list for ages. I need to pull the trigger.

    • Rob Connolly

      Thank you for your candour. Also, damn your job. Damn it to heck!

  • jeepjeff

    I’m just amazed they got this thing working with 1950s tech. Honestly, with the current trend in quad copters and modern computer controlled avionics, this might be more workable these days.