Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America
John B. Nichols, an AHS member since 1952, passed away in mid-June in Kent, Washington. Nichols received his Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was named an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Nichols started his career with General Electric in 1946 working on the development of jet engines. He then participated in Kellett Aircraft Corp.'s effort to develop the experimental XH-17, a large heavy-lift helicopter which used a hot-air-cycle tip-driven rotor. In 1952 he joined Hiller Aircraft Company and he was promoted to Manager of Advanced Planning and Research. During this period Hiller pioneered the tilt-wing concept and their "propeller-plane" led directly to the development of the X-18 for the Air Force and subsequently the XC-142, jointly produced by Vought-Hiller-Ryan.
In 1965 John relocated to Seattle to work for Boeing Company and head up marketing for their Industrial Turbine Div. After Boeing's decision to withdraw from turbine development, Nichols created his own company, United Technical Industries to consult on turbomachinery and helicopters, specifically in the agricultural field. The following year he joined Hughes Tool's Aircraft Div. as Manager of their Heavy-lift Helicopter program. In 1972 he had moved to the Aerospace Corp. to be their Special Studies Manager, Non-Military markets. While there he developed a new concept hybrid heavy-lift aircraft, spurred by his investigations of various aircraft concepts for use in logging.
In 1974, after starting his own business once again, he had a long term consulting contract with All American Engineering Company on the Aerocrane, a nique heavy-lift hybrid lighter-than-air concept with rotary wing elements. After he completed this effort Nichols joined Transland Inc. as their chief engineer and two years later he became the Director of the Wing Energy program of the state of California's Energy Commission. In 1981 Nichols was offered and the position of Vice President, Engineering at Aerolift to work on the 'Cyclo-Crane,' a hybrid heavy-lift airship that had a blimp hull. He helped develop the half-scale prototype of this proposed 16-ton payload lifter, which was funded by the US Forest Service.
After leaving Aerolift Nichols rejoined Boeing as a Senior Aeronautical Engineer where he remained until his retirement. He held numerous patents in propulsion and aircraft systems and has authored more than thirty professional papers and articles. His professional papers can be found in the Boeing Museum of Flight.
AHS Update: Vertiflite Sept/Oct 1993