Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America

1928 - 2020

Jack Fetsko, Piasecki/Vertol

Helicopter pioneer John J. (“Jack”) Fetsko, 92, of Media, Pennsylvania, passed away peacefully at home on Aug. 12, 2020. Born April 18, 1928, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Fetsko was the son of Helen D. Fetsko (née Hughes) and the late Andrew (“Bud”) Fetsko. He graduated from G.A.R. Memorial High School in 1946, where he excelled in sports including discus throw. Fetsko was proud to serve in the US Navy on the submarine tender USS H.W. Gilmore and was a “plank owner” of the aircraft carrier the USS Coral Sea.

Since the age of 5, and second only to his family, Fetsko’s love was aviation, specifically helicopters. He earned his private pilot license in the late 1940s and his commercial pilot license in 1956, followed by the addition of a helicopter rating. Fetsko started working for Piasecki Helicopter Corporation in 1951 (which became Vertol Aircraft Corporation in 1956 and then Boeing Vertol in 1960). During this period, Fetsko’s many jobs included assembly mechanic, crew chief, experimental crew chief for the H-21 Shawnee/Workhorse helicopter, and a technical representative (“Tech Rep”).

For a brief period, he left the company to start Philadelphia Helicopter Airways in 1959 and established the first helicopter traffic patrol in Philadelphia for radio station WPEN. He also provided helicopter rides at the Atlantic City, New Jersey, Steel Pier. In 1962, he returned to Boeing Vertol to introduce the BV107 (civil version of the CH-46 Sea Knight) helicopter to New York Helicopter Airways, in New York City. Fetsko worked as service engineer and base manager during the first two years of that operation, followed by international liaison and chief for CH-46 field operations.

Fetsko left Boeing in 1968 to start Fetsko Aviation Sales and Transportation, and later Spitfire Aerospace Technologies, which focused on developing, designing and installing improvements on helicopters. He was also the operator of New London Airport in New London, Pennsylvania, and later owner/operator of Spitfire Aerodrome in Pedricktown, New Jersey. He had a large role in establishing the first helicopter medevac program for Crozer-Chester Medical Center and its Burn Treatment Center, as well as providing helicopter patrol for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Reading Railroad and Shadow Traffic. He helped many aspiring pilots, male and female, and many former military aviators to build flight time and go on to successful aviation careers. Fetsko’s many aviation accomplishments and contributions were often written about in publications, including a 1977 cover story for Rotor & Wing magazine.

His numerous flying adventures often took place while piloting some of his favorite aircraft including the Stinson Reliant airplane, the H-21 or Enstrom helicopters, and the Spitfire Mark I, an experimental modified-to-turbine-engine Enstrom he designed. For many decades, Fetsko was a very active supporter of the (then) AHS Philadelphia Chapter.

He was a VFS Emeritus Member who joined in 1956. Fetsko also cooperated with Polish-American engineers and had number of professional contacts with the Polish aviation industry, PZL-Świdnik and PZL-Mielec.

His friend, VFS member Dr. John Romanski, wrote that “Jack will be missed by helicopter community in Philadelphia.”

Source: "In Memoriam," Vertiflite November/December, 2020