Gerald J. Tobias
United States of America
1926 - 2015
Gerald Jerome Tobias was born on July 6, 1926, in Winona, Minnesota, to Arthur and Ruby Tobias. He served in US Marine Corps during World War II (1943-1944) as an aviator. Tobias was president of Sikorsky Aircraft from December 1973 to January 1981. He worked for the Martin Company from 1948 until 1962, when he became the Director of Operations for Boeing’s “Plant 1” in Seattle, Washington, which at that time was used to produce components for Boeing aircraft at other plants. He later became the General Manager of the Turbine Division and Director of Program Administration for Boeing’s 747 Division, responsible for 70% of the aircraft’s material procurement totaling $2.6B (in 1970 dollars) for the first 200 of the jumbo jets.
In 1967 he received a Sloan Fellowship to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, being the first person to receive such an honor without an undergraduate degree. (He was later bestowed honorary Doctorates in Engineering Science and Engineering from Bridgeport University and Bridgeport Engineering Institute, respectively.)
In 1971, Tobias moved to San Diego, California, as Group Vice President for Aerospace and Marine at The Rohr Corporation, until being selected as the 11th President of Sikorsky Aircraft in 1973.
Under his direction, Sikorsky’s UH-60A helicopter won the Utility Tactical Transport Aircraft System (UTTAS) / Black Hawk helicopter competition in 1976, perhaps the most lucrative US military helicopter program ever, as well the US Navy’s SH-60B Seahawk and the US Navy/Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. Tobias also launched and placed into production “the company’s and the nation’s first privately-financed, mediumlift commercial helicopter,” the Sikorsky S-76. During his tenure, the S-72 Rotor System Research Aircraft (RSRA) was also developed and tested.
In 1979, he was nominated as an Aviation Week and Space Technology Laureate. Flying Magazine noted in November 1981, that Tobias “did much to foster the image of the helicopter as a corporate tool, and many observers were surprised when he was removed from his post with the company, a division of United Technology.” He worked for a while as senior vice president of Fairchild Industries. When Rogerson Aircraft acquired to rights to Hiller Helicopter in 1984, Tobias was named as President of Rogerson Hiller Corp. In the early 2000s, he served on the board of InTheAirNet, now a Rogerson in-flight entertainment product.
Gerald J. Tobias passed away on Nov. 14, 2015, in Huntington Beach, California; he was 89.
Tobias served as AHS President (1975-1976), then Chairman of the Board AHS (1976-1977), and then chairman of the Society’s Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) from 1977-1978.
AHS International is accepting donations to the Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) towards scholarships in the name of each of these luminaries of vertical flight.
AHS Update: Vertiflite March/April 2016