Stanley Hiller was one of the pioneers in the U.S. helicopter industry. As WWII wound down he was putting his design ideas for a small three-place helicopter on paper. In 1948, this resulted in the certification of the Hiller UH 12. All the early helicopter designers struggled with the design challenge presented by the considerable forces involved in providing cyclic and collective control of the main rotor. Hiller used a unique but effective approach. Control for the UH 12 was provided by two small control blades mounted just below and perpendicular to the main rotor. The cyclic and collective sticks actually move these control blades and the control blades in turn control the main rotor blades.
The first UH 12 was a three-seat light helicopter that featured a Franklin engine and a wheeled landing gear. This helicopter was followed in 1950 by the upgraded UH 12A. All UH 12 could be upgraded to UH 12A status. About 200 UH 12 and UH 12A were manufactured. In 1951, the UH 12B was certificated and some 450 of these were manufactured until the UH 12C was certificated in 1955. The UH 12C was in production until 1959. During this time, approximately 200 helicopters were manufactured. In 1957, a new model was certificated—the UH 12D. About 500 of these were manufactured and all were delivered to the U.S. Army, who called them the H 23. In 1959, a commercial version was certificated. Compared to the UH 12C, the UH 12D and UH 12E presented a significant redesign. First they incorporated a Lycoming engine instead of the Franklin, second the maximum takeoff gross weight was increased to 3,100 pounds and lastly, a four-seat version became an option for the UH 12E.
In the early 1960s, Hiller Aircraft became part of Fairchild Industries. The UH 12 production line was closed in 1966 to make room for the FH 1100 and production of the FH 1100 ceased In 1972, when Fairchild Industries ceased its helicopter activities. In 1974, an independent company, Hiller Aviation in Porterville, CA, took over the assets of the Fairchild Hiller helicopter program. At first, they assembled UH 12E from the existing stock of spares and partially built aircraft. They assembled 69 helicopters in this manner (with serial numbers from 3001 to 3069). In 1975, production of the UH 12E resumed and Hiller Aviation built an additional 221 helicopters (serial numbers 5001 to 5221) before the company closed its doors in 1983. In the mid-1990s, several attempts were made by the children of Stanley Hiller to resume production. A few helicopters were built, however, the effort was not successful.
The UH 12E is a light single-engine piston helicopter. It has a teetering two-bladed main rotor driven by a Lycoming VO-540-C2A engine. A two-bladed tail rotor provides directional control. Two cabin configurations are available—one seats three passengers on a three-place bench and the other seats four with a pilot forward and a three-place bench behind the pilot. The blades and the cabin are all constructed of aluminum. Although early models used a three wheel landing gear, the UH 12E used a skid gear.
The UH 12E received its certification in 1959. A total of 367 UH 12E were manufactured by Fairchild Hiller and an additional 290 were produced by Hiller Aviation.