USAF Helicopter Pilot Association

Outstanding Persons

I would like to request that your organization print the following obituary related to "Joe" Kusy's recent death -- along with a brief recollection of his work in supporting and accelerating the growth of the Military Helicopters during the last 50+ years.
If you have any questions, please Contact Harry Dunn (ret USAF Col) at 540-972-9358 OR 321-452-7692.

Joe and Harry at Jolly Green Reunion in 2004.

L/C Willis R. "Joe" Kusy, who wrote the "Ten Commandments for Helicopter Flying" 55 years ago, died on 5 July 2004. "Joe" as all of his acquaintances, friends and co-workers knew him, was a quiet, thoughtful and hard working man in his entire life. His outstanding ability to initiate and manage new improvements while retaining his quiet approach was his life-long fortune. Lt/Col 'Joe' Kusy started out his military career as an enlisted Private in the Army in 1939 at the outbreak of WWII. He spent his next two 2 years in the Panama Canal in an Anti-Aircraft Artillery 2nd Battalion, where one of his tasks were to clear the jungle and build roads to Army supply stations.

After applying for Officer Candidate School in 1942, where he was awarded an 'equivalent' of 2 years of College education (even though he had never finished high-school). Lt "Joe" then applied for flight training in Jan 1944 and graduated in twin-engine C-47s four months later in Oklahoma. He was immediately sent to England in support of the 9th Air Force on 23 May '44, flying cargo support, Paratroops and evacuation of wounded in France, Belgium and Germany. Upon conclusion of the war in Europe he was demobilized and re-enlisted as a M/Sgt serving in recruiting duty and was then recalled to active duty a year later. One of his duties was to escort the bodies of the fallen men home for burial.

While he was acting as an Army recruiter in Richmond Center, Michigan, he met Mildred Bladow, who would become his wife for the next 52 years. Although he had requested to be assigned to photo-interpreter school, which was already over-loaded, he was "offered" an assignment to helicopter flight training with a Permanent Assignment as a Flight Instructor at San Marcos, Texas. Despite his lack of desire his orders were cut and Joe entered a new challenge with his traditional enthusiasm and focus . At this time San Marcos AB was being transfered to the Air Force. He was in first Air Force helicopter training class and was asked (ordered) to stay on, to expand the training of new pilots. Little did he know at the time that helicopters would become the interest and focus of most of the rest of his career. On 28 October '48 he 'soloed' in the Sikorsky H-5 and became an Instructor.

Sometime after his first 8 hours as an instructor, he decided during a long break in flying to create a guide for students to use. After pondering some of the basics which should be in the mind of all students, he then found a young man, A/2c George Nicks, to draw up some cartoons to go along with his own ideas. They decided to call their work as the:  "Ten Commandments for Helicopter Flying" .

 (see on

The training section at San Marcos AB made copies of a full size Wall Chart, and provided them to all the students and other instructors. Their work slowly found its way to other helicopter military training bases and became the "bible" for all the military helicopter schools around the country - whether Army, Navy, USMC, or US Coast Guard.

Given the several hundreds or thousands of Helicopter Pilots who have been taught to fly in the various flight training schools during the last 55 years, it is doubtful that at some point in their training or career, that most of them were exposed to or have had copies of "Joe's and George's "Ten Commandments". At about the same time, Joe and his assistant drew up a few sketches that could be used as a symbol for Helicopter Pilots and initiated the idea of the 'Flying Eggbeater' which shows a cartoon of an eggbeater with a pilot sitting in a sling as it beats its way thru the sky. Today, that improved cartoon is part of the USAF Helicopter Pilots "Badge" used on jackets or shirts.

At the end of his 'fun' years at San Marcos, Joe (now Captain USAF) was transferred to England and the early 9th Air Rescue Group located at Manston Air Base. Joe and some of his squadron mates of the 66th Air Rescue Squadron, participated in the first major air rescue sea saga. Off the shores of England near Margate, the South Goodwin Lightship broke free of its moorings during a a gale in heavy breaking seas producing waves twenty feet in height. The only way to attempt rescue of survivors in the high seas and strong winds was by helicopter, which was a risky but successful venture that proved the ability for helicopters to perform in conditions and places that were inaccessible to other types of transportation. This rescue mission was reported with much fanfare, including numerous newspaper articles, an article in the Saturday Evening Post, and written up in several books, including one by the British author Elliott Arnold, named "Rescue! This saga ended with a summons to Wesminster Hall in London, where the Duchess of Kent, sister of King George VI, awarded citations and medals to the crew members for their efforts..

In '55-'56 Joe, his wife and new baby daughter Jodi moved on to Headquarters Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) where he worked for a year or so in Baltimore and was later moved to the new Headquarters at Andrews AFB, Md. During this tour he worked 'quietly", which was his trade and pride,with the Pentagon and the Air Rescue groups - studying and preparing a Requirement for a new helicopter to do the Air Rescue job. As the VTOL(Vertical Take Off and Landing) Systems Planning Officer, the aircraft in Joe's mind was a new twin jet engine helicopter, which would be the First Helicopter fully designed for All-Weather operations, equipped with dual IFR Instrument Flight Regulations) electronics, dual instruments and dual controls. He also included the need for an Amphibious capability for at least Sea State 3 (given his experiences in England) and the need for a rear ramp which would significantly make egress/ingress much quicker and safer for Pararescue crew members.

In 1960 Joes' second child, a son Paul was born. During the '60- 61 time frame, the (System Operational Requirement) SOR- 90 was approved by DOD, issued to industry and was being evaluated for selection by the Wright Patterson Aero Systems Division, with the primary competition between the Sikorsky and Boeing/Vertol Companies. Joe was then transferred to Wright Patterson, being assigned to the SOR-190 Helicopter SPO (Systems Program Office) as the VTOL System Program Manager. At that time the Kaman HH-43 Local Air Rescue helicopter was near final work and preparation was ongoing to start up the new Systems Operational Requirement (SOR-190) Program.

In mid 1962, the Defense Department (DOD) had announced that the Vertol aircraft had been selected but during a management review process by DOD and AFSC, it was determined to set aside the selection. ASD and Joe's SPO were directed to transfer 6 Navy H-3B's, to the USAF for immediate support in the new offshore Radar Sites located off the NE coast. At the same time, Lt/Col Kusy was directed to contract with Sikorsky to purchase 6 of the newly designed S-61 (military CH-3C), including Certification with the FAA as prescribed by Law concerning dual use military/commercial aircraft. Both contractors were also directed that another Competition/Selection of the SOR-190 would be accomplished in the following year. During this period, Joe's SOR-190 SPO consisted of 4 officers and 7 civilians including 3 secretaries. Being off flying status by this time, Joe found himself with only one current Command Pilot (with an MS Aero Eng'r) and two non-flying Officers. When compared to the parallel SPO organization for the Bell H-1 "Huey" and the Boeing/Vertol H-47s "Chinook", which together had perhaps more than 120 people at ASD, it would have appeared that Joe and his crew had a tough challenge ahead of them. The following year, DOD and AFSC had determined that the Sikorsky CH-3C (with a new designation of the HH-3E) was the choice for the new Air Rescue Requirement and had been expanded to include further use for SAC, MAC, TAC and AFLC requirements. Joe set out to prove that quality was better than quantity!.

With his past experience and technique of quietly managing a group of people, he rapidly developed a team of his small group, which rapidly had learned to respect, admire and follow "quiet' Joe and learned to put out close to 100% work. Joe was truly loved and admired by his team and many other folks in the helicopter business. With his guidance, the CH-3C program went on like a quiet hurricane. Meetings and papers were minimized and the important items focused on quality. Within the first two years, the program was one of a very few military aircraft contracts , which produced a product which was always on time AND below cost! At any given time, at least one or two of his 3 officers were on TDY (temporary duty assignments), helping making decisions and reducing unnecessary work.

In '63 following FAA Certification, crews from the All Weather Testing at WPAFB and Aerodynamics Test Center at Edwards AFB were given ground and flight training at Sikorsy and then started all of the formal testing required by the Air Force, at their home bases. By 1964, the new Air Rescue H/CH-3C was more than proving itself. DOD had sent 3 of the new aircraft to Germany to help them provide training in Operational Testing for the German Army and Air Force crews. When the 2 month program ended and we (Pilots from ASD and TAC along with 3 Crewchiefs ) had fully demonstrated virtually every operation that the Germans wanted, (1) H-3 was shipped back to the US for delivery, and the other (2) were flown from Northern Germany, through France, Italy, Greece, the Mediterranean, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and finally to Ethiopia where the MAC was working on the Satellite Triangulation Program for satellites. Several "firsts' occurred during this operation, including the first world wide All-Weather IFR operation, first helicopter to fly from Greece to Cairo without refueling, first 780 nm. flight from Cairo To Jedda, Saudi-Arabia w/o refueling, and a few others of minor interest.

Joe's 'Dream" was rapidly proving itself. In 1965, in response to a new MAC/ARRS requirement, we worked with our All Weather flight test Pilots and Sikorsky to develop, design and test the Worlds FIRST In-Flight Refueling for Helicopters!! This success - which drew two Air Medals - one for our Dayton Flt Test Pilot and one for the Sikorsky test pilot (first Air Medal for any civilian). Next salute for Joe was for HH-3E aircraft with the new production in-flight refueling to fly from New York to Paris for the ongoing Paris Air Show in 1967.

During Viet Nam, the 3rd ARRS was getting regular delivery of the world renowned Air Rescue HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant", which was then equipped with stronger engines, in-flight refueling, non-flammable fuel tank sponsons, side mounted miniguns - followed by sponson mounted turret guns for Special Ops- and special downward weapons for Special Ops delivery of Helosid (self implanting seismic electronic sounders) for Task Force Alfa which was keeping tracking information along the trailss from North to South VietNam.

With a very full plate of successful work and a lot of selfless pride, Joe was ready to move on and rest. He retired in late 1965 and worked part time as a consultant for United Technology Corporation as a representative of Sikorsky and Norden System. During his work at ASD and AFSC, Joe was a constant supporter for the American Helicopter Society and was made an Honorary Member of both the USAF Helicopter Association and the Jolly Green Giant Association, the latter at which he was invited as a guest in Florida just a month before he passed on to the "Big Sky" after a short and peaceful heart problem.

A memorial service for Joe was held at the Masonic Village in Springfield, Ohio on Saturday, August 7. Joe and his wife Mildred will be interred at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, at 11 AM on 3 September.

During his life, it is not necessary to state that Joe lived by the Bible's 10 Commandments, and along the way helped thousands of helicopter pilots to learn and use the Ten Commandments of Helicopter Flying.

Harry P Dunn (Col USAF ret) HH-3E Flight Test Manger,
Student and Co-worker for "Joe"


(*Links added by Historian.)

Willis “Joe” Kusy took his ‘Final Flight’ July 5, 2004.

Harry P. Dunn took his ‘Final flight’ November 14, 2012.

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