VAT & The Hummingbird History

Beautiful & spacious helicopters

outstanding payloads, long endurance, & premium comfort.

Vertical Aviation Technologies, Inc. (VAT), located in Sanford, Florida, is the manufacturer of the Hummingbird helicopters.  The company was founded by B. G. Clark in 1987, however it has its roots back to 1959 when In 1959, Fred Clark, founded  Orlando Helicopter Airways, Inc. began flying Sikorsky S-52’s for tours at Cape Kennedy, and conducted agricultural spraying operations and power line patrols.

In the 70’s, VAT developed the “Heli-Camper” as a project for Winnebago? It was featured in Popular Mechanics. Innovative, yes. & exciting. The Heli-camper literally rose above the earthbound limitations of recreational vehicles. With the Heli-camper, you could take the comfortable living accommodations for the flight. The Heli-camper offered luxurious accommodations such as sleeping space for up to six people, air conditioning, bath facilities, a refrigerator and range. The Heli-camper was based on the proven Sikorsky S-55 and S-58 helicopters.

In 1976 an electric helicopter using the Hummingbird design was developed. It was the first full size helicopter powered by an electric motor. Funded by NASA the concept was completed with lead acid batteries. The next phase was a lithium hydroxide power cell running a single Gould torpedo motor located directly under the rotorhead. The lack of funding at the time stopped the program but it was proven to work.

In 1990, development began for a new version of the Sikorsky S-55 helicopter with a Garrett turbine engine.

VAT then acquired assets of Orlando Helicopter Airways, Inc. and the FAA repair station, continuing Orlando’s activity in remanufactured Sikorsky Helicopters.

The Heli-Camper

The First Electric Heli

In 1991, VAT  finalized the tooling and fixtures to manufacture all new components for the Hummingbird and began selling Hummingbird helicopter kits worldwide as the world’s first FAA certified helicopter to be sold in kit form.

The Whisper Jet

In 1993 VAT started the development and FAA certification of a nine passenger Transport Category Super Quiet helicopter appropriately named the Whisper Jet.  Development and Certification to make the world’s quietest production helicopter took nine years and included a new five blade quiet rotor system and a turbine powerplant with silencers. The primary mission for the Whisper Jet was tour flights over noise sensitive areas such as the Grand Canyon. We also developed a plush interior with large windows and a window looking down through the floor, air-conditioning, and sound systems. At that time the company grew to 80 employees and  30,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and office space.

The  Hummingbird 260L

In 2001 VAT introduced  the  model 260L and continued developing and perfecting the Hummingbird with new and innovative products. 

The S-52 Hummingbird 300L

In 2018, VAT released the current  model 300L  powered by a Continental IO 540 engine. The 300L is offered in a kit form yet was developed to be later certified as the S-52L.

The VAT S-52L 

In 2018, VAT finalized development of the new S-52L Hummingbird, and started the FAA Certification & flight test process. Based on the proven Hummingbird, same as the 300L, it has been redesigned ground up in order to meet the latest FAR 27  certification requirements.

Australian S-52L & 300L

In 2020 VAT appointed Vertical Helicopter Connections in Melbourne VIC.,   Australian Distributors, with over 25 years  rotary wing experience,  their first new model 300L  arrived  Australia in 2021.

VAT & VHC  look forward to the future and to all of the new products they will be introducing to the world.