Standing Ovation
February 3, 2011 4:04 PM   Subscribe

The passing of someone who invented the gas-turbine-powered helicopter, or a wildly-popular new type of guitar, or even a guide dog school with over 1,300 graduates would be notable. Charles H. Kaman did all three.

Kaman worked with helicopter and fixed-wing pioneer Igor Sikorsky early in his career; his HH-43B Huskie helicopter set records and saved lives in Vietnam, and Lockheed is currently developing an unmanned version of his K-MAX helicopter. He applied his knowledge of aviation engineering (and enthusiasm as an amateur musician) to building a better guitar. Some of the more recent recipients of Fidelco dogs have included veterans blinded in action overseas. He was 91.
posted by Halloween Jack (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

(but anyone who is vaguely round of tum has a depressing time playing an Ovation.)
posted by scruss at 4:24 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


An awesome man with a great legacy.

(but I agree with scruss - Ovations just don't work for me.)
posted by mmoncur at 5:07 PM on February 3, 2011

“It came down to the helicopters, guitars and dogs,” Mr. Kaman’s eldest son, C. William Kaman II, said in a telephone interview.

There's a recipe for the perfect life.
posted by grounded at 5:15 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Am I the only one who had crossed wires and a faulty memory, and thought this was an obit about Dean Kamen?
posted by hincandenza at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2011

posted by notsnot at 6:04 PM on February 3, 2011

Im not one for Ovations either, but interesting fact. The material used for the backs of Ovations is the same stuff his helicopter rotor blades were made with.
posted by timsteil at 6:17 PM on February 3, 2011

The old man worked for Kaman in the 60's (copters). Some years ago I discovered he birthed Ovation, but Fidelco was news to me. What a full life.
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:40 PM on February 3, 2011

Wow, I handle Kamen helo parts everyday. I knew he was an innovator but never knew about his connection to Ovation or the dogs. Totally amazing. And FWIW, I've always thought they he an Dean were related. Both great innovators and inventors.

posted by snsranch at 6:42 PM on February 3, 2011

Ovations have a great sound - I played a few back in the days when they fit my shape. Sadly for me they don't now, but what a fine guitar. I never knew Kaman's name until this post, nor his other achievements, sincere thanks for that.

posted by Sk4n at 6:58 PM on February 3, 2011


My mom knew his son when she was in high school, and ended up getting her hands on some seriously early production Ovation guitars. She still has one with an absurdly low serial number. Unfortunately, the early Ovations had a lot of quality issues, and hers features a distinctive crack on the front. Despite that, it still sounds pretty good.
posted by fremen at 7:13 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by meinvt at 7:25 PM on February 3, 2011

Gratuitous Ovation moment: Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell
posted by grounded at 8:18 PM on February 3, 2011

Charlie Kaman lived on my street in Farmington, CT. Amazing innovator, and a good neighbor (had all our driveways plowed during each snow)! My elementary school in Bloomfield also received yearly guide dog demonstrations from the Fidelco folks - great stuff.
posted by adamms222 at 7:36 AM on February 4, 2011

...but I didn't know about the guitars until strumming one on my brother-in-law's bed.... in UK! Had to fly across an ocean to play a guitar built by a guy down the street from me.
posted by adamms222 at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2011


Nice post. I didn't know his breadth of work.

(Nice headline, too. It's hard to play an Ovation sitting down because it rolls.)
posted by lothar at 10:04 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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