In 1947, Argentina had a problem. An unusual series of winter rains in the northern provinces had triggered a succession of locust plagues.The insect swarms were unmerciful, and Argentina was losing critical grasslands which fed the beef cattle that were the nations most important export.
Pilots in conventional aircraft were trying to combat the locusts, but were failing as engines clogged with the insect’s bodies and lives were being lost. Efforts to fight the locusts from the ground were limited and ineffective.
There was one new aviation technology that came to the forefront at this time – the helicopter. It was the ideal aircraft for fighting the locust plague, and there just happened to be a helicopter manufacturer who was looking for a way to showcase commercial helicopter abilities.
In Chapter 14 of “When No One Else Would Fly“, Tip wrote:
“While I was in New York City, I was called to an office in the State Department and advised that a phone call would be coming through from Mr. Larry Bell, president of the Bell Helicopter Corporation, who wished to speak to me personally. Over the phone, Mr. Bell told me that the Argentine government and the State Department wanted me to be the head of an operation and that it was a most important assignment. The helicopter was the only instrument that could combat the locusts successfully. I advised Mr. Bell that I did not feel qualified to accept the position, as I knew nothing about helicopters, having never seen or flown one. Bell replied that if I would come back to Buffalo, they would teach me all they knew about the machine in a matter of weeks.”
Tip did learn in a matter of weeks, and he joined Joe Mashman, Bell Helicopters primary test pilot, and solved Argentina’s locust problem. Together, they stayed on and formed TAYR, Trabajos Aereos Y Representaciones. Tip and Joe mashman, along with C. W. Wes Moore, set first in flight helicopter records almost every time they took to the air.
Read more about Tip’s helicopter exploits, and more, in “When No One Else Would Fly”, now available on Amazon.com.