Let’s Talk Clovis: Harry Rogers, Pioneer Clovis Helicopter Pilot

Harry Rogers, 1929-2014. (Clovis Museum)

My brother, Harry Rogers (March 28, 1929-Jan. 16, 2014) was a pioneer leader in the helicopter business. I am sharing an article I wrote about him in 2006.

Harry Rogers was the pioneer of and remains the authority on the art of Helicopter Mountain flying. From 1955 thru 1990, he logged 25,000 hours of flight time on helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts. He began his mountain adventures with a Bell 47 and Hiller 12-series. The arrival of the turbine helicopter offered new challenges, since the capabilities and limits had not been documented. He mastered the new “wind mill” and became a reliable source for new pilots.

In 1961, he was awarded a citation from the U.S. Army for his rescue missions in Northern California: “For courageous and humanitarian action in flying helicopter relief missions. His disregard for personal convenience and safety demonstrated his professional skill and sincere consideration for the welfare of personnel during a major disaster.”

Rogers responded, “One of the most outstanding things I remember about the rescue work up there was the way people turned out to help each other.”

In 1964, Rogers became a volunteer member of the first Fresno County Sheriff’s Helicopter Unit to provide search and rescue missions. Any point in Fresno County could be reached by helicopter within 45 minutes. He was dispatched day or night. Art Linkletter was amongst hundreds that benefited from his professional skills.

Rogers’ favorite civic function was transporting Clovis High cheerleaders onto the football field. Many fans remember the impact their landing had at Radcliff Stadium prior to the 1970 championship game against Bullard High. He allowed the cheerleaders to paint his ship blue and gold with Cougar emblems and slogans. It was awesome and Clovis won!

Legendary Clovis Unified School District Superintendent Doc Buchanan described the event, “I knew when I saw the plane land with Cougar colors that the devotion and support from community leaders like Harry would guarantee our success as a school district.”

Harry’s initial goal of entering the U.S. Air Force was shattered when he sustained a serious football injury at Clovis High. He had developed his natural talent as a mechanic while working with his grandfather, Harry Whiton, at Whiton’s Cyclery (founded 1918 at 631 Fifth St.). Whiton died in 1944 and his wife Kate continued the business until 1957.

Whiton was the volunteer Clovis Fire Chief from 1926 until his death in 1944. Harry remembers racing across 5th Street from the shop, sounding the alarm and giving the volunteer responders the address of the fire.

After graduating from Clovis High in 1947, Harry received aeronautical training at Reedley College. He served as chief mechanic for the amphibious plane of successful Westside farmer, Sandy Crockett. He then worked as a helicopter mechanic prior to securing his helicopter pilot license.

Rogers married Wanda Cox in 1950. They borrowed $35,000 in 1962 to purchase their first helicopter. Their first heliport was established on Bullard (northside between Armstrong and Temperance) on land that his grandparents had owned since the mid-1920s. 

Rogers Helicopters moved their company to the Fresno Airport in 1991. Harry was also founder/president of Heavy Lift Helicopter Inc. in Apple Valley, Ca. Harry and Wanda both retired, and their son Robin Rogers and his wife Vernie are officers of Rogers Helicopters, Inc.

The couple lost their son Rory in a helicopter crash in 1991. Harry’s brother Dick Rogers also died in a helicopter crash in 1973.

Harry Rogers is an important part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.