This is yet another of my unrealized lifelong ambitions - building and flying an autogyro. The state of the art has advanced significantly since the early garage-based and corporate experimenters. Companies such as Autogyro USA sells a number of models for private pilots with both open and fully enclosed cockpits. The Bensen Autogyro was the craft du jour in the 1970s, with articles appearing in all the handyman and airplane magazines of the day. My appetite was sufficiently whetted, albeit well beyond the means of my meager paycheck. I vowed to build one when my finances would allow. I'm going on 52 still waiting. There are quite a few model autogyros flying with plenty of plans and a kit or two available if you would like to build one. A simple Google search will locate them for you.
Here are two handfuls (10) of early models of both helicopters and autogyros that, aside from the familiar Bensen, you might never have heard of.
More of Those Fabulous Mini-Copters
Photos and Text by Howard Levy
Jervis "Baby J," tiny 1-place jet-powered under development in Bahamas Islands by L. G. Jervis. Constructed from airplane junk pile, due to lack of parts and stainless steel on the island. Main fuselage section is aircraft stretcher; tail boom 1/2" conduit; controls 3/8" water pipe; rudder is radio base plate; B-29 hydraulic brake cylinder shaft is rotor shaft; auto brake drum rotor head; ignition system from Model T; hand-barrow wheels on landing gear. Powerplants are Jervis' own valveless design developing 100 lbs thrust each, likewise from junk pile; B·29 hydraulic shaft makes up combustion chamber, remainder consists of B-29 exhaust stacks, plus Texaco oil cans forming air intake venturi. Fuselage length 7'; height 8'; empty weight 800 lbs; gross weight 600 lbs; rotor dia. 20'; est. top speed 40 mph. Ground tested, made jump-like "free flight."
Manzolini-Bordoni "Libellula" (Dragonfly) single-place co-axial configuration flown in Italy in '53. Powered by German 105 hp Hirth engine, cruising speed of 65 mph; gross wt of 1430 lbs, rotor dia. 26'.
Helicopter Engine & Construction Corporation Model 100 shown in '47; early attempt at tiny personal craft. Simplified flight control system which eliminated separate cyclic and collective controls and pedals; all controls combined on single stick, actuated similar to auto. 76 hp Continental engine fitted with jet exhaust cooling system. Plywood construction; seated pilot with 200 lb baggage. Rotor dia., 18', gross wt, 750 lbs; max. speed, 95-100 mph; cruising, 80 mph; rate of climb, 1200 ft/min. Craft test flown; target price of $5000 with mass production price of $2500; 2·seater proposed by raising rotor shaft 3', placing passenger section behind pilot. Neither craft produced.
Eastern Rotorcraft Z-8 flown in 1948 was powerless "flying kite" requiring tow for sustained flight. Seated one, 24 ft rotor dia. grossed 500 lbs. Built by Harris Campbell, Jack Marsh, Dick Huber, and J. P. Perry of Pennsylvania .
BENSEN "SKY SCOOTER" early '53 configuration. Power supplied by two special engines mounted halfway on rotor blades similar to Nagler-Rolz built in Austria during W.W.II.
Nagler Single Blade Helicopter under development in Austria '38·'42. Had single rotor blade 35' length counter-balanced by 40 hp Czech-built Praga engine. Claimed to be first Single Blade helicopter built, tested by full-scale whirl-stand ; prototype underwent tie-down hovering tests. Destroyed during Allied bombing. Was 1-2 place, weighing 400 lb. empty, 770 lb. at gross weight. Fuselage length 12'. German patent issued for design in '41 made provision for utilization of rocket motor exhaust to actuate single blade rotor.
Monte-Copter Ultra-Light under development for utility and personal use. Design calls for installation of Solar "Mars" gas turbine developing 45 hp at 41,000 rpm. Utilizes pneumatic and jet drive, does not have a conventional transmission gear or clutch. Empty wt, 430 lbs; gross wt. 910 lbs; top speed, 75 mph: endurance 2 hr; range 150 mi; service ceiling, 13,000'; rotor dia. 20', wingspan, 15'.
Dutch concern, Nederlandse Helicopter Industrie, offers production prototype H-3 "Kolibrie." Improved version of their 1955 H-2 ramjet copter. Empty wt. 450 lbs.; gross wt. 1325 lbs. Tip-mounted ramjets have separate fuel supply, household kerosene is fuel. Extra fuel tanks between skids easily added as well as optional cargo hook, litters, closed cabin, other equipment.
Navy version of Gyrodyne Rotoreycle XRON-1 shown in official "blues." See September 1956 issue for original presentation of "Those Fabulous Mini-Copters" and data on this interesting American copter. New "end plates" on rotor tips used for directional control are actuated by foot action. Porche powerplant now being tested.
Bensen "Rotosail" flying attachment can be added to any standard boat according to Igor Bensen (Bensen Aircraft Corp., Box 2725, Raleigh, N. C.). Do-it-yourself fans can build their own Rotosails from construction plans available from BAC. Almost any rowboat, or an outboard, weighing up to 200 lbs. can be made to "fly" under tow with the Rotorsail, reports Bensen, but the lighter the boat, the better the performance. Bensen also designed Gyro-Glider and Gyro-Copter.
Posted March 24, 2012