First Customer HELICYCLE(c) Flies
Doug Schwochert of Burlington, Wisconsin installed a turbine engine in his HELICYCLE and made it to first place in the HELICYCLE Customer Flight Line-up. This was no easy task; Doug not only had to design the engine mounting system, he had to build a gear box to reverse the direction of the engine output shaft. His modifications worked flawlessly. At the end of the fourth day of his factory check out, Doug was performing high speed, low altitude quick stops and had made several circuits at altitude around the Burlington airport.
Eagle R & D, headed up by B. J. Schramm who started the RotorWay kit helicopter program in the late sixties, is taking a very different approach to customer service this time around. Instead of letting its customers go it on their own after the construction phase, they are sticking very close until each customer has been safely guided through the transition to final checkout and fully operational flight. The checkout program is conducted either at the builders premises or at the factory. It takes place after the helicopter is completed and has received its airworthiness certificate. The builder must have soloed in an R-22 or have recent time as P.I. C. In an R-22. During the RotorWay days, a builder could get his ship off the ground in several "unauthorized" ways and the result was a very high roll-over rate, over which the factory had no control. There were few injuries, however a whole lot of painstakingly crafted parts were turned into instant junk. Interested parties looking on, were immediately turned off. To prevent this carnage in the HELICYCLE program, key components are withheld and installed by the factory test pilot at the start of the check out. This policy also prevents 2nd owners from purchasing a partially completed HELICYCLE and wreaking havoc with it.
The factory checkout takes approximately a week and consists of the following:
1. A very thorough mechanical conformity and
construction checkout using an itemized check list and special factory
The life of a test pilot is said to consist of hours and hours of boredom and moments of sheer terror. Doug found this to be true on his checkout. B.J. had commented on the eventual necessity of a fairing to smooth out the air flow on the underside of the ship between the fuel tanks and the front of the engine. It was thought that this would not be a problem in slow flight. WRONG ! !
During a down wind descent, Doug encountered what felt
to him like a serious dynamic imbalance in the main rotor. He continued
his descent and pulled into a hover at which time the condition disappeared.
Needless to say, the fairing was installed immediately and the problem
was not encountered again. Doug decided then and there you couldn't
put any price on the factory check out.
The excitement was not over yet however. An unusual
hum, (very low) seemed to make itself apparent in the cockpit. Doug
was by now kind of on pins and needles. Doug felt the noise was from
the transmission and B.J. agreed that it could possibly be that the
upper lift bearing in the transmission might not be getting oiled
properly. This was very doubtful, however Doug deserved
1. Was he happy with the overall outcome of the check out?
Ans.: Yes, the check out was much more in depth than I had ever thought it would be.
2. Is he convinced of the need for it & why?
Ans.: the check out is definitely necessary. I would not even dream of Trying to begin operating the ship without factory assistance.
3. Describe some of the new things he learned.
Ans.: A. The airflow problems with the turbine would
have taken much longer to sort out by myself.
4. How does he feel about the way the HELICYCLE flies?
Ans.: "The ship is so easy to fly, I got up to 75 mph on my first climb out without even trying. It will be really easy to cruise at 95 mph".
5. What will he be using his ship for.
Ans.: Mostly local pleasure flights for now, but I do plan to do some serious cross country flying down the road.
7. How does he feel about the cost effectiveness of his choice in purchasing the HELICYCLE over other designs?
Ans.: I didn't look at the price comparison between the HELICYCLE and other ships nearly as much as I did the experience and design history behind the helicopter. If there were a less expensive equivalent on the market it wouldn't have made any difference to me.
8. How has he found the factory support and customer service?
Ans.: I really didn't need much help during construction,
the video tapes covered pretty much everything I needed to know. The
check out is another matter, I would have hated to do without it.
What we did in just a few days would have taken a month on my own.
In addition, I feel my safety was much enhanced by having a factory
pilot demonstrate how the ship would respond in each maneuver and
flight condition before I tried it.