Sun 'N' Fun Update 04/25/02
Traveling 6000 miles by yourself to and from a one week long air show is not exactly our definition of fun. Five days of eleven hours per day of driving, while pulling a trailer to an air show is a task which is better left to a professional driver.
The motivation for this trip had to do with more than sales. This was the first time we had ever attended this event and we had a key individual who had pled with us for years to fly at Sun N' Fun's Chopper Town.
Way back when, Bill Meyer, the Major Domo of Chopper Town had been introduced to helicopters by us and when he found out we were coming this year he could hardly contain himself. When we arrived, he gave us the royal read carpet treatment and made our entire stay a truly great experience, in spite of the obstacles we had to overcome.
The trouble began when we loaded the ship on the trailer and fastened the dog house enclosure in place. The engine had no antifreeze in it, we intended to drain the water out, but forgot to do so prior to fastening the last panel on the enclosure. We were in a hurry to get on the road, we reasoned that we would remove a panel and drain the system that evening.
You already guessed the outcome and you're correct. That night we stopped in Laramie, Wyoming and forgot all about our best intentions. It got down to about 20 degrees that night.
By the time we got to Florida, we knew the engine water jacket was cracked in several places. We couldn't tell if the radiator was ruined or not.
If you've ever tried to do an air show by yourself, you understand the constant barrage of questions, and always the same questions. Now, try to get the ship unpacked and start removing the engine from the ship and disassemble it in front of everybody. Can you guess the level of credibility one could achieve under these circumstances? Fortunately a number of our builders showed up and answered questions while the engine rebuilding process went on. The wife of one of our customers from the good old days kept us supplied with strawberry shortcake and ice cream, sis that ever hit the spot. By Wednesday afternoon we were flying. Epoxy and Bar's Leak did the trick and the ship ran just fine every day for the rest of the show. We concentrated on close-in maneuvers, tight "G" turns and hovering autorotations up to 6' skid height. No one even tried to duplicate our hovering autos, but several tried to copy our "G" turns. It was all in good fun however, and the other pilots had nothing but good things to say about the HELICYCLE.
We made contact with everyone who had previously intended to meet us at the show. Several new contacts were made as well.
In spite of all the obstacles we are glad we made the trip and are pleased with the outcome.
On the way back from Florida, we drove to Leadville, Colorado to verify the altitude performance we have been touting. Leadville has the highest airport in the US. It has been a life long dream to build a helicopter with the capability of operating safely at 10,000 ft. Power alone is not enough, the main and tail rotor must have a very high "figure of merit."
The goal on this trip was only to verify the horsepower requirement and the amount of additional pitch required on the main and tail rotor, over and above that used near sea level. We plan to return to Leadville later for a formal flight test program. Pictures of Bell Helicopters and Test Pilots were plastered all over the line shack walls. The airport manager took photos of the HELICYCLE too, with their digital camera and put them on their web site. www.leadvilleairport.com. We didn't get and in-flight photos; however, the airport manager & others saw us fly and gave the HELICYCLE a certificate.
We were amazed to find that and engine which produces 85 hp at sea level was more than sufficient to hold the ship in a 4' skid height hover. We had anticipated a need for 7-10 hp more. Of course we were 50-60 lbs. under gross and that in itself would require 5 hp more. The really good news is that the collective pitch was only about 1" above what is needed at lower levels and the tail rotor pitch seemed only slightly increased. We believe we will be able to autorotate quite well in this thin air and can't wait to get back to Leadville to try it. The airport manager had only seen commercial turbine powered machines at his field. Maybe this is the first time and armature built helicopter has flown at this airport?
We'll talk more about the HELICYCLE rotor and why it can fly at Leadville very soon.