Family Flivver-Copter (Sep, 1954)

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Family Flivver-Copter

By Henry M. Lewis, Jr.

NEXT year, your back yard may be an airport. At least it will if it’s 50 x 50 ft. or larger—and provided your budget can stand the sort of strain another automobile in the medium price class might place on it.

The family’s “second car” in this case, however, won’t be just another woe-on-wheels to clutter up the highways. This one’s designed, literally, to “rise above” traffic problems. In fact, it isn’t a car at all, but a little one-stick, two-seater helicopter so simple in concept that you’ll find yourself a pilot in a matter of hours—not months—after you buy it.

A crazy dream? Nothing of the kind.

Before 1954 ends, promises a young visionary from the banks of the Delaware River in New Jersey, you’ll be able to buy, and fly, your own little egg beater. Moreover, you’ll be able to park it and launch it where this year’s petunias grew—somewhere between the kitchen door and the family garage.

The youthful Henry Ford of the flying business who’s out to put a personal plane in your private pasture is 34-year-old ex-GI John T. Dooley, a practical man who makes dreams pay off.

Mr. Dooley, who in four years has parlayed a mechanical engineering talent and an $8,000 nest egg into a $1,500,000 metal-products business (Glenview Metal Products Co., Delanco, N. J.), is making plans for assembly line production—”before the last office-to-seashore hop is made this summer”—of the world’s first civilian-slanted, popular-priced, easy-to-pilot helicopter. He calls it the Fly-Ride!

Dooley’s ingenious flying machine for the common man, which soon may have you fuming at Sunday pilots instead of Sunday drivers, is the last word in simplicity.

“No longer,” he points out proudly, “do you have to be an octopus to fly a helicopter.”

In contrast to existing models which, it should be pointed out, are conducive to St. Vitus Dance in that they demand almost constant manipulation of both hands and both feet to keep all their controls coordinated, the Fly-Ride has only two controls.

One is the stick with a motorcycle grip nestled in the arm rest between the two seats of the 35-ft.-long skycraft which stands only eight ft. seven in. high with its blades in neutral position. The stick controls all the Fly-Ride’s movements on the horizontal plane —forward, reverse and turns.

Ascent and descent are controlled by a conventional automobile-type accelerator pedal, workable with one foot. Midway in the pedal’s range of play, the craft can be made to hover.

So simple, in fact, is the maneuvering of this first single-stick helicopter, the world’s first designed exclusively for civilian use, that a novice can learn to handle it in a few hours, or at most with a single day’s instruction. Pilots train for six months to-master the complicated, five-control military models and the relatively few ‘copters of this same type that have been made available in recent years to non-military users.

The latter, incidentally, are tagged at $25,000 and up. Mr. Dooley figures he’ll tee off his Fly Ride this year at $8,000, with a drop to $5,000 as his assembly-line production is stepped up. Eventually, he sees the price settling around $3,000—in the range of some of today’s popular cars.

Mechanically, here’s how FlyRide works: rpm output of the 140-hp Lycoming engine— in the nose of the ship for easy servicing— controls the pitch of the lifting rotor blades. To increase rpm for ascension, the foot throttle is advanced. To decrease rpm for decension it is retarded. Hovering flight is accomplished by adjustment of the two maneuvers.

FlyRide, in addition to its simplicity of operation, has an important safety feature, too. The rotor blades automatically go into low autorotative pitch if the engine stops, permitting the craft to descend in a 15-deg. glide path at the rate of 750 ft. per minute, even if power should fail entirely.

A patented vibration-dampening system, also an innovation with FlyRide, virtually eliminates the unpleasant, tiring vibrations characteristic of the older and costlier ‘copters. Mr. Dooley promises smooth, as well as safe sailing.

His brainchild isn’t going to be expensive to run, either. It’ll get better gasoline mileage than some cars on the road today, according to Dooley’s calculations. A full tank of 22 gallons will carry it 300 miles—an average of 13.6 mpg.

At 75 per cent power, it’ll cruise at better than 90 mph but, says Mr. Dooley, “It can top 108.”

“It’ll hover with the ease of a hawk up to 3,000 ft.,” he assures, “but it can make an altitude of 12,500 ft. And it will land on any space big enough to whirl its wings and settle its tail.”

Weight of the all-aluminum ship will be 1,150 lbs. and its load capacity over 500— enough for two passengers, a moderate baggage load, fuel and oil.

And what about other models after Dooley has filled the need for two-seater helicopters? After this one, which he calls his “sport coupe” model, he intends to branch out into fourseater “family sedans.” In short, he’s taking personal charge of bringing the air age to your doorstep.

  1. GeorgeT says: March 13, 201211:47 am

    Let me be the first to say it… A newly trained helicopter pilot landing on a 50 x 50 foot plot surrounded by houses; What could go wrong?

  2. Toronto says: March 13, 20126:27 pm

    Nice looking bird, though.

  3. Mike Brown says: March 15, 201211:54 am

    I’m having trouble figuring out how the two-control system is supposed to work.

    The article said that the pedal both controlled motor power and collective (overall blade pitch). Perhaps that could be interconnected with the tail rotor pitch to cancel out torque effects (although it would seem to be difficult given 1950’s technology).

    As described, the stick controls cyclic, so push it ahead you go ahead, push it back you go back, side-to-side you move side to side. Point it 45 degrees ahead and right, you go ahead and go in that direction, and I suppose you could rig it to interact with the tail rotor so if you command a turn right or left, the helicopter also turns to face that way.

    The problem is, how does the pilot control the yaw – which way the nose of the helicopter is pointing – either because he wants to turn the helicopter around while in a hover without moving over the point on the ground (see the fifty-by-fifty lot, above), or to trim out torque effects from applying or reducing power to the main rotor. In a conventional helicopter, the tail rotor pedals are used to control blade pitch of the tail rotor, which allows the pilot to control rotation of the helicopter around the rotational axis of the rotor. Is there some control which the article doesn’t describe? Or didn’t Dooley think this was important?

  4. Toronto says: March 15, 20126:32 pm

    Mike: Since these one-stick control systems basically don’t exist these days, we have to assume they didn’t work as advertized.

    The article implies the twist grip controls the tail rotor. So it’s the cyclic and the pedals. The pedals control the collective and the throttle – I hope it had a throttle “trim” lever as well. And mixture, etc of course.

    If that’s the case, it seems like you’d get a sore right ankle and wrist flying this.

  5. Melbourne says: January 25, 201310:29 pm

    I read it as a three control system with throttle/collective pedal like a car accelerator, cyclic control by movement of a stick, and yaw control using a twist grip like a motorcycle throttle on the stick.

    So you press the accelerator for more power/lift, tip the stick the direction you want to move, and twist the grip on the stick the direction you want to yaw (or turn to face).

    It certainly sounds less “pat you head and rub your tummy” than conventional helicopter controls to me, but presumably it has some shortcoming that is not obvious to a non pilot, even if that shortcoming turns out to be nothing more than a “qwerty” style incompatibility with thousands of existing trained helicopter pilots.

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