Helicopters for Everybody (Jan, 1951)

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Helicopters for Everybody

The Hoppicopter is evolving into a comfortably single-seat helicopter that will supply you with cheap air transportation.

By Frank Tinsley

BACK in the 30’s, a Seattle aeronautical engineer named Horace T. Pentecost became convinced that he could design a set of personal wings. As an engineer and student of aviation history, Pentecost was well aware of the shortcomings of man-made flapping wings, so he gave the problem an entirely different solution. In place of rosy pinions, he substituted the whirling blades of the modern helicopter. His first machine, designed for army paratroopers, was intended to supplant the clumsy and uncontrollable parachute. Strapped to the wearer’s back, it was christened “Hoppicopter” because the trooper literally hopped off and landed on his own two feet. It consisted of little more than an engine, rotors and control stick, mounted on a tubular frame that was strapped over the flier’s shoulders and back.

The Hoppicopter’s dependence upon human legs as landing gear proved its ultimate undoing. Landing on rough terrain, the wearers frequently stumbled and fell, smashing the whirling vanes against the ground. This was not only embarrassing but expensive.

The next model boasted a light tube-and-canvas seat and three landing wheels arranged in a triangle, supported on spindly, insect-like legs. In flight, the pilot felt somewhat more at ease, not as though he were hanging in space like a fish on the end of a line. The working parts were unchanged, however. A hot, noisy motor still nestled coyly against the back of the pilot’s neck. The gas tank was suspended directly above him with no fire protection.

The third model has corrected some of the above mentioned faults. The engine now is slung under the seat directly beneath the center of gravity. This warms the pilot in cold air and improves the machine’s balance. The model at present is being tested. There still remains, however, the sense of insecurity—of riding a flying swivel chair with no visible means of support. Pentecost and his associates are perfectly well aware of this natural reaction and have planned a weatherproof enclosure for the machine.

In the illustration one version of such a streamlined housing is shown. With this addition, our Hoppicopter becomes a vehicle of true utility. Such a machine would be practical, cheap to buy and maintain and could easily be the answer to the demand for a “Model T” helicopter.

  1. John M. Hanna says: January 24, 200910:18 pm

    Wife: “Bye honey! Have a nice day at work!” (to herself) “He’s so dead! Hello big insurance payoff!”

  2. Rick Auricchio says: January 24, 200911:42 pm

    The hair curlers and housedress are a nice touch.

  3. Toronto says: January 25, 200912:57 am

    Yeah, and the Hitler Youth uniform is a bit odd, too.

  4. slim says: January 25, 200912:59 am

    I like the mail copter lowering the bag to the woman on the roof. There’s a practical idea. I suppose there would also be FedEx and UPS hoppicopters.

  5. Randy says: January 25, 20091:30 am

    The hoppicopter engine looks really tiny, maybe a war surplus 2-cylinder target drone engine? Doesn’t seem like it could be more than 15 or 20 hp… The thing looks about as practical as a rocket belt.


  6. Randy says: January 25, 20091:38 am

    That is not to say that there isn’t some decent-looking design work, just that it looks more like a 5-minute duration kind of hobby machine than a practical vehicle.

  7. Chris Tucker says: January 25, 20092:01 am

    Where’s the ashtray and lighter?

    Surely it was not expected that a man do without a cigarette as he’s flying to work at the agency.

  8. Toronto says: January 25, 20093:29 am

    I really want some of whatever Frank Tinsley was abusing, I gotta say. Just for establishing a baseline, you understand, as to how freakin’ whacked out was he, most days.

  9. Don says: January 25, 20096:35 am

    They sure don’t make any more test pilots like the one flying the second version. Mini skirt and bikini top certainly seems much safer attire than Mr Pentecost trying to spin up the engine while sporting a loose tie.

  10. Marina says: January 25, 20097:53 am

    Landing on roofs isn’t the best idea – What about people living on the last floor ?

  11. MrG says: January 25, 200912:36 pm

    You have to admit that this would be a definitely fun toy — as a private ultralight sport machine, not so different from a Bensen- or Wallis-type gyrocopter. But as a means of mass transportation its major usefulness would be as a scheme of population reduction. MrG / http://www.proboards.co…

  12. LightningRose says: January 25, 20091:41 pm

    My first reaction on seeing the roof tops was, “Where’s all the pigeon poop?”. Then I realized, with all those Whirling Blade’s ‘o Death(tm), pigeons will *not* be a problem in American cities of the future.

  13. Paul says: January 25, 20092:21 pm

    The wife is wearing a slightly sinister expression. It gives the impression she has sabotaged the copter to collect on the husband’s life insurance.

  14. Omi-san says: January 25, 20094:23 pm

    It’s funny how that boy looks like a miniature man rather than a child.

  15. Robert Inkol says: January 25, 20097:56 pm

    It’s well known that helicopters are inherently unstable. Rooftop operation as shown would be really exciting in all but the lightest winds – note the garage structure and chimnies that would be just ideal for snagging the undercarriage or rotor. If you do a google search for hospital helipads, you will find that there is a host of requirements that are flouted in the illustrations.


  16. Jim A says: January 26, 20098:51 am

    Well the co-axial rotors help some with the stability issue. But the fact that the lower rotor appears to be about 5’6″ off of the ground would lead to some horrific ground handling accidents IMHO.

  17. Mark says: January 26, 20091:00 pm

    You have to love these kinds of “gee, won’t the future be great!” articles: ignore all practical aspects like crashes and how woefully inefficient helicopters are for a lot of things….just assume everyone will use one. I love the mail delivery – I’m sure the wife will just love hanging out on the roof in driving rain waiting for the mail drop!

  18. sporkinum says: January 26, 20091:34 pm

    Why does the control stick go almost all the way to the ceiling? It’s not an abberation as the mail copter is like that too.

  19. BonzoGal says: January 26, 20093:04 pm

    Love how the artist shows a provocative flash of thigh on “mom” there in the first panel. Naughty naughty, Mr. Tinsley!

  20. Thundercat says: January 26, 20093:47 pm

    BAH! This will never replace my atomic powered car!

  21. Andrew says: January 26, 200911:03 pm

    From a health and safety viewpoint these things stink. Just from a product liability viewpoint these things would never be built today. Those contrarotating rotors must both be less than 6 ft off the ground – wifey and Nazi boy would be mincemeat if they rushed up to papa’s machine on his return home before the blades of death had stopped rotating.

    But it’s easy to mock this sort of thing. The attractions of personal aircraft are obvious is the practical problems can be overcome. Who can’t say that a fusion powered, GPS/autopilot guided version of the hoppicopter won’t be saving wear and tear on roads, massively reducing road building costs and speeding our journeys to the offices we’ll no longer need (due to 100% teleworking, at last) in the future?

  22. Benita Barnard says: January 30, 20091:15 am

    Since I took my first helicopter ride last summer, I am now on board with everyone owning one!

  23. John says: February 14, 20099:04 pm

    I think this item is included in Obama’s $787,000,000,000.00 economic stimulus package!

  24. Rebecca says: February 15, 20094:57 am

    Mr. McCain! How nice of you to drop by. I wondered where you where since i haven’t seen you on the other two blogs similar to this (DeadSeaScrollr and MesopotamianTabletsofYore). How are the houses?

  25. Ken says: April 28, 20112:41 am

    The first time I encountered the name “Hoppicopter” was about something else. It was a drawing of an automobile equipped, not with rear wheels, but rather with two enormous hind legs like a humongous grasshopper. Not recommended for going to or from your favorite restaurant.

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