Pinwheel Bus (Jan, 1947)

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Pinwheel Bus

Time-killing bus rides from airports to cities will soon be quick hops in ten-place copters.

FROM the window of the airliner, you look down upon the city of your destination. The plane turns with deceptive laziness—you’re moving at a rate of almost 200 miles per hour—and approaches the field. Minutes later you step to the ground. Ah, the wonders of flying. The two cities are 200 miles apart. You’ve gone from one to the other in a little over an hour.

But have you? Let’s see what happens next.

You climb into a “sedan” with ten other “air travelers” and start out for the city in which, according to the timetables, you have already arrived. You wait for the stop signs. You slow down to 20 behind that truck until the road clears. Traffic thickens in the suburbs. Maximum speed limit, 30. You wind through the freight yards. You angle through the factory district. With luck, you twist through a green park. More stop signs. But at last you’ve really arrived, one hour after your official arrival.

That last 20 miles cut down your average speed a bit, didn’t it? Getting into town took as long as your 200 miles of air travel. If only that “sedan” (airline language for “bus”) could grow wings.

Well, its counterpart is growing wings. All of the above is the picture of air-travel today. You’ll see a picture of tomorrow—an early one—as you turn this page. The “pinwheel” bus is taking form in Kellett Aircraft’s plant in North Wales, Pennsylvania. It’s a helicopter, of course, and it’s called the KH-2. It will carry ten passengers, too, just as the sedans do. But there similarity ceases. Instead of crawling along through traffic, you’ll go over the building tops at a speed of 118 miles per hour. You’ll land on a city roof, possibly your own hotel, and slip down to the street in an elevator. That last 20 miles of post-arrival travel will become 15 minutes of fun instead of a boresome hour. The KH-2, which Kellett says will be ready for use in about eight months, will carry a total useful load of 2,942 lbs., and will have a gross weight of about 11,600 lbs. Range will be 180 miles.-C. B. Colby.

  1. Blurgle says: November 25, 20071:29 pm

    They have these now in places like New York City; the only catch is it costs about $150 one way from Manhattan to JFK, taxes included.

  2. Stannous says: November 25, 20077:59 pm

    From the Smithsonian NASM page about this craft:

    The helicopter that Kellett designed was designated the XR-8 by the AAF. It looked like a giant egg with two rotors perched on top. When the rotors turned, they ‘meshed’ with a whisking action that quickly produced the nickname ‘egg-beater.’ Soon the term applied to any helicopter. The steel-tube, frame fuselage on the XR-8 was skinned with sheet steel and fabric and a large, bubble-shaped, Plexiglas canopy covered the nose. Each rotor spanned 10.9 m (36 ft) and turned three fabric-covered blades made of metal and wood. The rotors were mounted side-by-side and 1.2 m (4 ft) apart so that both rotors swept an area 12.2 m (40 ft) wide. Both rotor shafts leaned away from each other at a 12.5-degree angle from straight up. This arrangement was a critical one for it allowed the rotors to spin without touching. The blades themselves consisted of plywood ribs fixed to a steel tube spar and covered with a thin-veneer plywood skin. A single engine powered both rotors through a transmission, using spiral-bevel gears. A crew of two sat side-by-side in the cockpit. Like most early helicopters, a single collective lever was mounted between the seats. The egg-shaped fuselage tapered aft to a fixed vertical stabilizer at the tail. The aircraft rested on a fixed, tricycle landing gear mounted on vertical oleo struts to soften landings and takeoffs.
    The XR-10 strongly resembled the XR-8 in layout but Kellett hoped to incorporate all the lessons learned from the first synchropter.
    When it flew on April 24, 1947, the XR-10 was the largest rotorcraft in the United States. It could haul six stretchers, ten troops laden with combat equipment, or 1,612 kg (3,550 lbs) of cargo. Kellett foresaw a civilian version that he designated
    the KH-2.

    And I LOVE this last line:
    Although a technical failure, it showed military rotorcraft planners a direction NOT to follow in the development of bigger and better helicopters. In the museum setting, the XR-8 provides a compelling contrast to more successful designs.…

  3. Firebrand38 says: November 25, 20079:21 pm

    Even so, the intermeshing rotors did turn up in a military helicopter http://www.nationalmuse…

    Looking at the one they have here in Georgia at the Warner-Robins Aviation Museum make you wonder how the thing flew.


  4. Neil Russell says: November 26, 20078:13 am

    That bird always gets me when I go through the museum, I’d love to see it in action.
    If I remember it right, it can be folded up for storage which makes the whole thing look even stranger!
    Anyone that loves aircraft and is within a day’s drive of Warner Robins should stop in at the Museum of Aviation.
    Admission is free and I can’t think of anyplace else where I can walk up and pat the underside of an SR71.
    I took my son there this past summer and from the snack bar got to survey some of my favorite planes; C-46, C-47, Globemaster, Constellation, it’s almost endless

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