Remember the Nigerian Helicopter built from old car parts? I recently saw 2 new entries to aviation industry from the developing world. The first is from a Chinese farmer who built his helicopter from wood, a steel frame, and a motorcycle engine. Apparently, the homemade aviation industry is ripping along in China. The Zimbabwian machine looks pretty ambitious. What really struck me about this one was the dual tail rotor assembly. Both of them claim to be flyable, and both make the Mini-500 that I saw a couple of weekends back (with 20-lbs of dumbbells for ballast, sitting on the floor in front of the pedals) look almost airworthy.
I’m not making fun of either of these attempts. I think it speaks to the universal thrill humans get at the idea of leaving the ground behind and seeing the world from above. Would be interesting to see if either of these home-made helicopters are really capable of flight, and whether the designers were able to overcome the many engineering challenges associated with rotary-wing aircraft. The low power-to-weight ratio of piston-driven engines was one of the challenges that kept early helicopters from even getting off the ground, where they would be subject to the aerodynamic challenges of spinning airfoils. Seeing as though these attempts all start with heavy components–like the junked car the Nigerian “inventor” used, or steel and wood blades and structures, it’s hard to believe these could really be getting too high up. Nevertheless, this last one, also from China, not only gets off the ground. If you believe the comments, he’s had it up above ETL. Unlike the first Chinese example, this farmer had help from detailed plans he obtained online.