In January 2009 Eagle R&D made a very important trip to South Africa. Doug Schwochert and I, Blake Estes, made the 24-hour flight to the Johannesberg area to do flight checkouts on three Helicycles.
After many emails and phone calls between the builders in South Africa and Eagle R&D, the trip was organized to kill, oooops, set up, five birds with one stone; do three checkouts, train one new check-out pilot and meet a big group of excited Helicycle builders.
The three checkouts to be done were for Raymond Fowkes, Jaques Oostheizen and Hennie Roets. Upon arrival, as specified, the three Helicycles were all hangared together and ready for action. Hennie Roets of South Africa, who had one of the Helicycles ready for checkout was also prepared to be trained as the Check Pilot for the South African area builders.
Hennie has been involved with experimental helicopters for many years. He has built and flown many types of helicopters which made him an excellent choice to represent Eagle R&D in South Africa. Hennie has a very thorough understanding of the technical side of helicopters and will be handling the fleet of Helicycles in his part of the world. There are currently 12 Helicycles in South Africa, five of which are flying.
Doug and Hennie worked side by side on Raymond’s Helicycle which was the first to be prepared for flight. All of the rigging adjustments were made, the electrical system checked out, the static balancing of the main blades was completed and the engine was fired up for the first time.
Final adjustments were made to the engine, then dynamic balancing of the tail rotor was done. The main blades and rotor hub were installed and dynamically balanced. Now she was ready to fly. Doug hovered her for an hour or so and then took it out for it’s maiden flight. It flew great. It was very smooth and performed “like a million bucks”.
Auto-rotational parameters were checked and it was ready for Raymond to fly. Crowds of people prevented Raymond from flying his Helicycle initially, but once these dissipated within the next few days he hovered it and has since reported that he has flown it around the pattern at his airfield and loves it.
Meanwhile Helicycle #2, Jaques’ machine, had received plenty of attention since Jaques and his good friend George watched every move Doug and Hennie made on Raymond’s Helicycle. So, by the time that they got to it, it was nearly perfectly adjusted. Adjustments were double checked, balancing was complete and now Jaques’ Helicycle was ready for flight.
It also flew “like a million bucks”. Jaques’ friend George flew it and loved it so much he contacted a guy in South Africa that had a Heliycle kit for sale and bought it the next day. Needless to say, George will be building aggressively on his Helicycle.
Helicycle #3 was Hennie’s own ship. Since he had been so well instructed by Doug, he had his Helicycle flying well before our two week stay was over. With a few tweaks here and there Hennie’s Helicycle was also flying “like a million bucks”.
So now we had completed our goal of getting three Helicycles checked out, training Hennie to be the South African Check Pilot and meeting the group. During the days we met a steady flow of the South African Helicycle builders and their friends. Quite a group; Anton, a constant attendant, Peter, David, Lance, Brian, Braam, Coen, Quibus, Gus, Arnold, Ugo and his boys, Vince and Erika.
We also did an interview with SA Flyer, a South African flying magazine (no longer in business). They did a very nice article on the Helicycle in the March 2009 issue. Doug and Hennie also did final balancing of “Snow White”, a Helicycle owned by Brian Roach.
Brian had been in the process of rebuilding his Helicycle after an incident that occurred last year. It also flew for the first time in over a year while we were there. Since our trip Anton has returned his ship to operational status with the help of Hennie and his chief monkey inspector.
All in all it was a great trip and very exciting to see the strong fleet of Helicycles in South Africa. Hennie Roets will be a huge asset to Eagle R&D and the Helicycle builders in South Africa, we at Eagle R&D thank all of you for your interest and support. I am sure that BJ is proud.