Rotorway Exec Kit Helicopter 1987

rotorway helicopters exec kit

Rotorway Two Seat Kit Helicopter Kit

To many of us, the essence of the word “freedom” means the ability to go anywhere at virtually any time that we choose. To many more of us, that word is epitomized by what we feel as we fly from place to place; in search of adventure, en­lightenment, fun and a clear view of the rest of our world.

Airport by airport . . . but think of how wonder­ful it would be if we weren’t so de­ pendent on having a half mile or so of concrete, macadam, asphalt, etc. to land on. Now, that sounds like freedom to me!

FREEDOM! Just think of it . . . the ability to rise effortlessly and vertically from most any location, speeding along at near 100 mph in a safe and economical manner, cruising around without benefit of wings but accompanied by the healthy beat of a finely tuned rotor system.

Alighting in places so small that even the best STOL aircraft would fear the consequences of a landing … or using a flotation system to splash easily into some remote fish­ing hole or mountain lake.

two seat kit helicopter

This is the real freedom that is made possible by the use of a helicopter. “But wait a minute there, Jimbo. Helicopters cost, hundreds of thou­sands of dollars—right? And don’t they need lots of costly maintenance?”

“And don’t they require awesome piloting skills and expensive les­sons. . ?” Not necessarily so, rotor breath! Especially if you happen to be ac­quainted with the Rotorway Exec kit helicopter. The Exec is evidently the only realistic avenue to afford­ able helicopter ownership, available to the common man.

And please note that I am not even hazarding the serious mention of rebuilding of an older, used helicopter—take my word for it, those kinds of projects are hardly a bargain. Helicopters are voracious money eaters — with one very notable exception — that being the Lone Exec . . . the only success­ful commercially offered helicopter kit available to the rotorhead who doesn’t own (or rob) their own bank.

DIY Helicopter Kits

A KIT helicopter, though? Has this Campbell guy finally slipped his gourd . . . wouldn’t a kit heli­copter be dangerous, difficult to build, and fly real squirrelly (EVEN without Campbell flying it)? Ques­tions, questions, questions. . . .

Well kiddies; I’ve been a helicop­ter pilot for several years now (proof positive that anyone can fly an egg-beater — with a little practice!) — an experience that teaches one caution, humility, pride, and an eye for de­tail that becomes the very essence of survival. Such whirly-wipged craft are wondrous devices that offer awesome capabilities and exception­ al versatility.

But they are also re­markably subject to the whims of neglect or indifference. The easiest way to get hurt in this business is to take a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude about helicopter flying — such will get you hurt in a hurry.

rotorway helicopter rotorhead

Still; properly flown and maintained, these devices are some of the most challenging and enjoyable beasts of burden that I have ever flown and their appeal (to me) bor­ders on the fanatical. I love flying helicopters — even though every part of these damned things seems to be trying to tear itself limb from limb (while doing the same to its occu­pants).

I have never learned more, or had nearly as much demanded from me, as I have had while flying helicopters. It is an esoteric and elite pursuit. Be that as it may, the concept of a homebuilt kit helicopter did indeed tend to make me look askance and shake my head with portents of dread for those erstwhile fools that might attempt such a foreboding assignment.

Such a complex and intricate piece of machinery was not the kind of thing that I would think should be trusted to amateurs. . . . I’ve changed my mind, though. Enter B. J. Schramm and the Rotorway Exec — the only feasible, enjoy­able . . . and SAFE kit helicopter that I know of.

A statement that I once thought to be impossible — until I got up the courage to research this little devil myself and find out why so many of them are being built and FLOWN by builders with no significant prior helicopter build­ing or flying credentials.

The Rotorway Exec is the latest in a long line of flying machines that have been manufactured in Chan­dler, a small suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Like many of the best designers in this business, the rotary minded Mr. Schramm is a precision tinkerer — a man in search of a better and more feasible way to arrive at a solution — the current Exec displays the results of his many years of research.

building rotorway diy helicopter kit

LEFT: Some of the seven kit sections ready to head off to lucky builders all over the world.
RIGHT: Ken Clarke displays part of the tail rotor drive and control housing.

The Rotorway Exec helicopter is the sweaty product of nearly 30 years of research, seven different designs, at least ten engine changes, and more concerted design, engineering, and manufacturing talent than I have ever seen demonstrated by a com­pany in the sport aviation business — and the story ain’t over yet, kiddies.

The Exec helicopter kit is not a toy, a model, or some slight pretender to the throne of rotory winged flight. It is a full fledged helicopter with some very interesting and noteworthy ca­pabilities that some of the certificated, $150,000, ready to fly wonders, cannot equal.

The Rotorway Exec is a two-place helicopter powered by the Rotorway RW 152 — a liquid-cooled 4-stroke engine that was designed, tested and subsequent­ly manufactured by the Rotorway bunch (and if you think building the helicopters is a sweet trick—try designing and building the engine for it!).

rotorway RW152 helicopter engine

Over ninety-five percent of the parts in the Rotorway Exec kit are actually manufactured on premises — along­ side those that they also fabricate for some of the biggest names in the aerospace game.

The Exec runs on auto gas, cruises just under 100 mph, climbs over 1000 feet per minute and can be retrofitted with floats or even a small crop dusting rig. It utilizes a two-blade semi-rigid rotor system, oxy­ acetylene welded steel frame, alum­inum monococque tail boom, and composite fuselage shells.

The kit is made available in seven primary kit groups with a total price tag just a tad under thirty thousand smackers. The kit is extremely well documented with well detailed draw­ings, manuals and numerous sets of “see/do” pictures that serve nicely to clear up confusion.

Also, personnel are available during normal busi­ness hours to answer builder’s ques­tions. A series of options are avail­ able that can decrease some of the more esoteric construction steps (such as welding) as well as increase the versatility of the Exec.

rotorway pre flight helicopter

Don’t let anyone kid you. Pre-flight inspection is the most critical part of safe helicoptering.

A new elastomeric rotor head is now available that has done wonders for the handling of this aircraft and though it adds several thousand big ones to the cost of the EXEC, I must rec­ommend it highly—it is a significant addition to the Exec helicopter package.

Floats cost approximately $3500, and a crop dusting rig goes for about $3000. As part of each kit purchase, Rotorway includes a series of lessons at its Chandler based flight school in real Execs, built and main­tained by the factory.

As builders near that momentous first flight, they are taken through the rudiments of pre-flight, basic aerodynamics, Exec maintenance, hovering, and rudimentary flight skills. After one gets their ship flying and becomes proficient at basic flying skills, the owner returns and receives the bal­ance of their flight training.

Parts & Pieces

The standard helicopter rotor head appar­ently works well but I must em­phatically recommend the newer elastomeric rotor head. It’s a beaut. If you want one of these things — don’t spare the extra expense — get this head! This head uses a sliding swash plate instead of a series of push-pull cables to control collective pitch.

The elastomeric bearings in use with this rotor system is a bonded rubber assembly that sports alternating layers of rubber and brass all melded together en masse. This collection absorbs many of the pressures of centrifugal force due to the absorbing nature of the rubber elements.

rotorway exec helicopter kit

One of Rotorway’s Execs undergoing inspection prior to being returned to service with the flight school.

This unit uses less com­ponents than the aforementioned sys­tem, and is basically more reliable due to its simplicity. The use of asymmetrical airfoils on the main rotor blades tends to produce more lifting power and is a feature normally found on more expensive tur­bine helicopters.

The Rotorway Exec uses a unique powerplant that was designed, built, and tested right at the factory. Each and every engine is manufactured to stringent tolerances and is shipped to the builder, factory assembled and tested (on a special test stand). The 175-pound, liquid-cooled RW 152 produces 152 horsepower and uses auto or aviation fuel at the pilot’s discretion.

This engine has compiled a fairly reliable record thus far, and I would love to see it adapted and made available for fixed wing, experimental, aircraft usage. I would imagine that this engine might possibly be manufactured affordably to solve many of the problems home­ builders are having in getting decent and affordable engines. How about it, Mr. Schramm? The industry needs it.

The helicopter cockpit is about as roomy as a VW beetle — which ain’t saying much if you have to fly it with the doors closed. Thankfully, flight with the doors removed is both allowable and encouraged — thus allowing for a bit more elbow room (and some cheap air conditioning — most welcome in the warm climes of Ari­zona).

Cockpit head room is limited but still adequate for a wide range of pilot sizes — requiring one to assume a posture appropriate to their di­mensions. Leg room (as long as you haven’t had to slouch too badly) is fairly plentiful.

rotorway factory production line

LEFT: Part of the Rotorway flight school line-up. They do a good deal of training here.
RIGHT: Kind of looks like a summer home for “E.T.” doesn’t it?

Panel room is limited but consid­ering the very VFR nature of the EXEC, it actually works out to be more than adequate for all the nor­mal instruments and a radio or two as well as an extra instrument, as desired. Taking the left seat, I noted that the deeply recessed instrument panel positioning still allowed for easy viewing and adequate separation from possible distractions.

The anti-torque pedals (something akin to the rudder pedals in a fixed wing beasty — but a touch more responsive than anything the airplane jocks may be used to) are set well forward and can be adjusted to help fit the in­dividual needs of the occupant.

The dual control set-up positions the left collective lever right next to the edge of the door and the right one, snugly between the seats. Cy­clic pitch control sticks are a well curved appendage that clears even a tubby gut like mine very nicely and seems to be positioned extremely well.

Seat belts and shoulder harnesses are installed handily and al­low for a bit of added security to those not used to being so close to an open door (though this particular aerial voyer really likes such seating — what can I say? I had a warp­ed childhood — sorry MOM . . .).

The starting sequence offers few surprises. The liquid-cooled Rotorway RW 152 helicopter engine started readily and settled into a very steady and low vibration idle that barely got the water temp gauge out of the sack.

My check pilot cau­tioned me that the Rotorway Exec was sure to show me a few new tricks during my flight test, so he would introduce me to the machine by demon­strating a few of the basic maneuvers beforehand and then start handing the bird over to my clumsy control.

Despite the warm morning (nearly 90 degrees), I was surprised to note that we didn’t have to wrap the throttle way up to achieve hover and that there seemed to be plenty of power available even with the both of us aboard and a near full fuel load.

The Exec helicopter responded well despite the fact that this morning was a very gusty affair that threatened some more interesting moments for the latter part of my flight test. A bit of hovering was followed by minor maneuvering among the landing pads and some pedal turns prior to my getting my hands on the beast.

rotorway helicopter tailrotor

Helicopters do require good con­trol coordination — mostly because they tend to have a mind of their own and firm plans to keep it that way. The fore/aft and side to side movement is controlled by the center cyclic control stick.

Moving it fore and aft, or to either side, induces that spinning rotor (via a swash plate) to do likewise and displace the rotor’s lift to favor an inclina­tion in the appropriate direction. The anti-torque pedals control the col­lective pitch of the tail rotor blades and swing the nose left or right in sympathy with the corresponding pedal.

The large collective control stick serves two functions: Raising and lowering it changes the angle of at­ tack of the main rotor blades by sliding the swash plate up and down on the main mast. The increased or decreased angle of attack allows the chopper to ascend or descend as long as sufficient power is available to drive the rotor.

A twist grip on the end of the collective lever controls the engine rpm and can ensure that proper power is available if the pilot desires. Raising and lowering the collective does also increase/decrease engine power as well but the twist grip provides the fine timing made necessary by non-standard condi­tions.

I once compared the art of hover­ing a helicopter to balancing a mar­ble on the top of a beach ball (after having imbibed heavily) — I still stand by that analogy. The combi­nation of having to wed cyclic and collective control movement to the fancy footwork on the anti-torque pedals is the most difficult and im­portant skill necessary to helicopter flying—especially since helicopters are naturally unstable vehicles.

Flying The Rotorway Kit Helicopter

The Rotorway Exec kit helicopter is a bit of another story, though. I expected that a kit helicopter might wind up flying pretty well in light of all the research, and its long, successful history but I was ill prepared for the superb na­ture of this aircraft.

It literally handles better than several machines in the multi-hundred thousand dollar price range (especially those with two bladed rotor systems). Control forces are moderate but the response is quite snappy — as long as you understand the nuances of the Exec control system.

helicopter airframe 4130

The bare fuselage frame is oxy-acetylene welded and serves as the main structural components of the Exec.

Being the ham hand­ed maniac that I am, I first attempt­ed to manhandle the hell out of the Exec especially since I was expect­ing the usual mindless excursions that are a part and parcel of light disc loadings and simple two-blade rotor systems. The Exec helicopter has virtually no notice­ able bad manners.

Slight pressures produce quick responses but hard, excessive, fast movements produce a noticeably “Damped” lag before heading off on a witch hunt. Control response ratios are fairly linear, throttle response is very fast — even for a piston powered chopper and the overall feel is extremely gratifying due to the mild but not overly light stick forces.

Due to the aforementioned habits ingrained by slightly twitchier machines, I had a heck of a time getting used to the Exec’s milder nature. For a little practice, I settled down and played for a while in the 15 to 20 knot gusts that were coming over the top of a nearby building. A few minutes served to dampen my gy­rations, so we decided to split.

We headed out over the desert and clipped along at a healthy 90-95 mph after a 1000 – 1100 fpm climb at 65 mph. The gusty conditions were ridden well by the light little Exec while the rotor exhibited the most “stable” handling that I have ever experienced from a non-augmented helicopter.

A combination of effects produced by the smooth but option­al elastomeric head and the gener­ous vertical and horizontal stabil­izer turned the Exec into a pleasant cruising helicopter that did not re­quire the customary death grip on the cyclic to keep things on an even keel.

We actually cruised for nearly a minute in the semi-rowdy air of that day with hands off the cyclic while the Exec flew itself — I’ve never done that in a piston helicopter before. Naturally; my biggest concerns were the safety of this machine – nice handling is wonderful but won’t save your butt if the rest of the systems don’t support the pilot in an emergency.

Auto-WHAT? Engine Out Proceedures

A few autorota­tions served as additional proof that Mr. Schramm’s considerable design efforts were not in vain. The power cut is accompanied by a slight pitch up (apparently induced by the horizontal stabilizer), no appreciable yawing from mechanical factors, relatively good rotor energy (despite the light mass inertia of this ship) and excellent response from the control system.

The descent angle (even with this much wind) was not as steep as I would have assumed. The vertical speed seemed pretty consistent at 1200 to 1400 feet per minute and a 60 to 65 mph descent felt pretty sedate. The flare occurs rapidly and quite low (which is to be expected from a machine with this kind of mass inertia—a Bell Jet Ranger, it ain’t).

Still; the energy hung in there for quite a while (allowing for plenty of time to level the skids and prevent a boom strike—one of the autorotation’s most notable hazards). The speed at flare (about 60 mph IAS) was a bit more than I needed, and the short final descent was un­eventful.

What followed thereafter, was a real eye opener. One of the cardinal rules that a helicopter pilot should follow is the strict adherence to stay­ing on the better side of their height/ velocity curve – AKA the “dead mans curve”.

In essence, the H/V curve is a relationship that tells a helicopter pilot how much speed and altitude they need during flight (most especially during low level maneuvering or takeoff) to allow for enough time and rotor energy to effect a safe landing before the ground rises up to smack one’s face.

For instance, going real fast at a very low altitude tends to give one very little time to react in the event of a power failure before the ma­chine starts digging up the real estate – not a good place to be.

rotorway helicopter kit

LEFT: The liquid cooled RW 152 power plant used in the Exec—manufactured right at the factory to very tight tolerances. This engine has piled up an impressive record for reliability.
RIGHT: An example of one of the many ways that Rotorway simplifies the building process. “Real life” sized templates can be glued on the appropriate plate and used to cut out the new part.

So … we went out and boogied over the desert at less than 10 feet and 70+ mph—and cut the power! Well … we didn’t die, we didn’t get hurt, and we didn’t even ding the Exec. At the power cut, the Exec did some very uncharacteristic things (as compared to some of their com­petition).

First, it pitched up slight­ly (just love that stabilizer and rotor head . . .), and didn’t hit the deck like a ruptured duck—thus giving us just enough time to quickly flare with the cyclic, milk up the collec­tive, and finish shooting a hasty but successful autorotation.

Impressed as I was after this event, I was even more impressed when we did one of these downwind. Another major concern (actually, something of a nightmare . . .) has to do with tail rotor failure.

The loss of this function is a real emergency that can land a pilot in big trouble. The effect of that huge rotor has to be countered by the tail rotor so that the whole machine doesn’t spin in the opposite direction of the rotor — every action has an equal but opposite direction . . . and all that rot.

The Exec minimizes some of those hazards by virtue of its huge vertical stabilizer and the natural streamlining presented by the rest of the fuselage. The combination of these surfaces allows the Exec to “weathervane” when flown at sufficient speed to take advantage of these aerodynamic tendencies.

The slower the speed at which a helicopter will demonstrate an ability to keep “weather vaning” with moderate power usage, the better — in the event of the loss or incapacitation of the tail rotor drive or control system.

With a little power and suf­ficient forward speed, this ability gives the pilot a better choice of landing areas and eliminates the need for an immediate emergency autorotation. The Exec does well in this department — demonstrating that it can hold its own (with low cruise power—with as little as 25 mph worth of airspeed).

This, I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it demonstrated. Mr. Walters made an approach with the tail rotor at zero pitch (no effective thrust) to one of the baseball diamonds at the practice area and seemed quite com­fortable with the process at speeds as low as 25 to 30 mph, before backing off the power. Very impressive.

rotorway helicopter jim campbell

Editor Jim Campbell (up front) gets his picture in the magazine for a change. HI MOM!!!

Test Pilot’s Summary

To those of you with helicopter experience, please excuse my over­ simplifications and generalizations but I felt that such was necessary due to the overwhelmingly “Fixed- Wing” nature of our readership.

No matter the experience level; it’s not hard to see that I was very impressed with the two seat Rotorway Exec Kit Helicopter. If I suddenly fall into a spare 30,000 smackers, this ma­chine could be very tempting. Even more tempting is the more affordable and sequential availability of the Exec kits.

The helicopter, itself, seems very well supported with factory run training, excellent construction info, regular help from a factory rep dur­ing business hours, and outstanding quality of individual components.

I have little doubt that a properly constructed EXEC is an airworthy aircraft. Its use of autogas, efficient powerplant, owner maintained nature and a host of other factors make the Exec a formidable competitor for a Sport Pilot’s mad money.

Even more important, the Exec seems to have the requisite performance and handling necessary to ease a pilot through several of the more common types of heli-hazards. By the way, Rotorway sells a video presentation that describes the Exec in detail — I highly recommend it to even the most casual of interested parties. It’s entertaining, informative and rather nicely done.

If the Rotorway Exec has any serious prob­lems (other than its $30,000 cost — though it’s extremely realistic in terms of today’s market), I don’t know of them. I’m rather amazed at what is possible when someone puts their mind to it — the Rotorway Exec helicopter is quite a testament to the power of the human “will to succeed.”

My congratulations to Mr. Schramm. Personally; I’d love to have one of these machines and a set of floats … what a ball. Now; that sounds like freedom to me.

rotorway helicopter cockpit

Powerplant RW-152 watercooled four stroke, 152 hp
Seats 2
Gross Weight 1320 lbs
Empty Weight 830 lbs
Equipped Useful Load 490 lbs
Pilot and Passenger Seat Load 380 lbs
Fuel Capacity 17 gal/110 lbs. 5 gal/aux
Rate of Climb 1200 fpm
Hover in Ground Effect Single place 10,000 ft Two place 7500 ft
Hover Out of Ground Effect Single place 6800 ft Two place 4500 ft
Service Ceiling 12,000 ft
Range Maximum Fuel, Optimum Cruise Power (one person and 5 gal aux) 275 mi/2.75 hrs
Range Maximum Fuel, Optimum Cruise Power (two persons) 201 mi/2.1 hrs
Normal Cruise 95 mph
Max Airspeed at Sea Level, Standard Day 115 mph

helicopter line drawing

EDITOR: A slightly humerous yet timely and poignant ad taken from a 1987 magazine promoting the Rotorway Exec helicopter video.



The RotorWay Exec is an unbelievable innovation in personal transportation! After all, who would believe this helicop­ter costs less than a luxury sports car? That its main rotor hub utilizes state-of-the-art elastomeric bearing technology found in helicopters costing $150,000 and up, or that when it comes to perfor­mance, safety and styling it meets or beats anything in its class, or that its four cylinder water cooled 152 H.P. power plant runs on auto fuel, not expensive AV gas!?? Can you believe all this? YOU WILL!!!…Once you see it on video!


As the old saying goes, seeing is believ­ing and not only will you see first hand the evolution of helicopters in general and the evolution of the Exec in particular, but you’ll also take a heart pounding ride with our pilot through picture post­ card deserts and majestic snow covered mountain peaks.

Then it’s on to breath­ taking Lake Powell where sculptured red rock towers rise hundreds of feet from the waters edge providing awesome views of the pristine blue water beaches below. Then, with tranquility behind us it’s time for more action packed high speed flying. You won’t believe what this ship can do… until you see it!


You’ll see that fun isn’t the only thing the Exec has to offer. Agricultural spray equipment and water floats add utility to the long list of uses this personal helicopter has to offer.

If you’ve ordered one of our information packets in the past you’ll definitely want this video, and our updated information package. You won’t believe what the Scorpion and Exec have evolved into… until you see it!


Something you CAN believe however, is the fact that the low end of general aviation is dying, if not already dead. FACT! Sales of 2 and 4 place fixed wing aircraft are currently 20% of what they were 10 years ago! Why? Most industry experts say skyrocketing costs are to blame.

That’s hogwash! When you allow for inflation over the past 10 years, the cost really hasn’t increased all that much. So, what’s the reason? Lack of new designs is one thing, but even more so, is the fact that entry level fixed wing aircraft don’t offer much excitement or utility. Think about it.

Is it cost effective to fly the company airplane 200 miles? Not very, and distances longer than that are best traveled on commercial flights. This is especially true now with airline dereg­ulation. Plus the fact that you still need ground transportation going to and from the airport.

In case you haven’t realized it… it’s time for a change. It’s time for the helicopter. You’re ready for excitement and we’ve got it…THE THRILL IS BACK!!! Point to point NOT airport to airport is the most efficient way to fly within a 200 mile radius. Exec totally fulfills the urgent demand for this type of essential transportation.


Some people will tell you general avia­tion hasn’t changed in forty years. The truth is they just haven’t been looking in the right direction. Helicopters WILL re­place the small airplane! We’ve made this tape to prove it to you, so prepare yourself for some shocking reality!

On top of all this, it isn’t necessary to be IFR rated to fly a helicopter. If weather moves in and your halfway to your destination just land where you run out of sky and safely wait it out. With as little as 2 or 3 acres of land you can park it at your home or of­fice. (Depending on local housing density.)

For you video buffs, this production util­izes the latest in Digital Video Effects and state-of-the-art Ampex Digital Optics combined with an incredibly dynamic soundtrack! The days of two dimensional travel are Over. You can live in a whole new world of affordable three dimensional point to point transportation!

See it…then believe it! THE THRILL IS BACK!!!

Rotorway Exec Kit Helicopter 1987
Article Name
Rotorway Exec Kit Helicopter 1987
In 1994, the Rotorway Exec Kit Helicopter looked very different - both on the inside and out. Since then there have been a number of minor and major improvements to this DIY helicopter.

4 Comments on "Rotorway Exec Kit Helicopter 1987"

  1. i would like to know how much is the kit

  2. Hi William, please check out our website, or give us a call at 602.377.5482. We are just seeing these comments! We just came out with our new model the Phoenix A600. She’s a beauty for sure….we are also running a special pre “Sun’n’Fun”

    • Hi Kellie, thank you for your contribution and link to your sight. It is great news knowing this fantastic kit helicopter continues evolving.

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