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Hummingbird Helicopter


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The reason I am compelled to write into this forum is to try to clarify some issues regarding the Amateur Built/Experimental Category versus the Hummingbird helicopter. Selling the Hummingbird to you in kit form is the most cost effective way for you to get into your own personal helicopter. Because it is sold in kit form is it safe and can a novice assemble it? Please read the following article:


In 1991 the helicopter kit build industry was revolutionized by the introduction of the Hummingbird, the world’s first FAA certificated helicopter to be sold in kit form. Simple in design and easy to assemble, the concept of selling in kit form reduces all costs from the purchase price to operating expenses. It is important to note that the Hummingbird was designed to be a Type Certificate helicopter, so this is a real advantage over conventional kits. This helicopter went thru stringent FAA certification, engineering and endurance testing, and has established a proven history over the years with no inherent problems with the design.


The most challenging part of with the Hummingbird program was to take an F.A.A. Type Certificated helicopter and structure the build process so the average person could finish the job accurately. Because transmissions are shaft driven there was no room for misalignments. Vertical Aviation Technologies manufactured all the aluminum hydroform dies, alignment fixtures, casting molds using the Sikorsky drawings acquired. Vertical Aviation Technologies owns every drawing of the Sikorsky S-52, which is the basis of this design, including every engineering report, process specification, flight test report, and F.A.A. certification reports.


The lower cabin section is first assembled and pilot drilled on a fixture at the factory. It is shipped to the builder disassembled. The builder cleco’s it back together, fabricates and adds angles, etc., to it and performs the final riveting. The structure is aluminum and carbon fiber composites. The upper cabin and firewall assembly is assembled and riveted on fixtures at the factory. The builder simply sets it on the lower section and rivets them together. No alignment concerns because all the hard points have already been located. Next the landing gear is assembled and installed. Now your aircraft in on wheels and can easily be moved around.


The nose/windshield, instrument panel and composite doors make up the next stage. The windshield is from the Bell 206L Longranger. The nose is composite and comes ready to install. Section 5 is the tail. Again the tail cone is riveted together at the factory on fixtures. The builder assembles and installs the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. The tail section includes an intermediate and tail gearbox. Both are assembled and tested at the factory. The tail rotor blades are painted and balanced to the hub and require installation only. The next section is the main rotorhead, main gearbox, and tail shafting. All are assembled and tested at the factory and require only installation. Flight controls go in next and include dual controls with electric trim. The powerplant section includes every item to install the Lycoming engine. This includes the clutch and freewheel unit and a 100 Amp alternator. The engine is a dry sump oil system so a three gallon oil tank is mounted on the firewall. An oil cooler is included. After the powerplant section comes the fuel system. The fuel cell bladder holds 57 gallons. One electric fuel pump mounts on the firewall with the strainer. One engine driven fuel pump mounts on the engine accessory case.


The next section is the electrical which includes the following gauges – dual tachometer, air speed, altimeter, manifold pressure, transmission oil pressure, fuel pressure, cylinder head temperature, volt/ampmeter, carburetor air temperature, fuel quantity. All wiring and connectors are supplied in a prefabricated harness. Warning lights include chip detectors for gearboxes and engine, alternator and rotor brake. Wrapping up the kit is the two front composite seats and composite cowling. They are made at the factory and require installation of camloc fasteners.


The last section is the main rotor blades. Redesigned using the original aluminum extrusion design with composite/aluminum pockets hot bonded to the spar. Each blade has a 7-degree twist. The blades are painted with forestry service safety colors and balanced ready for installation.


The kit comes very complete and includes every nut, bolt, washer, switch, circuit breaker, bus bar, wiring, connector, canon plug, etc. Total build time is documented by builders at 800 hours. There is no welding and no composite work required. The kit is eligible for the 51% rule. Major modifications made to the original Type Design include the nose/windshield, instrument panel, composite doors, seats, flight control system improvements, powerplant, composite cowling, tail stabilizers, rotor blades as well as many smaller improvements too numerous to mention. Even components like the main rotorshaft are manufactured with better manufacturing processes. All modifications meet or exceed F.A.R. 27 – Airworthiness Standards: Normal Category Rotorcraft. The new nose is FAA approved by Ralph Alex (DER) the retired chief engineer, Aircraft Design and Development, Sikorsky Aircraft. The Hummingbird is far superior to the original S-52 design that it is based upon.


This helicopter is a real pleasure to fly. Because of its inherently long tail, forward flight is very stabile but very agile. The S-52 was the first helicopter to perform loops. The new stabilizers were moved forward on the tail. This helped with longitudinal/lateral stability and tail rotor authority. Improvements to the flight control system include a new mixing unit design and an electric cyclic trim system. This trim system has force gradient (spring) control rods that center the cyclic stick where positioned during flight with electric motors. The electric motors incorporate clutches so this spring pressure can also be switched off such as in a hover. In a hover stick forces are so light it feels like the controls are hydraulically boosted. Another appealing characteristic is actually on the ground; wheels. It is such a pleasure to be able to taxi a helicopter and not have to hover. Find a new helicopter on wheels for less than 1 million dollars. Even man handling in and out of the hangar is quicker and easier than ground handling wheels. Under high density altitude conditions running takeoffs can easily be accomplished. Maximum gross weight is 2700 lbs. Useful load is 950 lbs. The fuel tank holds 57 gallons. The engine burns 13 gallons per hour. Cruising at 100 mph the range is better than 375 miles. The Lycoming provides plenty of power and is a pleasure to fly. The throttle is synchronized with the collective.


The three-blade rotor system is very smooth and has a medium inertia rotor providing very good autorotation characteristics similar to the Enstrom. Adding throttle brings the rotor r.p.m. right back up. Main rotor discs loading is only 3.1 lbs. per square foot. Rotor r.p.m. is 320.


Another desirable characteristic of the Hummingbird is the large cabin interior. Inside width is 58”. Flight controls run under the floor so visibility is not impaired by controls running up thru the cabin. Large baggage areas are located under the pilot and co-pilots seats. The cabin seats four/five people very comfortably! For engaging the rotor system the clutch is automatic no levers to pull or belts to engage. A Rotorbrake is included to slow the rotor during shut down if need be.


When you finish building your Hummingbird it is licensed in the amateur built category but it is as close to a Type Certificated production helicopter as you can get plus you get the pleasure of learning all about it while building. The FAA will issue a Repairman Certificate to the builder so that they can maintain their own helicopter this is a real cost savings for the operator/owner. Vertical Aviation Technologies spent a great deal of money and time developing instruction/service manuals, drawings, photographs, flight manual, etc. to assist building this kit. When you’re finished Vertical Aviation Technologies has a test pilot/technician that can assist final rigging/blade tracking and testing. To date there has been a 100% completion rate.


The price of the Hummingbird kit is $138,600.00. We now offer a quickbuild fuselage as well. Vertical Aviation Technologies also warrants materials and workmanship to the original owner for one year or 1000 flight hours.


Since the first of this year Vertical Aviation Technologies has added 23 orders. A recent customer received certification to fly in the country of Slovenia, dealerships are established worldwide and a build center in Australia is operating.


Vertical Aviation Technologies has been in the commercial helicopter business for over 35 years. We have been an FAA Repair Station, including main rotor blade overhaul approvals, owned numerous Type Certificates, STC’s & PMA’s. We have sold over 173 helicopters worldwide from commercial helicopter operators to governments, including the United States. We have an excellent reputation with the FAA and never had a fatality in any helicopter we built or sold, including the Hummingbird. We developed and certified the nine-passenger Whisper Jet quiet helicopter for Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters and I can assure you the Hummingbird is as much as any certified helicopter or more- just sold in kit form.

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I cant really seem to find any documentation that the S-52 was a "time proven" design. Being "type certificated" is meaningless unless it can be backed up w/hundreds of thousands (millions) of proven flight hours. It started it's career in 1949, that much i have found. --- any links to more info on this ship?


My opinion tho? ( those who know me already know what that is tho) :lol: $140,000 USD will buy you a very decent used 300 B)

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ok im confused, isn't the hummingbird and a helicycle and a mini 500d all in the same catagory????? arn't they all experimental aircraft and you cannot make money with them?????? Is this guy just saying the hummingbird is a very high quality expirimental, or is he saying the hummingbird is a faa certified aircraft just like the r22 and the 300???? i have read about the hummingbird and it appears to be the best expiramental aircraft that you can buy, but isn't it still just expiremental and you cannot make money with it, and you can only log so many hours towards your training.....


lets say if i wanted to buy an experimental aircraft to get all of my ratings in, 0 hours to 200 hours all the way to cfi ii. can I log all of those hours???

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He states that it is an experimental aircraft so one cannot generate revenue with it. All the hours you fly can go in your log book. Several problems however:

Insurance may be difficult to find.

When the time comes to sell it you are faced with a liability issue with the buyer.

A CFI who is willing to instruct in an experimental may be difficult to find.

A Designated Pilot Examiner who is willing to give a checkride in an experimental may be difficult to find.

A potential employer looking over your resume may not be familiar with the Hummingbird and that may bias his opinion about your time logged. Building time in a Rotorway Exec, a Baby Bell, a Mini500, or a Hummingbird is perfectly fine IMHO. But not everyone feels as I do. Building and flying an experimental is, in some ways, better than flying a certificated ship. You earn a repairman's certificate (sort of like an A&P license), and you gain valuable mechanical experience.

Let's hear from any members who have built their own helicopter........


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Let's hear from any members who have built their own helicopter........



I built mine :) But it was from a wreck that i purchased from the insurance company. A Hughes 300, of korse ! B)


Some of the homebuilts i have seen tho, the quality of the workmanship is extremely high----especially in the fixed-wing catagory.


Altho i am not a big fan of homebuilt aircraft (especially helicopters), the EAA has promoted & made great strides in technology, (more so than the FAA regulations allow) My hat is off to the homebuilders AND the manufacturers that truely do have a passion for promoting the future of aviation.-----SAFELY, of korse !

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I'm rebuilding Hiller 12's. I've seen the Humminbird on the Sun n' fun last year and I have to see it's impressive, the rotorsystem is very good and definitely save, of course the overall quality depends on the builder.


Having an experimental is only useful if you want to use it for yourself.

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Absolutely beautiful bird. How many hours to build and how many hours have you flown it?




Thank you for the complient on my ship it still has a ways to go, many mods to do and expierintation but it sure is a hell of alot of fun. I have several friends within a 100 mi. radius with the same machine. I lost track of the hours I spent building,but realistically probably in 1500-1600 range it never stops thow. But this is part of the fun!. Next on the list is strakes to enhance tail rotor authority (hopefully).



Mark Shelton


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