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RotorWay Helicopters


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I am a homebuilder, but never built a helicopter...

 

I question the practicality of that kit though. I have seen several. Two friends once each owned Scorpions (one of the Exec's predecessors). Look through the ads - seems about 95% of Execs are at around 200 hours or less when sold. That would seem to say a lot about the practicality of owning one. Also, a great percentage of them sell for far less than the original kit price. Why does a completed helicopter sell for far less the price of a kit after only 200 hours TT??? To me, that kills all the warm fuzzies about practicality.

 

The tail design is similar to the Scorpion. Three belts in series are used to drive the tail rotor. Each belt is twisted 30 degrees to drive to provide 90 degree offset drive to the tail rotor. Seems like three points for failure. As I understand it, the belts have to be manually tensioned due to stretching. Everyone I knew that had a Scorpion has afraid to take it into forward flight at altitude because they feared losing the tail rotor due to belt stretch. I know they use different belts in the Exec, the Scorpion had Gates fan belts, but it seems a bit scary to me still. Think I would prefer a shaft drive.

And that is just one issue I have heard. I have heard lots of others about the engine and drive train...

 

There are reasons for the "Experimental" category.... ...And something to be said for a "certified" helicopter. Also, a helicopter is a pretty complicated device... Hmmm... <_<

Edited by nbit
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i have flown alot of hours in Rotorway ships all were in the 162F model. I thought it was a great machine it handles and autos like a dream. And i think it will only get better as they have just anounced that they are comming out with a certified machine soon. To put it in perspective I would sooner trust my life to a soundly built Rotorway than an R22 any day.

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they are in the process of building a certified 2 place....

 

RotorWay International, based in Chandler, Ariz., has sold more than 900 kits for small homebuilt helicopters, and now is starting development of a certified version. "We see a large opening in the market for a larger, two-seat, 21st-century helicopter with a sensible price," said CEO Grant Norwitz. The project is underway at RotorWay's facility in South Africa. The company will seek European certification first, then move on to the FAA. "We know there are many steps toward certification, and we know we are taking only the first step," Norwitz said. "We also know how important it is to take that first step. We have committed, here and now, to pursuing that goal."

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The R22 has 3 flex plates between the tail rotor and the transmission. Sounds like 3 places for failure to me. As I understand the R22's main drive belts must be manually tensioned so that when the clutch engages the tension is set properly. They also have to go through a break in period where they stretch a little.

 

I enjoy flying the Rotorway when I get a chance. It has more rotor inertia than the R22 and the S300C, auto's great, and is easy to work on. If I were going to own a helicopter for the fun of it I would own a Rotorway.

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The R22 has 3 flex plates between the tail rotor and the transmission. Sounds like 3 places for failure to me. As I understand the R22's main drive belts must be manually tensioned so that when the clutch engages the tension is set properly. They also have to go through a break in period where they stretch a little.

 

I enjoy flying the Rotorway when I get a chance. It has more rotor inertia than the R22 and the S300C, auto's great, and is easy to work on. If I were going to own a helicopter for the fun of it I would own a Rotorway.

 

Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't the Rotorway have 3 belts that drive the tail rotor? If that is in fact the case it's also 3 places of failure.

 

Can anyone confirm how the Rotorways tail rotor is driven?

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Correct me if I am wrong but doesn't the Rotorway have 3 belts that drive the tail rotor? If that is in fact the case it's also 3 places of failure.

 

Can anyone confirm how the Rotorways tail rotor is driven?

I can confirm that the rotorway uses 3 belts to drive the tail rotor. I was not saying that that was wrong, because it's not. I was just saying that the rotorway is not the only helicopter with 3 places for failure in the tail rotor drive.

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I can confirm that the rotorway uses 3 belts to drive the tail rotor. I was not saying that that was wrong, because it's not. I was just saying that the rotorway is not the only helicopter with 3 places for failure in the tail rotor drive.

Have you ever heard of a failure of the flex fitting? I'm aware of the driveshaft failure in NZ when the driveshaft was improperly installed to the TR gearbox. I think there've been more shaft failures due to overspeed than flex plate, but I wouldn't swear to it. Anyone?...

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OK... Yes, the R22 uses drive belts... And they do stretch. But still leaving out the important fact. The certified machines use multiple belts ganged in parallel the drivetrain. The Rotorway, three single belts in series. The comparisons the belt drive systems between the belt drive systems is still apples to oranges.

 

The belt systems are ganged, not in series on the certified machines, or twisted 30 degrees, like the tail drive on a Rotorway. If a belt breaks on a R22 or Schweizer, most likely perform a normal landing ASAP. On the Rotorway, if a tail belt breaks, slips, or overheats (any one of the *three* belts!), what is the procedure? Perform a "normal" landing ASAP? Well ASAP is correct... Normal??? Probably not...

 

Also, there is still the small fact that flex plates don't slip, belts do... I won't stake my life on three belts in series to drive a tail rotor. Yeah, it's just an opinion.

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I agree nbit but it seems that people who have never flown or experienced what they are speaking about are often the people with the most negative to say about a helicopter. That goes for all of those Schweizer pilots who hate robbies and all of the robbie pilots who hate schweizers and all of the airplane pilots who hate helicopters and ect. ect. . . .

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I have a friend that owns an Rotorway Exec with all the upgrated parts. I think she paid around $67,000? assembled. Her helicopter has a solid drive shaft. She doesn't like flying it and is trying to sell it to get a R22. I've never flown a Rotorway so I have nothing negative or positive to say about them.

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I built a Rotorway with the turbine conversion. I have since moved on. I now own a 2 r22's and I instruct in them as well as a 44. I still have many friends with rotorways and I am still actively involved with them. You really cant compare them with a certified ship.

 

I dont want to get into a big debate.....but there is none and should not be a comparison between the two.

 

Here is a post I made on another web forum that I think sums up my experience well

 

 

 

Should I build a Helicopter? A Retrospective..

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

OK….. Where to begin…..

 

Time and time again I am asked by people of my experience with building my own ship. Requests for information come a few times a month and ask if I would share my experiences with the Rotorway and the Jet Exec. A lot of the guys want to know if the Rotorway is a “good ship†and so on. They really don’t know how hard this question is to answer….. After spending an hour today discussing this exact topic with a gentlemen who contacted me through ROG, I thought I would try to put down in words the main points of my advice to him….

 

Before any of you guys shoot me down in flames….This is truly a post about why to build an experimental… It is not intended to scare people off. If you are scared off, then an experimental may not be for you anyway.

I am not trying to insult anyone and I am only trying to share MY experience. Remember that this is only on man’s opinion and you will find those that agree and disagree with my opinions…..

 

Now that that is out of the way…..

 

 

I’ll tackle the biggest issue first….MONEY

 

In retrospect I think I had many misconceptions about what building a helicopter, or any aircraft, was all about. I based my decision to build primarily on money. I thought that the only way I could fly a helicopter affordably was to build it myself and maintain it myself. While on the surface this may seem to be the case, it could not be further from the truth….

 

I’ll use a standard Rotorway 162f as a good starting example…

 

Most builders will invest about 75,000 to 80,000 in a nice build. You see these ships for sale from time to time with 100-150 hrs on them and they typically bring an average of 50,000 on the used market. This loss of 30,000 equates to around $300 per hour flight time plus gas. Not the cheapest way to go.

 

If you never sell...then you will never know this, but if you move on (which alot of builders including myself do) you will see this. Ron C. also did a good analysis of the dollars and cents which is on ROG for everyone to see. So, I will move on to a less tangible cost...

 

The single biggest thing I underestimated was the personal cost and time investment my ship would require. I spent around 1000 hrs constructing and probably twice that researching about the build. As a relatively young man (33 yrs old), and a young family, I spent many hours working on a very self indulgent project. AND when I was not working on it, I was thinking about it. This time took me away from my family and drove a wedge between my wife and myself. She began to resent the helicopter, the helicopter books, and even this forum for taking up my time.

 

There is a very delicate balance between working on a project and something becoming an obsession. Rightfully so, you will want to learn as much about these helicopters as possible considering that your life will be hanging from your workmanship. I know several other builders and all have experienced similar situations….and this is something few consider when making the choice to build.

 

 

 

The next issue I will tackle is safety…..

 

This is the million dollar question with no easy answer. I will start out by saying all in all the Rotorway is a safe and reliable aircraft when constructed and maintained properly. BUT in any activity (including crossing the street) there is some element of risk. I would without hesitation go fly in a Rotorway. I would however do it differently then I do in a certified ship. As many have stated before, the cost difference between the Rotorway and a certified is not merely the assembly. The parts used in construction of a Rotorway and the engineering behind those parts, are not at the same level of quality as they are in the certified world.

 

Does this mean that a Rotorway is unsafe….. I don’t think so. I think it just means you need to treat it differently. You make efforts to minimize your risk. In certified aircraft, the sheer number of flight hours flown by the fleet and the varying uses of these aircraft, mean that likely modes of failure are found and addressed over time. When there are accidents, they are thoroughly investigated and findings are posted and action is taken.

 

I think I saw somewhaere the YEARLY number of flight hours of the R22 is 1,200,000 per year…. Or take the Hughes/Schweitzer 300, a design that has been around for 30 plus years with millions of flight hours as well. Put that in perspective to the Rotorway and say the MAYBE there are 500 actively flying and on average less then 100 hours per year and you begin to understand why the modes of failure are less known. Not only that, when accidents do happen, they are not treated with the same priority as in the certified world. Often, little is done to find the root cause and many times this information is not made available publicly.

 

So what does all this mean from a safety perspective???

 

It means that you never really know what may fail on a fleet of ships all assembled to different levels and tolerances. Some have different driveline components and others are pushed to different limits. Not only that, most of these machines are flown for a very small number of hours……So judge your risk and fly where you are comfortable. Go out and fly, but personally I choose to fly more conservitively especially when it comes to what you fly over.

 

 

Now lets talk performance……

 

I have found that most people exaggerate the performance of their Rotorways. Airspeed indicators seem to vary wildly in accuracy. Truth be told, it seems most distance flying is on average 75-80MPH. Yea….I know…..You had it up to 115….. but ask the guys you take trips in the ships and look at their average GPS speeds. Another aspect is that the Rotorway tends to hop more as you get into the hooks joint at higher speeds. So a speed demon it is not.

 

If you are a heavier guy, 200+, the Rotorway’s performance will be marginal with two on board. Add to this a high density altitude and you will be walking an even finer line. That is not to say this is not true of all helos, but I think it is even more so in the Rotorway. You won’t be flying like T.C. on Magnum PI to say the least. You can still do some great flying and have great fun and hey...that is what it is all about.

 

 

 

 

Maintenance, how much is there and how often……

 

This seems to vary with builders as well, but it is fair to say there is a considerable amount of time you will devote to it. Some say on the order of one hour wrench turning to one hour flying. I think even if you are not doing “maintenance†you will often be looking over things just to be sure.

 

 

So what about the Jet Exec????? Is it the answer to all the worlds problems???

 

It is true that the JEX far out performs the standard 162f. From my experience, it seems to take a lot less general maintenance as well. BUT and this is a BIG “but . the amount of total fleet hours is even smaller then the Rotorway. I would guess it is under 1000 total flight hours.!!

 

What does that mean? It means until the fleet gets some more time on it we will not know. So it too should be handled very carefully. And remember you ARE a test pilot whether you like it or not.

 

 

What is it like to own a Rotorway?.....

 

I would classify the Rotorway as a recreational vehicle. You will find most use it like you would a motorcycle. You fly only when the weather is nice, you take short trips while carrying very little and generally return home at the end of the day. You will spend a good amount of time working on it and if you stray far from home, you make back-up plans “just in caseâ€.

 

 

 

SO with all this negative stuff, who should build a Rotorway?

 

I really don’t think what I have written is negative…. It is just real…..not good and not bad…

 

 

If you just want to fly a helicopter period and that is all you want to do, I don’t think an experimental is for you.

 

 

 

Give me some reasons for building your own helicopter….

 

You HAVE THE EXTRA TIME to devote to such a project and are in no big hurry to fly

You enjoy building things and take great pride in accomplishing a goal.

You enjoy learning new skills and expanding your knowledge

You enjoy meeting people with a common interest and also like helping others

You have the confidence in your abilities but also know your own limits

 

 

Those are just a few good reasons that I can think of…..but notice that none of them have anything to do with flying or money.

 

In a perfect world I would have a R22 AND a Rotorway. Both serve two different outlets for my energies and I do miss getting to turn wrenches as much as I used to. Who said “maintenance†was unenjoyable?? Not me! To the contrary, I got great reward from my work on the ship and it was never “workâ€.

 

I learned more then I could ever imagine from my build, not only about helicopters but also about myself. I have met and continue to meet some of the nicest people I have ever known. I have been able to help others and share my experiences, as I have done here, and continue to be rewarded every day. If I were to do it all over again, I am not sure which road I would choose…..but I do know one thing…I would do it for a TOTALLY different reason now.

 

Let the Flames begin!!!

Edited by jtravis1
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Just to clarify, southernweyr, and others concerned, I know what you're saying... I am not against Rotorway just for being Rotorway. ...I flew a friend's Scorpion briefly once long ago, before forming opinions, and helped work on it, and some other's Execs later. We spent many hours on the tail belts. Granted, I never owned one... (A pet peeve is that when someone doesn't own something, they don't know squat :P If we had to own everything to know about it, we'd be in big trouble. Hopefully the human race is in general smart enough to make opinions without owning everything.. Otherwise we got really big problems.) Everyone has to form their own opinions based on values they hold tight in a kit purchase, being safety, value, performance, perceived cool factor, etc... What is very important to one person is less important to another, and vice versa... I like to think we can all still coexist in harmony despite the value differences.

 

The Rotorway company has a great idea in the Exec and wish it was more successful (Selfishly, cause I would like to be in the same market that I exclude myself from). It certainly is a nice looking machine. I used to drool over the Execs initially... :P We have our individual risk limits... Over the years, I formed an opinion later on that the Exec exceeds my limit.

 

As homebuilders, we're issued repairman certificates when we finish a homebuilt, so there is not the same checks and balances for safety. Maintenance safety most often falls completely on the shoulders of the owner/pilot. Also, in an experimental, each aircraft doesn't have to be constructed with the same uniformity nor meet the engineering requirements of a certificated aircraft. I feel that the robustness of the tail drive system was an area that would come up in certification and no other manufacturers I know about use a similar design. That was my major, though maybe understated/unstated point, in bringing it up in the first place.

 

If I found a helicopter kit, Rotorway or whomever, liked the safety and performance, and found it affordable, I might not have got the airplane I am currently building. I'd probably still take a "wait and see" attitude towards a helicopter kit, because of the complexity of a helicopter. So, not trying to start a flame war. Just making an opinion known. Maybe it's an opinion of risk that doesn't bother others that want an Exec. I'll give every helicopter kit I see a fair shot. Maybe Rotorway will come out with an even better machine in their effort to make one certified. Hope the post comments made are found to be come out somewhat objective and not overly subjective.... Peace and be safe. ;)

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  • 14 years later...

I owned a Scorpian 133. I was afraid to take it beyond the airport boundary. The thing had so much slop in the collective that it required constant input to keep it flying. The rotor was so heavy that it felt like the engine was over taxed just to keep it in the green.  I did not enjoy the aircraft one little bit. It frightened me to fly it.

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