KITPLANES Magazine, July 2000
Let’s go on a (Canadian Home Rotors) Safari.
By Ken Armstrong
I‘m really excited about this helicopter and you should be too. It was always reliable because it used beefy, well-proven components such as the Lycoming engine. Unfortunately, it lacked pizzazz and state-of-the-art engineering. Although it enjoyed marketing success amongst those who could appreciate the importance of durability, sales lagged behind the prime competition. But that has all changed–along with the name. It’s no longer a Baby Belle but a Safari, and Canadian Home Rotors, Inc. (CHR) is running two shifts to keep up with the kit demand.
The Australians–a civilization that relies heavily on helicopters for many tasks–has always been diligent in sniffing out the best aircraft values. As this is written, the 17th Australian CHR kit order this year is entering the shipping container. Additionally, the first sale to France has been shipped and new dealerships in England and Ireland are cranking up orders
. The big news in Canada is Transport Canada’s full approval of the Safari so it can join the RotorWay as the only amateur-built helicopters permitted to fly over Canada. Incidentally, Transport rated the kit as 41% complete. On that note, an amazing number of refinements in the package allow the building time to be reduced from an honest 1200 hours to an equally realistic 720 hours. Ordering the optional prefabricated cabin and engine shroud reduces the total to 620 hours, the factory says.
In my book, “Choosing Your Homebuilt,” I advise would-be builders of kits that the company is as important as the product. In the case of CHR, the fellows are among the mellowest, hardest working group I have met in the industry. They are a collection of professional technicians who look at the Safari as a continuing project in perfection more than a method of income. You won’t get any high-pressure sales from this group. More likely is a discussion on helical gear hardness or manufacturing techniques.
Changes by the Numbers
Because CHR’s recent enhancements are so numerous, they will be listed only briefly to allow room for an updated flight report. CHR has installed and tested the following refinements:
1. Floats for water operations.
2. “Bear paws” for snow and soft ground operations.
3. A daily-use trailer that serves as a landing pad.
4. Fuel capacity increased from 17 to 28 gallons.
5. Improved fuel tank sediment trap system.
6. External racks that fit into the wheel sockets rated to carry another 20 gallons of fuel.
7. A cabin heat system with a 120F output during -30F temperatures.
8. An external cargo hook rated at 200 pounds.
9. Under-seat storage for both sides.
10. A balance disk built into the tailrotor head bump stop.
11. An improved tailrotor cable system developed by Safari builder Stuart Fields.
12. Composite mainrotor blades now standard.
13. A detailed flight manual–now with color photos–approved under Sweden’s rigorous requirements as standard.
14. Prewired electrical panel.
15. Preformed cabin bulkheads.
16. Inspection interval raised to 200 hours because chip detectors have been added to each geared transmission.
17. A temperature gauge installed in the main transmission.
18. Ground and polished bull gear with an increase in width to 2 inches.
19. Sight glass in the main gearbox.
20. Higher-capacity bearings in the main transmission for better safety margins.
21. Titanium (replacing 4340 steel) mainrotor shaft. Stronger, 9.7 pounds lighter and corrosion-free.
22. Titanium main and tailrotor spindles.
23. The slider cross assembly replaced with a knuckle driver resulting in fewer parts, lower cost, lighter weight and no lubrication requirement.
24. Tailrotor swashplate grease fitting eliminated.
25. Self-lubricating tailrotor rod ends with much longer lifetimes.
26. A new shearline in the mainrotor shaft allowing the blades to rotate for autorotation should the main transmission seize.
27. A self-aligning yoke/rotor head that requires no setup if the mainrotor head is removed for maintenance.
28. An oil cooler system with a built-in thermostat and bypass. This means no modifications or seasonal changes are required to fly from Canadian winters to Florida summers.
It’s worth noting that according to CHR, all of these improvements were dictated by a desire to make an extremely reliable helicopter even more dependable; the enhancements were not a result of problems.
Keeping Cost Down and Service Up
The company’s first prototype, known to CHR as Old Faithful, has flown 1250 hours and will continue to be used to establish recommended component TBOs. Due to efficiencies gained in manufacturing and supplier discounts through bulk purchases, there have been no price increases in three years, and the company frequently offers discounts at airshows.
CHR’s new web site, www.acehelicopter.com, contains a lot of information. Check in for full details. The recently changed e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Factory help is normally available seven days a week as “someone is usually in the shop every day and most of the nights” with the double shifting necessary to keep up with demand.
Come Fly with Me
I flew the award-winning second prototype at an airshow after evaluating a few other kit helicopters. While this wasn’t my first flight in the CHR helicopter series, it allowed me to compare the Safari with the two-stroke offerings I had just flown, and this perspective enhanced my already positive view of the Safari.
Although most modern kit helicopter companies have chosen to model their machines in a sleek style, the Safari retains the appearance of yesteryear and bears a strong resemblance to the Bell 47 series–a look that gave the Safari its original Baby Belle moniker.
The series has proven to be reliable, and the addition of numerous mechanical and aerodynamic refinements since my previous flight have further improved dependability and reduced maintenance. In my opinion, the Safari is likely to be the kit helicopter that is the least hassle to own and operate. Direct operating cost for a reserve toward overhaul of components is only $9.87 per hour. That’s well below any competitor’s published number.
The 160-hp Lycoming may not be state of the art, but it should keep its part of the bargain to provide uninterrupted power better than other powerplants found in amateur-built helicopters. (A turbine engine might be more dependable, but you would have a fuel bill 150% higher for that implied “insurance.”)
The first thing you notice when you strap into the side-by-side Safari seating is the roominess. No more rubbing shoulders or interfering with the other pilot’s collective inputs. New storage under the seats eliminates any clutter or objects that might interfere with control inputs during aerobatics or inverted flight (just kidding).
In hover, the Safari is rock-solid, and throttle correlation is easily accomplished so one doesn’t have to hunt for the optimum rpm as is common with the narrow power band of two-stroke engines. This easy-to-hover characteristic is really important for low-time heli pilots. Transition to forward flight is smooth and effortless with the composite blades adding a new dimension to the flight characteristics.
We depart for a large confined area in the trees next to a housing development–knowing the quiet, muffled sound of the Safari will create no noise complaints. It’s likely the sleeping occupants didn’t know we were cavorting in their back yard.
Normally during evaluation tests my flying is very conservative–only going as far as necessary to establish the flight characteristics and performance parameters. In this case, I felt so comfortable with the Safari, its safety margins, strength and predictable handling that I started doing the equivalent of an airshow routine. The behavior resulted from a simultaneous shot of testosterone and adrenaline (and that doesn’t happen often at my age).
Within the confined area, the maneuvers included 360 pedal turns, turns during forward and reverse flight, vertical corkscrews, hovering autorotations and quickstops.
Not content with that, we also accomplished a 90 turn entry to autorotation into the confined area from 400 feet. In the turn, the rate of descent was 1400 fpm, and in the straight portion, 1300 fpm showing a rather low blade loading and gentle autorotational characteristics. While I am quite confident doing these procedures with the many turbines in my logbook, this is the first time I have felt comfortable enough to exercise my right to full-blown pilotage in a piston-powered helicopter, and this includes 300 hours in noisy, expensive, piston-popping Bell 47s.
Actually, I should point out that while I was comfortable and confident during these operations in the trees, the company pilot appeared slightly nervous at my antics and needed to have his seat cushion surgically removed after the flight.
With a cruise speed of 85 mph, the Safari is faster than yesteryear but still not really fast. But then the Safari doesn’t promise to minimize en route time; it just promises to get you there in one piece. I noticed a slight vibration during our flight, indicating the helicopter needed a touchup on the tracking. This is a confirmation that a lot of these light helicopters are a challenge to track and balance–unless owners have exotic (expensive) equipment. Incidentally, most factory prototype kit helicopters I fly are somewhat “humpy,” and vibration is the No. 1 enemy of helicopter instruments, radios and components. Nonetheless, this Safari was much smoother than the previous models that did not benefit from the new composite blades.
We returned to the flight line and executed an easy approach that terminated in a steady hover and gentle landing–rather easy with the Safari–making a pilot look competent.
With the newly available cargo hook rated at 200 pounds, this machine can even sling loads. This can be invaluable for an owner on a farm, in construction and a host of other activities. I particularly like its extra capabilities and use of proven components.
|Basic kit cost||$47,200|
|Length||29 ft. 8 in.|
|Main rotor diameter||25 ft.|
|Tailrotor diameter||4 ft.|
|Gross weight||1450 lb.|
|Empty weight||920 lb.|
|Fuel capacity||28 U.S. gallons|
|Maximum speed||100 mph|
|Cruise speed||85 mph|
|Rate of climb||1000 mph|
|Service ceiling||10,000 ft.|
|Maximum range||200+ s.m.|
|Hover in ground effect||7000 ft.|
FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact the company at P.O. Box 370, 4 Roy Street, Ear Falls, Ontario P0V 1T0 Canada; phone/fax 807/222-2474; http://acehelicopter.com/.