Resurrected Helicycle Ventures Flying High (Literally)

Keith Southard in front of the Helicycle he took to 18,000 feet in New Mexico.

After the death of Helicycle founder B. J. Schramm, the personal kit helicopter company floundered for a while, that is until Helicycle builder Keith Southard and a partner bought the company last year with plans to rejuvenate the design and resurrect the company. You may remember that last year Southard brought a single non-flying ship to the show to see if he could drum up interest in this turbine powered single place kit helicopter.

Instruments (not included in kit price).

As it turns out, Keith was successful on several fronts. First he completely redesigned the skid and undercarriage structure to bring it up to certified standards for strength and crashworthiness. Certified helicopters are designed to dissipate enough energy in a hard landing to preserve pilots. Although amateur built rotorcraft are not required to comply with those standards, Helicycle now does, offering increased protection in case someone has to “spread the skids.”

Helicycle’s new generation nine kits are produced in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they maintain their machine shop, crating and composite shop and their assembly building. Each kit contains parts to construct an entire ship, including main rotor blades, tail rotor blades, main and tail rotor transmissions, a full fiberglass body and a Solar T-62-32 turbine engine, capable of 150 horsepower but de-rated to 100 horsepower. Helicycle has shipped six kits this year and has four more on back order. Despite inflation, Helicycle still sells their complete kits for $67,000. During AirVenture, they will reserve a manufacturing slot for a $5,000 deposit ($4,000 of which is refundable if your spouse puts his or her foot down).

Helicycle’s Solar T63-32 turbine engine.

Keith Southard literally took his corporate aircraft (shown in the photo) to a higher level on May 15 of this year when he dressed warmly, donned an oxygen mask and tried to see how far he could climb his Helicycle in Las Cruces. At 17,950 feet he was still climbing at 500 feet per minute. He called approach for a pop-up IFR clearance into Class A airspace, and they thought he was kidding. He will make another run at Class A airspace soon, after he replaces his transponder with an extended squitter model and files for IFR before he leaves the ground. You can see the video of the flight on YouTube:


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