How did I get from not knowing (or caring) anything about home-built aircraft to owning a gas turbine powered helicopter? As you might imagine, it’s complicated.
It all started with some harebrained discussions with a friend about building our own jet engines from turbochargers (a fun YouTube exercise, if you were unaware of this), or turbocharging a broken-down lawnmower. It seemed the more we talked, the bigger our ideas got. We were on a path to lunacy that could not be stopped.
One fateful day, we got involved in a discussion with somebody who happened to own the parts and plans to a small helicopter. He asked if we wanted to help him build it in exchange for partial ownership. It was a Rotorway 162f with a KISS Aviation gas turbine conversion, altogether referred to as a JetExec. We were immediately intrigued, but apprehensive. After all, our only experience with rotorcraft, up to this point, had been academic, and neither of us had even ever been in one, let alone knew how to build one! Nevertheless, we weren’t smart enough to say no.
A couple of weeks later, we found ourselves standing in a storage unit, looking at what was soon to become our favorite passion and bane of our existence. There was a frame, some metal bits, a bunch of fiberglass panels, some gearboxes, and my favorite, a Solar T-62 gas turbine engine. Of course, we immediately agreed to help him.
Flash forward four years, a couple of thousand hours of work, and various twists of fate that left me as the sole owner. I am almost finished with the project and making plans to fly it for the first time in the Spring of 2018.
Looking back at the last four plus years, I wouldn’t trade away a minute of it away. I wholeheartedly believe everybody should enthusiastically embrace their passions, and for many of us engineers, our passions are tied to our profession. I work in the aerospace turbomachinery field, which means I spend my days creating, developing, building, and eventually seeing the fruits of my labors roar to life. It is a deeply rewarding thing.
Here is what it looks like now. There are just a few more things to take care of before it is ready to fly! I will have to wait until Spring now. Winter in Vermont is not the time to take a maiden voyage in a lightweight helicopter.
Flying it for the first time is not the end though. I already want to tear apart and redesign the engine impeller and turbine to make it better, faster and more efficient. It is what I do here at Concepts NREC, after all. Besides, who wants to have a completed hobby?