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Early detection of enemy (read Russian) bombers approaching the U.S. was of prime consideration during the Cold War days of the 1950s and early 60s; varied means of accomplishing early warning perimeter defense were constructed or employed. Air breathing bombers were the perceived threat in the 1950s before the ICBMs emerged as the primary nuclear-carrying weapon. Radar installations along the Canadian border, the Pintree Line, were in place by 1954 and the Arctic fence of radar installations, the Mid-Canada Line and the DEW Line, were being built in that icy expanse. Civilian volunteer spotters, the Ground Observer Corps, were on duty at posts across the U.S. at strategic locations, watching the skies, to fill in gaps in the radar coverage. The northern border wasn't the only route that enemy bombers might take. The high priority targets inside the U.S. northeastern industrial complex - within easy striking distance of the Atlantic coast - made the stakes involved that area of great concern. The advanced radar early warning network for the Atlantic coast consisted of ground-based radar, Navy radar picket ships, Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft such as the Lockheed WV-2 (EC-121) and the Grumman WF-2, and the sea-based radar platforms called Texas Towers. These resembled oil-drilling rigs and were placed on shoals about 100 miles off the northeast coast of the United States. The Air Force originally proposed five towers, but only three were built. The first, Texas Tower Two (TT-2), on May 7, 1956, achieved the status of a limited operationally ready aircraft control and warning station as it began functioning approximately 125 miles east of Chatham, Massachusetts. It rose about 65 feet above the sea and was 150 feet from the seabed.

East Coast Installations - from a 1959-60 Bell Systems Brochure.

In conjunction with AEW&C aircraft and Navy picket ships, Texas Towers would contribute to extending contiguous east-coast radar coverage some 300 to 500 miles seaward. In terms of the air threat of the 1950's, this meant a gain of at least 30 extra minutes warning time of an oncoming bomber attack. In January 1961, Texas Tower #4 collapsed during a storm resulting in fourteen airmen and fourteen civilian workers being killed. Texas Towers #2 and #3 were decommissioned shortly afterwards. For "A History of Texas Towers in Air Defense 1952-1964" article, Click here.

Texas Tower TT-2.

Methods for transportation and supply of the towers had to be worked out. Two Piasecki (Vertol) H-21B helicopters per tower were authorized by USAF, four of which were based at Otis AFB (the 4604th Support Squadron) and two at Suffolk County AFB. The twin-rotor H-21B had a theoretical capacity for carrying 10 passengers or 2,000 pounds of freight. When equipped with necessary flotation and survival gear, however, the H-21B's capacity was cut to eight persons or 1,550 pounds of freight. Other cargo was furnished periodically by ship. Fuel, food and lubricants,were stocked to provide at least a 30-day reserve; spare parts were on hand for operational equipment to last 45 days. The photo below is from a newspaper - a H-21B is shown approaching the landing area on Texas Tower 2; the size and relative scale of the platform is evident in this scene.

The Topping model of the USAF H-21B being offered here is a commemorative model which celebrated a pilot(s) who made 1000 TEXAS TOWER TRIPS associated with the 4604th Support Squadron. The letter from Don Abbott, quoted below, indicates that Vertol (formerly Piasecki) had these models specially made for presentation to Texas Tower pilots who completed 1000 trips - couldn't have been very many. The number produced would have been very low, casting this model into the category of "very scarce."

email from Don Abbott:

Dear Steve, Yes I do have a memory of the Boeing Vertol Co., giving a pilot or two an H-21 model for their 1000 trips to USAF Texas Towers 2,3 and #4 "Old Shaky" that went under the waves on 15 Jan 61 killing 28 men and only finding two bodies. The Pilot, as a matter of fact, sent the model given to him, to me for the archives. I do have it packed away in storage. It is about 18" long if I recall and is very nice. I used to refuel those very "banana boats" all the time when I was an Airman at Otis AFB in Falmouth, MA from 57-61. If I can be of any further help let me know. But that is a truthful happening and for that exact amount of trips, 1000. Not something I would forget, an amazing number don't you think?
Warm Regards,
Don Abbott, President,
Director, Public Relations and Media
The USAF Texas Tower Association Web Site
208 Bryant St., Apt. # 6
Malden, MA 02148-4244-39
Tel. 781.324.5158..Cell.....781.632.2684
Visit us at WWW.TexasTower.Org (see link to site above)

It is unknown whether the tail number of "34357" can be traced to the 4604th - however, the number 53-4357 is a H-21B, manufacturer's serial number B.107. This particular helicopter eventually woundup on the Canadian registry as CF-SUU. The USAF H-21B version (equivalent to the Army's H-21C) first flew in November 1955. The USAF designation changed to CH-21B and then HH-21B in 1962 as most military aircraft were redesignated.

This model does not have the "yoke" type main landing gear as used on early H-21s and the first Topping models, but has the stub-axle style associated with the "B" and the "C". Some examples of Topping H-21 models seen in museums are shown below. The first is a model exhibited at the Helicopter Foundation International collection in Alexandria, Virginia. The second photo is a Navy version (missing one fin) photographed at the NAS Patuxent River Test Pilot School.

This H-21C model is displayed at the Udvar-Hazt Center; note that it has the yoke style main landing gear. CollectAir photo 2013.

This model, in 1:48 scale, of the USAF H-21B, 1000 TEXAS TOWER TRIPS, is complete and intact. There is no original stand although all of the models were originally equipped with Topping stands as there are two, standard mounting holes in the bottom. A substitute Boeing/Vertol stand is provided. Since the model rests on the gear, many, if not most, recipients must have discarded the unneeded mounts. Note that the decals are in very good condition.

This unusual Topping model of the USAF Piasecki H-21B twin-rotor helicopter is priced at $1300.00.

A sidebar to the H-21 model. The Army received the H-21C (equivalent to the "B") as a cargo and personnel transport with the name "Shawnee". The first deliveries to the Army were in September 1954 with production continuing until March 1959. I was working as a helicopter mechanic with the U.S. Army Aviation Service Test Board in 1954 and 1955 and we received some of the first production H-21Cs for operational testing; I was assigned to serial number 51-15888, tail number 115888, the eighth built, and I recall us having 115881 also which I believe was the one we picked up at Edwards AFB in 1955. The Air Force did all engineering flight testing for the Army and when they completed tests on the H-21C version (in preparation for their USAF H-21B version ordered after the "C"), a small group of us from the Fort Rucker Test Board went to Edwards to take over the ship and perform some high altitude and desert tests before flying back to Rucker. Arriving at Edwards, complete with papers and "secret" clearances, we promptly discovered that the USAF's Army H-21C was in terrible condition and unairworthy. Much to their dislike and consternation, we hung around the air base for several days while we performed an inspection and changed the Wright 1820 engine - the desert flying had eaten up the cylinders and bearings to the point that the 19-gallon oil tank wouldn't sustain a single flight! Needless to say, there was some exciting experimental jet activity going on at Edwards at that time and we GIs were in no hurry to leave as we had a front line seat on the test ramp. We spent a few weeks at an Apple Valley dude ranch, parking the helicopter in the desert, and refueling at George AFB. Each day we flew several sorties into the White Bear region and did a few exciting running takeoffs at White Bear Lake. We made an uneventful (mostly), but rather warm and humid, flight back to Rucker, taking a pretty straight course from San Antonio across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and into Alabama. A late evening thunderstorm threw us off course during a night flight leg and we made an "off-airport" landing in a drenched high school football stadium in Mississippi (still lit up following a game); the locals fed us and I wound up spending the night RON in a friendly funeral parlor. One of the Board's test H-21s made the first non-stop flight across the U.S. in August, 1956; it took 37 hours and refueling by a fixed wing.

The Edwards Air Force Flight Test Center was buzzing with activity in 1955 and our front row seats maade for some exciting viewing. To give you an idea of what was going on at Edwards AFB in the mid-1950s, Click here for an interesting video.

H-21C, 56-2159, at Pima Air Museum in 1989 prior to being repainted in the 1962 markings of the 93rd Transportation Company. CollectAir photo.

The scene shown below depicts an actual activity at Fort Rucker as we performed operational maintenance on 115888 under "field" conditions; that's me sitting on my toolbox trying to figure out how to hook up the aft transmission. Entitled "Field Expedient - 1955" which I painted in 1997. Can you identify the pickup? During our service testing, we changed all dynamic components every 120 hours.

Thanks to Ray Wilhite, archivist at the USAAM at Fort Rucker, who came up with this in-flight photo of my old H-21, 115888.

There are approximately twenty-five H-21s exhibited in museums around the U.S. plus one flying example. Several websites list the remaining H-21s along with the dispostion of some serial numbers. The ships immediately preceeding 115888, 886 and 887, were located in an Alaskan junk yard. CH-21B, 53-4324, had been displayed at the Pate Museum in Cresson, Texas; this museum closed and the helicopter, belonging to the Naval Museum has been transferred to the Vintage Flying Museum and will be restored. A number of H-21s may be located by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.

Appropriate to the above scene, and in keeping with the H-21 model, a manual is also offered to allow you to maintain and operate your new H-21. Bound in two official "ARMY AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE PUBLICATIONS" binders, manuals TM 55-1520-205-20, "Organizational Maintenance Manual, H-21C Helicopter", dated October 1961, and TM 55-1520-105-10, "Operator's Manual, H-21 Helicopter", dated August 1961, can be yours for $300.00. The picture below is from the -20 and shows the hair-raising procedure for tracking the rotor blades - imagine trying to hold that long pole with it's flag and "gently" introducing it into the rotor plane to get tip markings as it waves around in the rotor wash. These two manuals are in fine condition. Particularly note that the H-21 pictured being tracked has the yoke style gear as used on the model - not appropriate for the H-21C.

The Army's H-21Cs were the first U.S. cargo/transport helicopters to be operated in Vietnam and they took a beating early in the war. Though little known, the H-21s conducted extensive Vietnam combat missions in early 1962, carrying Vietanmese troops and U.S. Rangers into areas such as Hung My. H-21s were operated by the 8th Transportation Company, from Qui Nhon, the 93rd Transportation Company serving I Corps, the 33rd Transportation Helicopter Company, and the 57th Transportation Company serving the southern III Corps area along the Mekong River Delta. The H-21s frequently operated in mountainous jungles - very hazardous flying under hot and humid conditions. The effectiveness of the H-21 in Vietnam is generally discounted, yet they were the first and helped develop the tactics which followed. The first media reports of action, in February 1962, told of the airlifting of Vietnamese troops by the H-21s. The first in-flight Purple Hearts and the first in-flight combat deaths occurred in the H-21. A number currently are exhibited in museums and at least one H-21C is flying as a "warbird" (see next paragraph).

This North Vietnam stamp shows a machine-gunning of a U.S. Army Piasecki H-21 helicopter - it commemorates a Vietcong attack on a South Vietnam village. This stamp photo is taken from the cover of the February 26, 1965 issue of Life magazine which has the headline, "Vietnam: Blow, Counterblows, Tense Waits." The H-21 was the symbol of the U.S. Army presence in the early 1960s.

The book, The Piasecki H-21 Helicopter, by Robert J. Brandt and William J. Davies, is a must read and reference for anyone interested in helicopter history and the Piasecki line in particular. The book has extensive coverage of operations in Viet Nam.

I was given a nifty Piasecki product brochure in 1955 while visiting the Morton, Pennsylvania plant of the Piasecki Helicopter Corp. for a maintenance conference on the H-21. You can view or print out this 12 page brochure by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.

The above photo is of a H-21B, the only flying, operational example. This helicopter belongs to Classic Rotors, the Rare and Vintage Rotorcraft Museum, located on the Ramona Airport near San Diego ( I flew on this helo on September 16, 2004 on an evening ferry flight from Camarillo Airport to Point Mugu NAS on an airshow positioning flight piloted by Classic Rotors pilots Mark DiCiero and Ed Henretta with crewman Dale Sinclair - the first time I've had a ride in a H-21 in nearly fifty years! Photo shows wash-rack activity prior to run-up and takeoff at sunset; a truly exhilirating experience listening to that 1820 at 45" along with the myriad clatterings and screamings of gear boxes, drive trains and six rotor blades. It triggered a lot of memories (mostly pleasant) of the Army days with the Rucker Test Board. Thanks to all the gang at Classic Rotors. More pics at album link below.

Helicopter photos at Shutterfly - click here to view. Use the slide show option for the most entertaining viewing.

Photo by Richard Seaman, by permission.

Same H-21B as seen in movie, "Straight Up!"

More photos of this H-21B, along with an excellent article entitled "Helicopter Work Horse, the Piasecki H-21" may be viewed by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.

The photo of N64606 in bare skin, shown below, appeared in the June 1997 issue of Air Classics.

Swedish Boeing Vertol 44 serving Baltic lighthouse - 1961.

You can view an Air Force H-21B in action at Edwards AFB while guarding an XB-70 on landing by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.

The Aurora box art for Kit No. 504 shown below was painted by Ed Marinelli; it is an original proof copy used for Aurora approval purposes. This H-21 kit in 1:49 scale was originally a Helicopters For Industry kit.

A few other CollectAir photos of existing USAF H-21Bs.

U.S. Air Force H-21B 034329 at Museum of Flying Restoration Facility. 6/08.

Travis AFB Museum.

The National Museum of the USAF, tail number 51-15857. This ship, marked "857," is now displayed in the Cold War area.

Canadian Museum of Flight in Surrey,B.C., 1986. Believed to be ex 53-4366.

H-21 at the American Helicopter Museum, West Chester, PA.

This CH-21C, s/n 116, restored by Max "Red" Hall, won the EAA Warbirds Phoenix Award in 1998. The restoration story is covered in this issue of "Warbirds"; two H-21s were recovered from a Fairbanks salvage yard. Where is this beautiful warbird located at the present time?

H-21C at Army Aviation Museum. CollectAir photos.

H-21C at the Ozark Military Museum, Drake Field, Fayetteville, AR.

H-21B gate guard at Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage. CollectAir photo 8/2011.

H-21B in storage hangar at the Alaska Aviation Museum, 0-44004. CollectAir photo 8/2011.

The USAF crash/rescue H-21 is shown at Cuddeback Lake, an alternate/emergency field used during the X-15 test program. X-15 #3, piloted by Milt Thompson, is shown following an emergency landing during the 29th free flight of ship #3 on May 21, 1964. This was the first emergency landing to be made on this lake bed. The B-52 drop ship was piloted by Fitz Fulton. The H-21 was used as the base crash and rescue helicopter. Does anyone know how many H-21s were based at Edwards AFB at this time? X-15 display models are offered on the Display Model Annex 3 page.

Update. Correspondent Lowell Maybrier submitted the following information: "I was a helicopter crew chief at Edwards from May 1961 till October 1965. I was in the 6515th OMS rotary wing section. At the time of the X15 crash (Mud lake crash in November 1962) I was crewing the JCH-47A 60-03448. We tested it for Army. We had four CH-21's that were used for X15 support and search and rescue. The tail numbers were, 361,389, 854, and 855. At one time I crewed 361. The two H-21 people that helped get the pilot out of the X15 were Sgt. Charles Manes and Airman James E. Packer. I hope this helps. "

H-21B, s/n 53-4326, is exhibited at the March Field Museum. Museum photo.

H-21B, s/n 53-4347, at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum. Museum photo.

Wings cigarette card number 59.

Thompson Products calendar, September 1956 - Charles Hubbell painting.

And finally, a Japanese tin Shawnee by Nomura. Antique Toy World photo.

What happens to an H-21 in a crash? Tests were conducted with unmanned H-21s as they were flown into the ground at vertical speeds far in excess of the design factors. To view the alarming film of these test crashes, check out H-21 crash tests.


The Vertol HRB-1 won a U.S. Navy design contract in 1961; the design was based on the Model 107 helicopter which first flew in 1959. The prototype HRB-1 (soon to be redesignated as the CH-46A Sea Knight) first flew (150266) in October 1962 and the first delivery to the Marines was in June 1964. An updated version with T58-GE-10 engines went into service in 1966. These dates are interesting as the Sea Knight continues in frontline service with the Marines nearly 50 years later! The Sea Knight is slowly being replaced by the Bell V-22. The current version is the CH-46E with T58-GE-16 engines as pictured below.

The Topping model of the Sea Knight displays the designation HRB-1 and has an early serial number of 150278 which places the origin of this model in the early 1960s, making the model 50 years old as well. Photos of the Topping HRB-1 are presented below along with a NATOPS FLIGHT MANUAL for the CH-46D/F, with a latest change date of 1 October 1973. The manual accompanies the model. The model features a deployable cargo ramp. This combination of model/manual has not yet been priced.

Columbia Helicopters is the world's only commercial operator of the 107-IIs, and recently (2013) purchased a group of Swedish machines which will become Columbia-designated aircraft; the company acquired the type certification from Boeing in 2007.

The September/October 2013 issue of the AHS magazine, Vertiflite, has an informative article on the golden anniversary of the CH-46, affectionately known as the Phrog or Bullfrog.


A Lockheed, 1:48 scale display model of the Lockheed AH-56A Cheyenne attack helicopter. The Lockheed AH-56A was designed to meet the U.S. Army's requirement for the Advance Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS). The rigid rotor system used on the AH-56A was a development from an earlier Lockheed project, the 1962/63 XH-51A research helicopter - two ships were built, 161262 and 161263. Starting as a three-blade machine, 1262 was converted during the program to a four blade rotor. Ship 1263 was later modified to a compound configuration with a four blade rotor, a small wing and an auxiliary jet engine. A third helicopter, a three blade ship, XH-51N, was built for NASA Langley. These tests were performed during 1964. The original three blade helicopter was named the "Aerogyro" but little use made of this name. Two machines were demonstrated commercially in 1966 as the 4-bladed Lockheed 286 - I had the opportunity to get a ride in the 286, piloted by "Fish" Salmon, Lockheed test pilot. The rotor system was designed by Irv Culver over an eight year period; Culver was a Lockheed advanced technology advisor.

Lockheed Flight Test Director Tony Levier (left) with Designer Irv Culver who designed the Lockheed rotor system. A photo from 1967.

Lockheed XH-51A Rigid Rotor.

XH-51A Serial Number 161263 in early flight tests.

Ship 1262 with a four-blade rotor demonstrated landings and takeoffs from a U.S. Navy destroyer. Photo from a Lockheed-California advertisement in the April 19, 1965 issue of "Aviation Week" which featured a photo of the FH-1100 on the cover.

This picture, along with the two below, are of a contractor's model of the XH-51A. This model is not for sale. The real version is currently in storage at the Army Aviation Museum.

XH-51A model at the Udvar-Hazy Center. CollectAir photo 2013.

You can view a high speed run by test pilot Don Segner in the Lockheed helicopter by by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.

Lockheed Model 286, N286L, at the Palm Springs HAA convention in 1967. A CollectAir photo. Former Marine Major and Lockheed Test Pilot Don Segner is in the cockpit.

Model 286, N265LC, at the 1967 Palm Springs HAA. Lockheed test pilot, Sammy Mason, put on a terrific aerobatic demonstration with the 286. His build-up to the aerobatic show at the HAA is described in his book, "Faith & Flight," pages 169-173. A CollectAir photo

Lockheed Model 286 details.

Lockheed rolled-out the first Cheyenne prototype on May 3, 1967. The Cheyenne featured a revolutionary compound helicopter configuration as well as a gyro-controlled rigid-rotor and three-bladed pusher tail propeller as well as a four-bladed anti-torque rotor. It had small wings attached to the side of the fuselage that could off-load the rotor during high speed flight.

Cheyenne prototype at rollout.

The rigid-rotor Cheyenne, with a crew of two, featured a XM112 swiveling gunner's station linked to rotating belly and nose turrets, and a laser range-finder tied to a fire control computer. It was armed with an XM52 30mm automatic gun in the belly turret and a XM51 40mm grenade launcher or a XM53 7.62mm Gatling machine gun in the chin-turret, TOWs, and XM200 2.75 inch rocket launchers. Ten prototypes were completed before the program was terminated August 9, 1972 due to delayed development, rising costs, and the appearance of two competitive company-funded initiatives by Sikorsky and Bell. The Cheyenne at first proved highly capable and in December 1967 the Army ordered a production batch of 375 Cheyennes. During further flight testing however there were three crashes. The helicopter proved unstable at high speeds. After the third crash in 1969, when the main rotor collided with the fuselage, the production order was delayed. Further design modifications took place and by 1972 most of the Cheyennes' faults were cured but the program was cancelled due to budgetary problems - or, as some claim, there was a roles and missions dispute between the Army and the USAF because the compound-design of the Cheyenne gave it a speed and range which threatened the USAF air support role. As a result, no compound helicopter has since been incorporated into the defense system although the current Piasecki Speedhawk compound version of the H-60 airframe, the X-49A, which first flew June 29, 2007, is a promising variable thrust ducted propeller (VTDP)design which offers high speed.

One of the primary flight test engineers on the Cheyenne project was Don Lodge. I worked with Don on both the Cessna helicopter project and later at Hiller Helicopters. Don was an outstanding engineer and also a superb craftsman, building everything from telescopes and sail boats to an R/C model of the Cheyenne, the subject of a paperback book.

A short video of the prototype may be viewed by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.

Popular Science cover illustration by Bob McCall, one of the founders of the American Sociey of Aviation Artists. March 1968 issue.

The Army chose a smaller, more agile Advanced Attack Helicopter (AAH) with a less complicated fire control and navigation system. The helicopter's mission would eventually be assumed by the Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) AH-64 Series Apache attack helicopter. However, the Cheyenne was the most advanced helicopter concept of its day and hasn't been eclipsed.

At some point in negotiations with the Defense Department, Lockheed must have presented a proposal for the Cheyenne to be considered by the Navy Department and by the Air Force. The first model being offered here is an unusual Navy version of the Cheyenne; it has the exact configuration as the Army version (see Army model below) but with a very dark blue finish and an addition of "NAVY" on the tailboom. This exquisite and rarely offered model features an all-metal, very detailed main rotor and a resin fuselage, mounted on a unique base. The photos below show the "Navy Cheyenne" model in detail.

The photo below is a Lockheed promotional litho showing a painting of the Cheyenne prior to its development.

The final, armed version of the Cheyenne is shown below; this is essentially the same configuration as this model, The model is estimated to be from about 1969/70.

This model is in pristine condition, "as new" out of the box; the original box, marked "AH-56A" with a handwritten "Navy," with inserts, comes with the model. I believe that the manufacturer of this model was the Par Tool Co. Model Engineering Division.

The price of this excellent "Navy Cheyenne" model is $1300.00 .

The Edwards AFB Museum has a model of the "Air Force Cheyenne" which is the same basic model painted silver with Air Force markings. See photo below of the museum model followed by photos of a USAF Cheyenne offered for sale.

Air Force Cheyenne model. CollectAir photo 6/06.

AH-56A model at the Udvar-Hazy Center. CollectAir photo 2013.



The following Army version of the AH-56A represents the actual paint scheme flown during testing. This model is available for SORRY SOLD

The AH-56A was tested, full scale, in the Ames wind tunnel.

Lockheed AH-56A model photographed at the Evergreen Aviation Museum 6/08 by CollectAir. Note the unusual stand and the red instrument probe on the nose as used on the Ames wind tunnel test. The base may not be the original as the brass identification plate is the same as used on the typical base although it doesn't quite fit the wood base. Also, the model is incomplete as it is missing the tail rotor; the left hand stab shows the hole for the tail rotor pin, proving that museum curators don't always know everything! Topping models are museum pieces.

The Lockheed XH-51 program was a development of the CL-475 rigid-rotor prototype which flew in 1959 and which was designed by Irv Culver.

Correspondent Margo Dean commented (12/2010) on this photo as follows: "The man piloting the rigid rotor was my father, Morgan Dean. He was a Lockheed A&E Mechanic in flight test and I remember how proud he was when test pilot (maybe Tony LeVier, maybe Fish Salmon) told him to fly it. I think when the photo ran in the Lockheed Star, the caption was, 'even the mechanic can fly the rigid rotor.' I would be interested in getting a print of this more colorful photo. As I said - the one I have is very faded - it hung in a place of honor in my parents' home for many years."

Of interest to modelers is the fact that a radio-controlled model of this helicopter was flown in 1958, making it one of the very first successful model helicopters, if not the first. The model weighed 11 pounds with a 5-ft. diameter main rotor, 2-blade and constant 2 1/2" chord. A McCoy 60 drove the main rotor at 1012 rpm. The radio was a 8-channel Citizenship reed outfit with 6 channels being used - two for pitch, two for roll and two for throttle. Although not shown in the photo below, a large "gyro" ring was added later under the rotor on the model (see photo above). The model was flown extensively at Sepulveda Basin. If you remember seeing this model flying at the Basin, please let me know.


XV-15, #703, at NASA Ames.

In May 1973 the Army's Air Mobility Research and Development Laboratory and NASA's Ames Research Center jointly awarded Bell Helicopter a contract for the construction and testing of two twin-engined, tilting-rotor VTOL research aircraft. Bell had long been a leader in tilt-rotor technology and the Model 301 design was developed in response to the Army/NASA requirement and it drew heavily on knowledge gained from the earlier XV-3 convertiplane. The first XV-15, #702, made its maiden hovering flight in May 1977, and was joined by the second example, #703, in April 1979.

Like the earlier XV-3, the XV-15 derived both its vertical lift and forward propulsion from two wingtip-mounted tilting rotors, each with a rotor diameter of 25' 0". These were pointed directly upward for vertical takeoff and landing, and rotated to the horizontal position for forward flight. In the XV-3, however, both rotors were driven by a single piston engine mounted in the aircraft's central fuselage, whereas the XV-15's two Lycoming T53 powerplants were wingtip-mounted and each entire engine and rotor assembly tilted as a unit. The XV-15's two crew members sat side-by-side in a fully enclosed cockpit, and up to nine passengers could be accomodated in the rear cabin. The fuselage and tail assembly were constructed by Rockwell International's Tulsa Division and followed standard general aviation design features.

The Army conducted extensive testing of the XV-15 in conjunction with NASA, and evaluated the aircraft's vulnerability to ground fire and its suitability for use as an electronic warfare platform. The Navy joined the XV-15 test programme in 1980, and in 1983 awarded Bell and Boeing-Vertol a contract for the joint design of an advanced XV-15 meant to fulfill the Joint Services' Advanced Vertical Lift Aircraft (JVX) requirement. The Navy ultimately placed orders on behalf of the Marine Corps for production versions of the improved V-22 "Osprey" design.

XV-15 on the ground tiedown facility at NASA Ames (Ames Photograph AC76-1518-115) - photo from the excellent NASA monograph, "The History of the XV-15 Tilt Rotor Research Aircraft from Concept to Flight." Note that the early color scheme is the same as on the model. This excellent monograph is in the NASA History Series, #17, and was published in 2000. Early tilt rotor aircraft are described in detail and the chronology history of the Bell XV-15s is listed. A recommended book for any tilt rotor enthusiast.

Both XV-15s flew into the 1990s, doing test work and demonstrations throughout the U.S. The first XV-15 prototype aircraft, N702NA, was transferred back to Bell for company development and demonstration use. On Aug 20, 1992, the aircraft crashed while being flown by a guest test pilot. The aircraft had been at low altitude and preparing to land when it flipped inverted and crashed because of a loose bolt. While significantly damaged, the aircraft was largely structurally intact and both the pilot and copilot escaped with only minor injuries from the crash. N703NA was based and test flown at NASA Ames' Moffett Field facility; I saw the ship flying many times and it also performed at several air shows. N703NA was donated to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum and is currently on display at the Hazy facility - see photo below. The model pictured here is in the early color scheme. The maker of this XV-15 was probably Rick Southwick; the model measures about 1:62 scale and is made of solid resin. It probably stems from around 1979.

XV-15 #703 at NASM Hazy in late livery scheme. CollectAir photo 6/05.

A NASA photo shows three flight modes of the XV-15, the Airplane Mode, the Tilt-Rotor Mode and the Helicopter Mode; you can view this document by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return to this page.

A familiar looking offshoot of the XV-15. The much smaller Bell TR918 Eagle Eye VTUAV, originally developed for the Coast Guard as the TR916, made its first flight in January 2006 as a technology demonstrator for unmanned systems.

The photos below show two MV-22 Ospreys attached to the NAS Patuxent River Air Test and Evaluation Squadron HX-21. CollectAir photos taken in June 2005.

Want to see the MV-22 fly? Then just click here for flight action.

The controversial Osprey was the subject of a scathing, almost scabrous, article in the October 8, 2007 edition of Time magazine. As a has-been helicopter flight test engineer, the height-velocity flight boundary curve for the V-22 is pretty scary situation to me. The V-22 effectively has no capability to make a safe power off autorotation landing because of "the hybrid nature of the tilt-rotor." A 2005 report, according to Time, stated that emergency landings "are not likely to be survivable" if power is lost when a V-22 is flying like a helicopter below 1,600 feet.

080202-N-9643K-008 CENTRAL IRAQ (Feb. 2, 2008) A V-22 Osprey is refueled before a night mission in central Iraq. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane (Released)

The Bell/Agusta BA609 tilt-rotor on exhibit at the February 2009 HAI Heli-Expo in Anaheim. Six to nine passenger BA609 is powered by two P&WC PT6-67As. As of 2009, two BA609s are test flying with a total of around 2,400 hours; a maximum speed of 310 knots has been achieved.

Update April 2012: The BA609 is now being developed solely by Augusta Westland with Bell out of the picture. Augusta Westland is located at the Arlington (Texas) Municipal Airport.


This model of the XC-142A represents the "production" version that underwent flight tests and operational and systems tests. For a description of the XC-142A's history, see the model description on the Helicopter & VTOL Display Model page. A Vought drawing of the XC-142A can be viewed by clicking here.

This model is in excellent and complete condition with the usual minor signs of aging and a few paint touchups - a very nice display piece that celebrates this remarkable airplane that was way ahead of its time. The logo decal on the left hand side of the stand's vertical mount has some scrape damage as shown in the photo below. This XC-142A model is priced at $895.00 (the model pictured has been sold, but a sister model is available).

The XC-142A initially had clear overhead windows, but, because of the hot Texas sun, the glazing was changed to opaque. The photo below shows the prototype with clear overhead plastic.

XC-142A prototype.

The photo below shows a XC-142A model as exhibited in the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center. A CollectAir photo taken in 2013.

The photo below shows the Hiller test rig which tested the Hiller-built cross shafting, transmission, gearing, flaps and ailerons. This rig, with its four T-64-GE-1 engines swinging four-bladed props over 15 feet in diameter was necessarily noisy. The rig was located far from sensitive areas on the San Francisco Bay side near Moffett Field.


In 1959, the Hughes Tool Company was pitching a version of the Model 269 to the Army as an observation and liason helicopter, with the designation YHO-2HU (that's a mouthfull!). Hughes had previously sold five YHO-2s for Army evaluation, but because of budgetary problems it wasn't until 1964 that the TH-55A became the standard primary trainer - it remained in service until mid-1988.

The photo below shows part of a sales ad from August 1959 featuring a nifty model of the proposed YHO-2HU - I'd like to obtain one these 1959 models.


The model shown below is a model contracted by Hiller as a display model of the Army's H-23B, a machine which saw service in Korea. This large model is in 1:24 scale with a 17 1/2" rotor diameter. The model is constructed mostly from wood and is believed to have been built by a San Francisco area model builder who constructed numerous models for Hiller Helicopters in the late 1940s and 1950s. With the exception of some decal wear, the model is in excellent condition and has never been restored. The serial number, 1291169, would suggest an early 1950 vintage - the s/n is probably spurious. This model would be considered as being quite rare.

Topping Models made display models of the later Hiller helicopters, such as the Army H-23D Raven shown below. This helicopter is in 1:32 scale (12 1/2" rotor diameter) and is nicely detailed with cockpit interior features. The helicopter models are much more difficult to find in unbroken condition because of all the fragile pieces - one unexpected flight off the desktop and it's a write-off.

The Hiller UH-12 civilian model pictured below appeared on the cover of the July 1956 issue of Flying magazine. This Franklin-powered model is undoubtedly a Topping model, probably a UH-12C.

Kaman SH-2D Seasprite (LAMPS)

The H-2 Seasprite was designed to meet a 1956 Navy specification for a high-performance, all-weather helicopter operating in a wide range of utility missions. The first flight was made in July 1959, with deliveries beginning in December 1962. Originally single-engined, the Seasprite was redesigned in 1964 with twin GET58-GE-8 turbines and the conversion was so successful that over 100 UH-2As and UH-2Bs were subsequently converted into UH-2Cs, whilst almost as many became HH-2Cs and HH-2Ds. The HH-2C was an armed and protected version, 12 of which were supplied to the US Navy for use on large destroyers. The HH-2D models were obtained by converting 31 single-engine helicopters to the standard of the HH-2C, but without the weapons and protection. The US Navy then considered the possibility of using the Seasprite for ASW and this gave rise in October 1970 to the SH-2D for the LAMPS (Light Airborne Multipurpose System) program; it was similar to the HH-2D but had a search radar in a cylindrical radome beneath the cabin, MAD gear and sonobuoys (a few aircraft were also tested with dipping sonar). The launchable weapons consisted of two Mk.46 torpedoes or anti-ship missiles. Twenty HH-2Ds were transformed into the SH-2D ASW variant. The first operational SH-2D/LAMPS helicopter embarked on the USS Belknap (CG-26) in December 1971. Eventually all but two H-2s in the Navy inventory were remanufactured into SH-2Fs. Several hundred of the SH-2F version, which is still in service, have been built. These differ from the SH-2D in having a new rotor and stronger landing gear. In 1983 Kaman resumed production of the SH-2F to meet further US Navy orders.

This model of the SH-2D is similar to the Topping model of the SH-1 previously shown, but was probably manufactured by another model maker because of the date around 1970 - perhaps Precise. POR.

The photos below were taken of the SH-2 at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Collectair photos 2010.

The photo below shows the SH-2 exhibited in McMinnville, Oregon at the Evergreen Aviation Museum.


The French company, Societe Nationale de Constructions Aeronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE, or just "Sud-Est / Southeast"), developed a piston powered helicopter in the early 1950s. As the industry was moving to turbine power, SNCASE focused design efforts on the SE 3130 Alouette II powered by a single Turbomeca Artouste I turbo-shaft engine. The Alouette II was certificated in May 1956, the first licensed turbine powered helicopter.

The French aero industry has witnessed significant (and complicated) mergers over the years similar to the British and American companies. In 1957, Sud Aviation was born from the merger of SNCASE and SNCASO. The company had its worldwide success with the first operational commercial jet in Europe, the Caravelle. Rapidly, Sud Aviation also became famous for its helicopter Division with the Alouettes, Pumas and Gazelles. In 1967, Potez-Fouga joined the group.

Sud Aviation became Société Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale (SNIAS) in 1970 by merging with French Nord Aviation and SEREB companies. From 1984, SNIAS operated under the name of AEROSPATIALE. The first famous success started in October 1972 with the maiden flight of the airliner Airbus A300 B. Aerospatiale Helicopter Division produced some families of helicopters still in production: Ecureuil, Dauphin and Super Puma. In 1992, this division merged with German helicopter manufacturers to form Eurocopter, an EADS company. You can follow the genealogy of these mergers by clicking here for a MS Word document.

The Alouette II was highly successful and a growth version was developed with a more powerful engine and a proper fuselage with a skinned instead of framed tailboom. Initial flight of the "SE 3160 Alouette III" -- powered by a Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft with 550 SHP -- was in February 1959, leading to initial production deliveries by Sud Aviation in 1961.

The last member of the Alouette family to reach full production was the "SA 315B Lama", effectively a "hot & high" version of the Alouette II developed at the request of the Indian military which conducted operations in high mountain regions. The Lama was something of a hybrid, featuring the airframe of the SA 313B Alouette II with some reinforcement, and the Artouste IIIB engine and rotor system of the SA 316B Alouette III. Initial flight of the prototype was on 17 March 1969, with production beginning in 1972. The Lama was produced by HAL in India, as the "Cheetah." Production of the SA 315B continued into the 1990s by Aerospatiale and into this century by HAL in India.

Note that production would have been conducted under the Aerospatiale name as a result of the 1970 merger.

The famous French helicopter test pilot, Jean Boulet, set a world's altitude record in the Lama in 1972, flying to 40,814 feet - a record that stands today. Mr. Boulet died on February 15,2011 at the age of 90.

The Lama display model presented here was made by the French model firm of M2E (La maquette d'êtude et d'exposition d'Aubervilliers) which went out of business in the 1980s. The model is interesting in several ways. The stand is marked with "Sud Aviation" underneath and yet is undoubtedly supposed to be a SA315A or B Lama - note the 3-blade tail rotor which was never used on the Alouette II. It had to have been made prior to the demise of M2E in the 1980s - perhaps M2E had a supply of Sud Aviation stands. It is reasonable to expect this model to have been contracted by Aerospatiale (Lama production began in 1972). Also, the paint scheme on this model is not generic - it is exactly the scheme of the Swiss operator Air Glaciers who have operated many Lamas - photos show HB-XTO, HB-XRL and HB-XRF operating with Air Glaciers at Lauterbrunnen. If you would like to see photos of their SA315Bs, then click here and then here.

The model's configuration is not precisely that of the SA315A or B in that the structural brace to the forward landing gear leg is missing; my guess is that M2E used the basic Alouette II model and added the color scheme and tail rotor to create the Lama. A rare and unusual model.


The twin-engine SA.365 was developed in 1973 by SNIAS out of the single-engine SA.360 Dauphin. The SNIAS SA.365 prototype F-WVKE, a SA.360 fitted with 2 Turbomeca Arriel 1A Turboshafts, flew first on 24 January 1975. Production commenced In 1977 with the SA.365-C, with deliveries starting in 1978. An improved version of the SA 365C Dauphin 2, the SA.365N flew first on 31 March 1979. The SA 365N differs from the SA365C in having Arriel 1C turbine engines, a re-profiled fuselage, fully retractable undercarriage and increased fuel capacity in new under-floor tankage. Deliveries of the production model began in 1982. Deliveries of the AS.365 N2, equipped with two Turboméca Arriel 1C2 turboshafts, started in 1990. From 1984, SNIAS operated under the name of Aérospatiale. The helicopter divisions of MBB from Germany and Aerospatiale from France merged in January 1992 to form the Eurocopter Group. A new Eurocopter designation was added: EC 155 B1, originally known as the AS 365 N4. The Dauphin 2 is in use in several military and civilian roles. The AS 565 Panther is the military version of the Dauphin. The AS 366 G1, powered by two Textron-Lycoming LTS.101-750B-2 turboshafts, is used by the United States Coast Guard under the designation HH-65A Dolphin. The Dauphin 2 is manufactured under licence in China as the Harbin Z-9 Haitung and in Brasil as the Helibras MH-1. Already over 900 AS 365/366/565 and EC155 versions have been produced.

The Dauphin 2 model shown here is marked as SA 365N which dates the model as post 1982 and probably post 1984 as the stand is labeled as "Aerospatiale." The designation of "SA" was changed to "AS" in 1990. The model was made by the Italian firm of Piazzai; several models of the Dauphin are currently available from Piazzai, but not this version. The attractive color scheme apparently was never used on a production helicopter. The model is in the large 1:30 scale. POR.


The Navy's Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter suffering from dissociative identity disorder. It is a vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV) in the parlance of the Navy . Northrop Grumman states that the MQ-8 Fire Scout is intended to be a key intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset in LCS mission packages for mine countermeasures, anti-submarine and surface warfare. These mission packages allow an LCS to rapidly adapt to new assignments. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for LCS mission packages.

The first RQ-8A manufactured and developed by Northrop Grumman used the Schweizer (Sikorsky bought Schweizer in 2004) Model 330SP which is an improved version of the Model 300C (known as the Hughes 300 in a previous life); using the 300C dynamic components, Schweizer mounted a Rolls Royce 250-C10A engine to the airframe and developed a new four-seat cockpit/cabin and body. In essence, the helicopter is the container for the unmanned architecture which can be fit into any convenient body.

The Pacific Miniatures model of the RQ-8A, shown below, represents the configuration first flown in January 2001. The RQ-8A was tested and came up short of Navy's requirements and was shelved within a year.

Northrop Grumman continued development of the Fire Scout and a prototype was flown using elements of the Schweizer Model 333 with a four bladed rotor system and a Rolls Royce 250-C20W engine. A model of the prototype RQ-8B is presented below; obviously the design was pitched to foreign military departments. The designation of the VTUAV was changed to MQ-8B in 2006. The MQ-8B was put into limited production - it's external configuration was altered from the prototype shown below with the addition of stub wings and a revised aft fuselage to tailboom junction.

This RQ-8B model represents the interim prototype version of the production MQ-8B which will soon become operational on Navy Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). It has been reported that the MQ-8B will be used for anti-piracy missions in the Middle East and for intelligence gathering in Afghanistan. Aviation Week reported in the January 22, 2012 issue, that the U.S. Navy Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout UAS were deployed to land bases in Afghanistan to provide surveillance in support of the U.S. Army. The two development models, RQ-8A and B are pictured below.

The identity problem arises because the unmanned Fire Scout in name is a system, not a brand of helicopter. Higher payload and range requirements for the Fire Scout has resulted in a fiscal 2012-14 plan to change the platform for the MQ-8C sea-based, medium range surveillance platform fire Scout from the Schweizer 333 to the larger Bell 407, thereby using a new platform for the unmanned architecture of the MQ-8B. Rather unusual for a military aircraft designation, in this case MQ-8, to apply to radically different airframes.

Update: April, 2012. Photo of the Bell 407 based MQ-8C Fire-X.

The Northrop MQ-8B is not without its problems which is not surprising, considering the amount of software interface involved in operating this helicopter. The article, shown below, is from the April 11, 2012 issue of the Los Angeles Times, the "hometown" newspaper of the Rancho Bernardo company.

The prototype Fire Scout, RQ-8A, is now part of the collection of the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola; the photos below show the RQ-8A in the museum's restoration hangar as of May 2011. These are CollectAir photos. Configuration note: the protype model doesn't include the small vertical fin extension which is actually on the prototype - perhaps a test modification later incorporated in the RQ-8B.


Four helicopter models were produced by Helicopters for Industry Inc. in the early 1950s. By 1956, the molds for the kits were acquired by Aurora and kits were reissued under the Aurora banner. The ad shown below is from the December 1954 issue of Air Trails Hobbies for Young Men.

Helicopters For Industry kits are shown on the Plastic Kits page; an example is pictured below.


The Sikorsky UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter is the world's most advanced twin-turbine military helicopter. The UH-60L is powered by twin General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshafts rated 1,700 shp each, plus the 3,400 shp Imrpoved Durability Gearbox and heavy-duty flight controls developed for the naval S-70B SEAHAWK. It is cleared to 22,000 lbs. gross weight, and can carry 9,000 lbs. external loads. The UH-60L has been produced by Sikorsky since October 1989.

This exquisite, detailed model of the Blackhawk was produced by the Italian firm of Luciano Piazzai in Arona. A large 1:50 scale, the Blackhawk model was produced for Sikorsky as a promotional display model and is not for sale by Sikorsky. Details of the model are shown below.

This handsome Blackhawk display model, with full cockpit and intricately detailed features, is available for Sorry sold; the original box is included.


Commercial plastic kits of helicopters are offered on the Vintage Plastic Kits page - Click here to go to the Vintage Plastic Kits page.

Stanley Hiller, Jr. died April 20, 2006. Stan Hiller was a genuine pioneer of helicopter design and innovation and his company, beginning as United Helicopters in 1949, was responsible for many "firsts" in the industry. Following the sale of Hiller Aircraft Company, after a merger with Fairchild, Stan created the Hiller Investment Co. specializing in corporate turn-arounds - he, and his Group, were exceedingly successful in this second career. I worked as a flight test engineer for Hiller in the 1960s and treasure those times, since then, that I spent with Stan Hiller, a truly amazing and brilliant gentleman. I took the photo above in late 2001 on a visit to the Hiller Aircraft Museum in San Carlos, California.

From the cover of the November 1930 issue of "Junior Mechanics and Model Airplane News". Reasonably accurate painting of the unsuccessful Curtiss-Wright project of 1930, the Curtiss-Bleeker helicopter powered by a P&W Wasp.

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