Built in the 1950’s
as a small trailer-able Artillery spotter with minimum
maintenance, the “Hornet” utilized ramjet engines to power
the rotor blades.
The ramjet engines have no moving parts and develop
their thrust from the expansion of the burning fuel.
Since the engines cannot power themselves
to start the rotor spinning, a hand-held two-horsepower
drive unit is attached to the right side of the cockpit
that gets the rotor's speed up to 150 rpm.
The pilot then turns on the igniters, which are
small spark plugs in each engine, with a switch on the
control stick. At
this point the fuel is slowly turned on and, hopefully
the fuel ignites to begin the process of allowing the
expansion of the gases to propel the engines to a faster
comes from a 45-gallon tank located under the pilot and
It is pumped through the rotor mast to the rotor
blades where the centrifugal force then drives the fuel
out the blades to the ramjets.
When the rpm begins to increase, the starting unit
is disengaged and, by the addition of more fuel the rotor
rpm is brought up to its 550 rpm operating speed and then
maintained there by a governor.
The “Hornet” was not designed to stay
in the air very long and goes through the 45 gallons of
fuel in about 25 minutes. The
high fuel consumption was more than overcome by the simplicity
of maintenance in the field. One drawback of operating
the Hornet in combat conditions was that the engines are
extremely loud, and they could be seen at night. It
would not have gone un-noticed by an enemy! Another
drawback was that, should the engines happen to quit,
the drag of the engines on the rotor-tips made it difficult
to maintain rotor speed to properly get down safely.
Helicopters can safely 'auto-rotate' down by maintaining
forward speed in a steep glide, which keeps up the blade
inertia that can be used to safely land. Because of the additional drag on Hornet blades with the engines
at the rotor tips, the blade angle must lowered to a negative
angle to keep the blades spinning, effectively creating
a VERY high decent rate. No
pilot was ever successful to live from an auto-rotation
started from above 100 feet!
After 17 aircraft were built, production was stopped.
This Hornet was
rebuilt and purchased from Jack Cannon.
It is the 13th of the 17 aircraft built and is currently the only flyable
example. When it was delivered, Jack
did a quick demonstration flight. It
is a real show to watch the whole operation from starting it to hearing and watching
The hover performance of the Hornet
is not that great with 2 people on board.
Before Kermit got in, Jackburned some fuel off flying around while everyone
watched in amazement. When the fuel
got down to a certain level, Kermit climbed on board for a hover demonstration. The
rpm was brought up to 550 rpm and Jack lifted the Hornet up to a safe 3' altitude
whereupon the rpm immediately began to drop and the helicopter settled back down
to the ground. As there was no intercom
Jack screamed to Kermit, “We're too heavy!
have to burn off some more fuel!”
After regaining the rotor rpm Jack lifted the Hornet back up to a hover
again, whereupon the rpm immediately dropped and down again they came. After
a few more attempts, Kermit screamed, “If this is all we're going to do, why don't
you let me do it?” Jack gave Kermit
the controls and he lifted the Hornet up and the same thing happened. At
least Kermit was getting the feel of his new toy while they burned off more fuel. With
each attempt, the Hornet would stay in a hover slightly longer until, finally
it was light enough to hold rpm and maintain the hover.
It was at this point that the Hornet ran out of fuel, and they settled
down for the last time.
Because of complaints from the neighbors
across the lake, over a mile and a half away, we have
not flown it since then.
If it’ll burn, it’ll turn!
Just about any fuel that burned could be used for
fuel such as gas, kerosene or Jack Daniels!