Civil Aviation, Experimental

RotorWay Javelin Personal Helicopter

RotorWay Javelin designed for an every day mode of transport. In 1958, B.J. Schramm founded a company to bring to market a single-seat amateur-built helicopter called the Schramm Javelin.

Constructed with a tubular steel frame and an aluminum body, it was powered by a 100hp Mercury powerboat engine.

The Javelin first took to the skies in August 1965. Schramm later reworked the design into the “Scorpion” model, establishing Rotorway Aircraft Inc. to sell kits for this updated version. By 1970, he claimed that 250 Scorpions were in flight.

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RotorWay Javelin

The original Schramm Javelin was a groundbreaking American single-seat light helicopter, conceived in the early 1960s. It was designed to be exceptionally user-friendly, requiring minimal components and offering ease of disassembly for maintenance.

Company Origin: RotorWay was founded in 1961 by B.J. Schramm in Chandler, Arizona.
Company Origin: RotorWay was founded in 1961 by B.J. Schramm in Chandler, Arizona.

Powered by a Continental O-200 four-cylinder air-cooled engine, it boasted a top speed of 137 km/h and a flight endurance of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

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RotorWay’s journey to success spanned thirty-three years of persistent effort, design and engineering innovation, and unwavering commitment against considerable challenges. The team’s dedication was driven by a mission to offer a safe, affordable entry into helicopter flight for customers worldwide.

Design Aspects: The Javelin featured a sleek, modern design, differentiating it from RotorWay's earlier models.
Design Aspects: The Javelin featured a sleek, modern design, differentiating it from RotorWay’s earlier models.

Today, RotorWay stands as the world’s oldest and largest kit helicopter company, having been employee-owned since 1996. The company’s origins were modest, yet significant in the history of rotorcraft.

Interestingly, before the “Scorpion” came into being, there was a lesser-known prototype developed by RotorWay Aircraft’s founder B.J. Schramm. Testing for this prototype began as early as 1961, utilizing a 40hp motorcycle engine.

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Named the “Javelin” in various iterations, this initial venture served as a valuable learning experience for Schramm. This groundwork ultimately led to the successful launch of the “Scorpion”, RotorWay’s first production helicopter, introduced in 1967.

Scorpion

Before the well-known “Scorpion” helicopter, its lesser-known predecessor, the “Javelin,” marked the early endeavors of RotorWay Aircraft’s founder, B.J. Schramm. Starting in 1961, Schramm experimented with a 40 horsepower motorcycle engine to power this prototype.

Rotorway Scorpion
The RotorWay Scorpion Too at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

The “Javelin,” in its various iterations, served as a pivotal learning curve that culminated in the “Scorpion” in 1967, RotorWay’s first production helicopter.

The “Scorpion” distinguished itself as the inaugural kit helicopter that successfully flew, sparking immense interest in the aviation community. It embodied the essence of experimental aviation, laying the groundwork for personal helicopter ownership. Despite its $6,000 price tag, significantly higher than the average car then, it made private helicopter ownership attainable for a broader audience.

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Designing a buildable helicopter for the average consumer, without compromising essential flight elements, posed a significant challenge. RotorWay selected a propulsion system akin to those in light commercial helicopters: a standard main rotor with a tail rotor for torque balance.

Focus on Kit Helicopters: RotorWay specialized in the design and manufacture of kit helicopters for personal use.
Focus on Kit Helicopters: RotorWay specialized in the design and manufacture of kit helicopters for personal use.

After evaluating semi-rigid, rigid, and fully articulated rotor hub systems, RotorWay chose a semi-rigid system for the “Scorpion.” This design featured distinct collective and cyclic controls, separated by a patented, flexible push-pull cable system. Precision bearings and quality dampeners ensured smooth control.

RotorWay Javelin Aluminum Rotor Blades

This innovative design, combined with simplified rotor blades and standard drive train components, underscored RotorWay’s commitment to simplicity and structural integrity.

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The initial 1966 prototype had limited lifespan components, a flaw addressed through subsequent research and development. By 1971, enhancements like aluminum rotor blades, a 115 horsepower OMC 2-cycle engine, and a robust drive system were introduced.

The “Scorpion” also incorporated a v-belt driven tail rotor, enhancing safety by reducing torsional fatigue and gearbox overheating, thus simplifying maintenance.

Market Presence: The Javelin, unlike other RotorWay models, did not achieve significant market presence or popularity.
Market Presence: The Javelin, unlike other RotorWay models, did not achieve significant market presence or popularity.

Building the “Scorpion” took around 600 hours, with much of the fabrication done by the builder. Its popularity paved the way for future advancements.

In 1958, Schramm founded a company to market the single-seat “Schramm Javelin,” with a tubular steel frame and an aluminum body, powered by a 75kW Mercury powerboat engine.

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First flown in August 1965, Schramm later redesigned it as the “Scorpion.” Forming Rotorway Aircraft Inc., he marketed kits for this updated model, claiming that 250 were flying by 1970. The “Scorpion Too” followed, and this had an expanded fuselage structure with a two-seat fibreglass cabin enclosure and a 105kW Evinrude marine engine.

Electric Air Taxi

On June 29, 2021, Rotor X Aircraft Manufacturing Company announced its entry into the electric air taxi market with a new project: an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) quad-rotor helicopter, aimed at Urban Air Mobility (UAM).

Performance Focus: The Javelin was intended to offer higher performance, including speed and power, than its predecessors.
Performance Focus: The Javelin was intended to offer higher performance, including speed and power, than its predecessors.

This venture is a collaboration with Advanced Tactics Inc., a company based in Torrance, California, USA, renowned for over a decade of experience in developing multi-rotor prototype aircraft. Rotor X Aircraft plans to leverage this expertise in creating their electric quad-rotor helicopter.

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The company has proposed a novel, streamlined manufacturing process to significantly reduce costs, enabling them to offer helicopter kits at unprecedentedly affordable prices.

All Electric

Currently, Rotor X is conceptualizing the transformation of their original Javelin kit helicopter, which was petroleum-fueled and designed for a single passenger, into an all-electric version.

This new model, retaining the retro 1960s airframe style, is under consideration to accommodate either one or two passengers, a decision that remains to be seen.

The eJavelin eVTOL kit helicopter is designed to feature a main rotorblade, a tail rotor, and fixed-skid landing gear. However, details such as capacity, cruise speed, flight range, maximum flight time, and the specifics of its electric motors and batteries are yet to be disclosed by the company.

It’s also unclear whether the tail will include typical helicopter features like a vertical stabilizer and ventral fin or tail boom elevators.

Aimed at amateur builders, the eJavelin kit will include all necessary components for assembly and flight. The all-electric design might result in a lighter helicopter compared to the original model and potentially offer easier assembly due to its electric powertrain.

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