Helicopters for everyone!

Could there be a more perfect 1951 Mechanics Illustrated article than "Helicopters for Everyone," which promised a vehicle thus, "The third model has corrected some of the above mentioned faults. The engine now is slung under the seat directly beneath the center of gravity. This warms the pilot in cold air and improves the machine’s balance. The model at present is being tested. There still remains, however, the sense of insecurity–of riding a flying swivel chair with no visible means of support. Pentecost and his associates are perfectly well aware of this natural reaction and have planned a weatherproof enclosure for the machine."

Helicopters for Everybody (Jan, 1951)


  1. Oh, hell yes.

    If I had one like that, I would get over not having the aircar I was supposed to have by now.

    I’ve got boxes of old Mechanics Illustrated from the 40s and early 50s (“Written So You Can Understand It). I love the illustrations (like that swell ‘copter), the graphics and the photos. All the tech and amazing new future stuff. And, of course, the heart of it all: home handyman projects, a wonderful mixture of the practical and the totally half-assed, often with mad-scientist thrown in for good measure.

    From one 1948 issue: Make a vest pocket address book from an old matchbook! Repair a broken clock spring with bailing wire! Use those broken mirror chunks to make new (if smaller and more interestingly-shaped) mirrors!

    And… Repair Kinks!

    It’s great to look back to when it seemed like everyone knew how to fix things on their own and make stuff… what’s not to like?

  2. Neat, but looks like a deathtrap to me. I’d feel safer on a 1000cc sport bike on a fast, but busy road, full of SUVs.

  3. Cannot for the life of me imagine how anyone ever thought this was a good idea. We’d basically have a city full of this:

  4. In the film It Happened One Night (1934), the groom, pilot, and all-round mug King Westley arrives dramatically for the wedding in an “autogyro” as they call it.

    Check it out at 2:41. The audio is out of sync, though.

  5. An autogyro is slightly different from a helicopter. In an autogyro, the main rotor isn’t driven by the engine, but by the air flowing past it hence the name which translates as “turns by itself” Thrust is provided by a small propellor in the back.

  6. any engineers want to comment on the basic idea here, though? i’m curious why the “engine under the seat” idea didn’t pan out. i’m an engineering and scientific nimrod, but this idea sounds like it would work to me.

  7. Franko: If the engine is under the seat, how do you get the output to the propeller shaft above? Through the driver will probably hurt…

    On another note, it seems so old-fashioned now how sexist these art pieces are. The adoring wives, wearing housework clothing, seeing off the men who earn the bread.

  8. For “Helicopters for everyone”, I take it we are to assume this only applies to male everyones.

    On the more technical side, there appear to be no controls or gauges or anything. Mr Everyone looks to be holding onto the kind of pole that comes up through the back of a roundabout/carousel horse. Perhaps they are auto-autogyros, controlled from somewhere else?

  9. GreenSteam

    “Helicopters for everyone”, I take it we are to assume this only applies to male everyones.

    Wow, you have clearly got better eyes than me, and pretty amazing pixel-resolving abilities. Doesn’t look like you read the whole article though. Here’s the next page.

  10. If this vision of the 1950s had come to pass, most people now would have hearing loss.




  11. Imagine being given the task of designing a traffic control system for that kinda world.

  12. Brings Brave New World by Aldous Huxley to mind.

    I also remember seeing small single-person helicopters like these in the 90s on “Beyond 2000” (Australian TV show) where the host landed on a fence.

  13. Autogyros/autogiros/gyrocopters were a recurring theme in fiction in the 30s, it seems: Stella Gibbons’ wonderful Cold Comfort Farm has characters arriving by autogyro, as I recall. The excellent film version wimped out, using a biplane instead (but at least it had the sublime Kate Beckinsale, prior to her glossy Hollywood makeover).

    And didn’t they also feature in displays to the public? Again, I seem to recall seeing a film of Cierva or some other autogiro pioneer “dropping in” on the Royal Tournament at Earl’s Court or something similar.

  14. My co-op board would never approve of tenants parking helicopters on the roof. Our insurance premiums would skyrocket.

    BTW, anyone know what is being hoisted aboard the helicopter in the upper right corner of the picture?

  15. Of course this dapper dad died shortly after this shot was taken, when his copter bumped the neighbors and both plunged 200 feet to the ground, an accident that would have been a fender bender in those old cars. Poor Billy didn’t realize he was waving goodbye for the last time. Ain’t the future great!

  16. If I were in a band, “Helicopters for Everbody” would totally be the title of our next album.

  17. i’m curious why the “engine under the seat” idea didn’t pan out.

    The weight of an engine (gearbox, transmission) in a single seat chopper would probably equal the weight of an adult, so you’d probably want it behind the rotor and the pilot in front of th rotor so that it balanced out.

    Not to mention, you want your seat to have as much open compression space under it so you have slightly better odds of surviving a crash.

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