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Home-made Helicopters in Nigeria 319

W33dz writes "A 24-year-old undergraduate from Nigeria is building helicopters out of old car and bike parts. Mubarak Muhammed Abdullahi, a physics student, spent eight months building the yellow model seen on yahoo or on Gizmodo using the money he makes from repairing cell phones and computers. While some of the parts have been sourced from a crashed 747, the chopper contains all sorts of surprises."
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Home-made Helicopters in Nigeria

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  • Ay AY yay caramba! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:42AM (#21072075)
    Knowing a little bit about the many safety and quality control measures required to build a barely acceptable helicopter, I don't think I'd ever ride any home-made one, not for ten seconds.

    Certain absolutely mandatory items, like X-ray and ultrasonic parts inspections, are not practical for the home builder and are likely to lead to a very short trip.

    • by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:44AM (#21072087) Homepage Journal
      yeah - one of the 'surprises' it contains will almost certainly be the last for someone on board or in close proximity to the thing.
    • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:45AM (#21072099) Homepage
      The safety record of air travel in Africa is already so bad that it can't get any worse. But seriously, the first inventors of powered flight fearlessly went up into the air, and nowadays we know so much about flight that it's probably safer than that first generation.
      • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:47AM (#21072941) Journal

        the first inventors of powered flight fearlessly went up into the air, and nowadays we know so much about flight that it's probably safer than that first generation.

        I don't recall the Wright Brothers' first plane weighing half a ton, and being powered by a 133HP engine...

        Experimenting with powerful engines, allowing for heavy construction, means that any small mistake is going to be much, much more disasterous than it would have been in the old days.
        • by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:23PM (#21073305)
          You're right. Their plane didn't weigh half a ton and have a 133HP engine. It weigned a bit over 600 pounds and had a whopping 12HP.

          I'm not sure that ligher weight has anything to do with safety though. I can take my 385 pound motorcycle and hit a cement wall at 150MPH after all. I can take a 12HP scooter and hit the same wall at 60-70MPH too.

          Generally you weaken a structure when reducing weight. I'd immagine this helicopter is probaby more sturdy than the Flyer I.

          Keep in mind you can learn more about planes, trains and automobiles (and helicopters) in a 15 minute internet search than the entire world knew in 1903. I bet the second-hand civic engine is more reliable than the flyer I's one-off custom hand built (in a mere 6 weeks) engine.

          Kudos to the kid. He's done what the vast majority of /.ers haven't and probably couldn't. Yes, I'd be hesitant to go for a ride but really. If a kid in Nigeria can build a working helicopter it shows how pathetic the rest of the world has become. I'm still stuck riding a train to work every day that's late one out of 15 trips on average.
        • by keirre23hu ( 638913 ) <{j2k4real} {at} {}> on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:31PM (#21073419) Homepage
          hate on this website is appalling. Yes the kid does have unrealistic expectations if he thinks the government will buy his helicopter. But, is it not impressive that he was able to fashion a working helicopter out of existing materials? And he is not an aeronautical engineer, he's just an undergrad college student, with (apparently) very limited resources and alot of motivation. For that, all he receives here are lame jokes about crashing into elephants and other stupid 3rd world Africa jokes and several people saying they wouldnt fly in it. I wouldnt fly in Orville and Wilbur's plane either. And who cares?
    • Don't worry. It has never attained an altitude of more than seven feet. You can jump to safety in case of an Emergency.
    • Well he did use a Honda engine. So we know the engine won't die in mid flight.

      I can see these guys crashing into the side of an elephant.

      Besides the thing don't get very far off the ground , they said about 15 feet, so I don't think they would die in an accident. Probably some really bad cuts and a broken bone or so , unless those blades go wacky and he hits some people with them.
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:32AM (#21072739) Homepage Journal
      Well, that's because of something very much like opportunity cost. If you recall from economics, if you invest your money with a return of X, when you could have invested it with a greater return Y, then you have in effect incurred a cost of Y-X. Let's say the first investment was a socially responsible investment fund that earned you $1000, and the second was in a profitable rape-the-earth-and-the-poor fund that would have earned you $1500. You just spent $500 for the satisfaction of being true to your values.

      So, think of your building your own helicopter vs. buying one from somebody in the business. For simplicity's sake, let's say that if you pay yourself a reasonable amount for your time, the cost comes out even. In your homemade helicopter, you have a death risk of 1% per thousand hours of flight. In a "real" helicopter, let's say your risk was 0.001% per thousand hours.

      If you go ahead and build your home helicopter, you have just spent 0.999%/hr of "opportunity risk" for the thrill of flying in your own invention.

      I can't tell you whether that's a good "investment" or not. Maybe the thrill means a lot more to you than it does to me. Maybe you were on the fence about committing suicide, so the risk doesn't really mean much other than an end to unbearable indecision. It's up to you to make the calculation. I can say this though: if the thrill of flying your own invention has no value to you, you're a fool to try it.

      On the other hand, the marginal risk calculation may be utterly meaningless to this guy. If having access to his own helicopter is for practical purposes an impossible dream, it makes no sense to upbraid him for not choosing that instead. His calculation is only based on having his own aircraft versus not having his own aircraft.

      Even if it weren't, the project may have utility for him that we can't even imagine. Maybe he'll be the Igor Sikorsky of Africa. Goodness knows small scale aviation innovation is glacially slow in the US because of safety concerns. The cost of Africa developing indigenous technology would seem appalling, but it's up to them to determine if it is worth it.
    • Helicopters are by design safer than a airplane... Experimental Helicopters have been around for along time now, and are very safe. Rotoway's Exec is one if the best if you ask me...
    • This helicopter, which HASN'T crashed, is made out of the bits of a plane that did. A Boeing 747, that is made with all that modern tech and those high safety standards.

      So tell me again, what is riskier? Remember, that quality western aircraft consist entirely of parts made by the lowest bidder, checked by a company under constant pressure to cut costs, and operated by an airline desperate to squeeze every last mile out of a decades old machine.

      Odd thing is that an amateur will often take more care then a

    • Sour grapes? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:56PM (#21073741) Homepage Journal

      According to the article — which we all read, did not we — the contraption is built in part from the pieces of a 747, which crashed nearby some years ago.

      This points at two things at once

      1. the well-inspected/X-rayed construction can still fall from the sky.
      2. The guy's implement may be using some aviation-grade pieces after all...

      That said, I'm afraid, the regulations/inspections you consider "essential" are not really such — I sense the "sour grapes" sentiment. Sure, it is far riskier to fly in this guy's machine than in a factory-built helicopter. But the fact, that it flies at all — and that he is still a student, who works on the copter in between studying and repairing other people's electronics to supplement his income — are rather remarkable. If a 24-year old in the dirt-poor Nigeria can do this, where is my flying car in the US?

  • hummm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:45AM (#21072103) Homepage Journal
    It may hover in ground effect but I doubt that it can fly out side of it. 133 HP is way under powered for a four seat helicopter. It is a wonderful attempt but I hope he doesn't kill himself. He has talent that is for sure.
    • No pitch control (Score:5, Informative)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:49AM (#21072169)
      Looking at the photo it looks like the blade pitch is fixed and the braces look like the hold the shaft at a fixed angle. It is thus hard to figure out how it gets any forward motion, or how he would compensate for a tilt in the aircraft. Not sure how this works.
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
        I couldn't tell from the picture if it has any type of flapping hinge or seesaw arrangement of the blades to deal with the advancing blade problem. If not then if it goes more than a few KPH it will start to roll.
      • It works like this: The helecopter approximates a visual representation of helecopters familiar to people in America. People with money. You get those rich, stupid people in America to invest in your helecopter-representation, and their riches become your riches. That's how the helecopter/moneymaker works.

        What is it with these Africans and their scams?
        • Indeed. You'll also note that he spent time giving it an enclosed, poorly sealed cockpit. Since he's clearly not pressurizing the thing, I fail to see what benefit he gets by obstructing his view. Especially in front and below the pilot.

          It's definitely a homecoming float.

          On the other hand, perhaps we are not shown the actual aircraft:

          For a four-seater it is a big aircraft, measuring twelve metres (39 feet) long, seven metres high by five wide. It has never attained an altitude of more than seven feet


      • by rvw ( 755107 )

        It is thus hard to figure out how it gets any forward motion, or how he would compensate for a tilt in the aircraft. Not sure how this works.
        He probably uses the oral method: "Lean forward please!"
      • by s31523 ( 926314 )
        The photo looks like it is missing a tail rotor as well, um, that is sorta critical, unless you just want to spin like a tea-cup ride at the fair...
        • At that angle, the tail rotor blades would be edge-on to the camera, so it might be hard to see them. Plus it's a really crappy photo. I really can't tell if they're there or not, but let's give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

          And how big is this thing, anyway? The article says 12 m long and 7 m tall, but in the photo it looks only a little taller than the man next to it. Did he build multiple helicopters?
      • by hey! ( 33014 )
        According to the joystick adjust the "balance" -- by which I'm guessing he has some means of tweaking the fore-aft weight trim of the aircraft. I don't know much about helicopters, but I doubt they'd sport the elaborate pitch adjustment mechanisms they do if such as crude system were satisfactory. It may be enough to demonstrate controlled flight at very low speeds and calm conditions.

        Personally, if I were inflicted with helicopter mania, I'd start with an autogyro; sucessful autogyros were built in the
    • It may hover in ground effect but I doubt that it can fly out side of it.

      I would bet a large sum of money it could not exceed an altitude ceiling of seven feet (granted, I cheated, see my name). Since it only goes that high, and he recognizes it lacks instruments, I think he's safe for now.

      • Re:Indeed (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:01AM (#21072321) Homepage Journal
        You really don't need any instruments to fly in clear weather. I think the only "required" instruments for VFR flight are an altimeter and airspeed indicator. Lots of hang gliders don't even have those.
        In a helicopter seven feet is enough to kill you. Heck you can kill yourself on the ground with just a little bad luck. All it would take is for the transmission to let go and have a 133 HP chain whip through the cabin. Helicopters are complex beasts.
        • An airspeed indicator is almost critical on a airplane depending on its stall profile. Meaning, a Cessna 150/2 with a blocked airspeed indicator is a death trap on landing and takeoff.

          It looks like from the pictures all this kid did was to get some blades to turn. He did get some national coverage, though... :-)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by rjkimble ( 97437 )

            An airspeed indicator is almost critical on a airplane depending on its stall profile. Meaning, a Cessna 150/2 with a blocked airspeed indicator is a death trap on landing and takeoff.
            Nah -- an angle of attack indicator is more reliable and a better predictor of stall than an airspeed indicator. Also, an experienced pilot can pretty much tell whether or not he's close to a stall.
        • Re:Indeed (Score:4, Informative)

          by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:31PM (#21073431) Journal
          The minimum required instrument list differs a little between different airplanes (the manufacturer decides.)
          Here's what the FAA requires:
          A - Airspeed indicator.
          B - Altimeter.
          C - Magnetic direction indicator. (read: compass.)
          D - Tachometer.
          E - Oil pressure gauge.
          F - Oil temperature gauge for each air-cooled engine.
          G - Fuel gauge indicating the quantity of fuel in each tank.
          H - For small civil airplanes certificated after 1996, an approved aviation red or aviation white anticollision light system.
          I - An approved safety belt with an approved metal-to-metal latching device for each occupant 2 years of age or older.
          J - For small civil airplanes manufactured after 1978, an approved shoulder harness for each front seat. (other req'mts R.S. 1986)
          K - An emergency locator transmitter, (excepts - sing. place ++)

          Now, if you're flying an ultralight -- under 250 pounds -- you can do any fool thing you want, but in the US, if you have an airplane with an airworthiness certificate, you have to take along some stuff.
          (The above list from an Experimental Aviation website quiz [].)
    • I think it might, but it would be tight. I thought that some of the Bell 47 models had around that amount of HP and were used to carry two + those in the litters as medevac choppers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        According to Wikipedia, the smallest engine ever mounted into a Bell 47 was 200 HP--considerably more than the 133 he's fooling around with.

        Chris Mattern
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by tom17 ( 659054 )
      Nevermind the 4 seats, what about the fact that it's monstrously big according to tfa...

      measuring twelve metres (39 feet) long, seven metres high by five wide.
      I think someone left their brain off when they wrote that article.

    • Yes I agree... 133HP is ideal for an autogyro, though.. I am sure he could get 120mph+ if he had gone this route instead....
  • by BarneyL ( 578636 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:45AM (#21072119)
    Personally if I received an e-mail from Nigeria offering me a cheap helicopter I doubt I'd trust it.
    I think I'll keep saving for my skycar []
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by maroberts ( 15852 )
      Dear Sir,

      You have been recommended to me as astute investor. I expert builder of helicopters in Nigeria. I need £20,000,000 (TWENTY MILLION POUNDS) to....

  • by maroberts ( 15852 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:46AM (#21072141) Homepage Journal
    it will be able to fly at an altitude of 15 feet for three hours at a stretch...

    or until it encounters a tree, telegraph pole, house, giraffe....
    • I much prefer the first model... With a maximum altitude of 7 feet, boy will flying over a crowded market make for a great video.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 )
      I dunno. 15' is enough to do useful things you couldn't do with a hovercraft. You could replace the passenger with a pesticide tank and spray crops -- although this is obviously very dangerous

      I'd like to know how he arrived at 15' as a service ceiling. How would the aircraft know the difference between 15' on one day and 30' on day with higher air pressure?

      I expect that he chose the figure for safety reasons. Perhaps the design cannot autorotate; or maybe it cannot achieve a safe and stable descent. I
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Shotgun ( 30919 )
        Ground effect.

        When a wing approaches the ground, the air that it is pushing on bounces back at it (not technically correct, but the analogy is close enough to envision the effect). Ground effect becomes pronounced at about 1 wingspan's distance from the ground. He could be planning on a 15ft rotor.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:48AM (#21072159) Journal

    Although some government officials got very excited when they saw him conduct a demonstration flight in neighbouring Katsina state, Nigeria's Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has so far shown no interest in his aircraft.

    "No one from the NCAA has come to see what I've done. We don't reward talent in this country," he lamented.
    And here you see the plight of Nigeria and many other countries, they will save money in the short run by buying from a country that already has the infrastructure and expertise to build commodities but they will never take the steps to set that up in their own country. This destroys any chance of the people ever building a stable economy & providing employment for its citizens.

    Nigeria would pay a premium to start up a helicopter plant or to start R&D but since the resources are not readily available and there's already another country selling the choppers, this man will most likely partake in the brain drain and go somewhere where his knowledge and resourcefulness are recognized and rewarded.

    The government should either change its ways or just deal with being known only for e-mail scams and human suffering from inept governance. That's the problem with inept governance though, it usually persists by definition.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:59AM (#21072291)
      So what are you suggesting? That they take a one-of-a-kind helicopter made from car, bike, and 747 parts seriously? That they should approach him with tons of cash and beg him to start a helicopter manufacturing plant?

      I'll admit it's amazing that he managed to build it. I'll admit that he has big dreams. I'm not yet willing to admit he's capable of making a safe helicopter, and I bet they aren't either.

      If he really -can- do it, he should be looking for investors, not buyers. He's never going to manage a proper, safe helicopter without a lot more money than he put into his current one. And he's never going to get a buyer until he has a prototype.

      It's like saying, "I've got a small garden at my house. Why won't they pay me to grow cabbage for the whole country?"
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:09AM (#21072411) Homepage Journal
        No but sending him to college might be a brilliant start.
        After he goes to college then maybe building helicopters in country could be an option.
        Or crop dusters?
        Or UAVs?
        Or maybe even just a shop to do helicopter maintenance in country?
        The man seems to have lots of raw talent. Now he needs education and opportunity.
        • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:21AM (#21072575)
          Agreed, but his attitude is not 'teach me' but rather 'nobody wants to pay me.' It's not helping him any.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            From the article: "Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi, a 24-year-old physics undergraduate in northern Nigeria". Looks like he's already in school.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by magarity ( 164372 )
            but his attitude is not 'teach me' but rather 'nobody wants to pay me.' It's not helping him any

            He's already got an advanced degree; how much more education does he need? He's used that education and now has something to sell - it's infinitely better than the 'nobody wants to give me a free handout' attitude. Sure, he's grumpy about his lack of instant success in marketing said product but that's typical of engineers. I hope he manages to team up with someone with local business savvy who won't
    • by werdnapk ( 706357 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:01AM (#21072327)
      Here's another amazing example of what you can do with very little. A south african boy makes a homemade paraglider from fertilizer bags... []

      picture here... []
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Look, you're promoting protectionism and that will keep them poor.

      The Nigerian government should buy the products with the highest value. This will help their neighbors, which will help them. The Nigerian people should do what they do best and what they don't do good, they should import. Pretending there is no world market will kill you.

      There is one good thing about this chopper, though. It proves the value of scrap metal. Scrap metal is in my opinion the best way for the poorest countries without valuable
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why should Nigeria build its own helicopters instead of buying them from a country that's already good at making them? That's like saying I should build my own cars instead of buying them from Toyota.

      Nigeria should produce whatever it has a comparative advantage [] in and trade for the rest, just like the rest of the world does. Attempting to do a little bit of everything would only stunt its economic growth.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

        Why did the Japanese start building American-style cars when GM and Chrysler were already good at making them?

        Not to mention that the Nigerian government certainly have their own helicopters, regardless of how poor the country is in general. Can the government stand to save money by developing state-manufactured choppers? Or better yet, can it save money by cutting off their reliance on foreign maintenance crews, and instead training their own?

        Nobody says they have to tackle Sikorsky on the global marke

    • With what money? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:10PM (#21073169) Journal
      The problem with "inept" government in the third world usually goes somewhat like this: to build anything, you need money. Loans and foreign aid are available, of course, only they come tied to one or both of:

      1. you _must_ use that money to buy from the country that gave you the money. Often they'll even tell you what, and from exactly what company.

      For example, let's say Nigeria wants to build a dam. (Or anything else, including helicopters.) The sane way would be to pay some local construction company to build it. After all, they work cheaper, you inject some money in the local economy, and might even stimulate some specialists to stay in your county instead of skipping over the border at the first oportunity. But you won't get a loan, much less foreign aid, for that. Unless you can prove that you're so solvable that you didn't even need a loan at all, except for some uncontrollable desire to pay interest.

      The loans you can get come with strings attached like "but you'll contract the building from this American corporation." Sometimes you don't even actually see the money. They're transferred from an USA bank account to another USA bank account, and that's that. Of course, it only costs a few times more than letting the locals do it, and helps ruin yet another local industry, but such is being on the shit end of the imperialism stick.

      And if you think that dam building is something you can do without, picture the same deal on grain, trucks, and other such. Essentially there's a _shitload_ of loans and foreign aid that isn't what you think it is. It's tied to destroying your local agriculture and industry.

      2. you _must_ implement some good ol' right-wing reforms. Cut government spending, let companies go bankrupt, cut down social security, raise interest rates, etc.

      Sounds like good, common sense advice, right?

      Well, the problem with common sense is that it isn't that common and often makes no sense. In this case, according to modern Keynesian economics, those are the exact measures that will transform a recession into a depression, or a depression into a crash. That's stuff you do in an economic boom, not during times of crisis. It's counter-intuitive, but modern economics tend to be that way.

      Essentially we, the West, have been asking the third world countries to destroy their own economy, ever since WW2. Welcome to the wonderful world of imperialism. They're supposed to be busy sewing cheap sports shoes and mining cheap iron for us, not to start industrializing.

      And as a third world government, you'll be nailed to a cross whether you take it or not. Your choices there are (A) refuse and get to explain to a whole country why they'll have less bread or more brownouts this year, and that in the long term it's better for them, or (B) take it even if you know that in the long term you're only harming your country. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, and someone will blame you for either choice.

      Oh, and if you chose A, congrats, now you've got all the first world treating you like the great Satan too, for refusing to play their game. Some economic sanctions might be in your future, to destroy you that way. On the other hand, choice B at least makes you look good in the short term and often comes together with some bribe.

      It's easy to blame it on inept governments or kleptokracy, but that's really the only choices they typically have there. It's a lose-lose choice. But option B at least doesn't cause massive unrest and a bunch of other problems.

      It's easy to look at it and say that they took choice B only because they're fucking stupid or because of the bribe. And I guess it some cases it even is so. But in a lot of cases I genuinely wonder if it's that simple.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:48AM (#21072163) Journal
    From the picture I am not able to make out how he did the most crucial thing for the helicopter, controlling of the collective pitch (sometimes called total pitch) and the cyclic pitch. Without it, the craft will lift off and "fly" uncontrollably and land. I see two large struts holding up the rotor hub and the hub seems to be a ball. He might have done away with total pitch, relying on throttle ( input power) to self adjust the "lift" and the ball being pivoted to provide just the cyclic pitch control. That will give some rudimentary direction control. Interesting toy. Hope a youtube video appears soon.

    Sure I am glad there is atleast one Nigerian working with his hands and brain instead of sening emails about 18 million dollars in a slush fund left over from the coffers of General Abacha.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Stonent1 ( 594886 )
      Here's my take. If I were designing something like this inexpensively, I'd use the two bars shown to adjust the angle of the shaft to lean it forward or backward. The shaft would be connected to the engine output via a universal joint pulled from a car drive shaft. I'd use the tail rotor to adjust the direction the helicopter was pointing. This would be a simple helicopter, so you'd be missing the ability to strafe.
      • I'd use the two bars shown to adjust the angle of the shaft to lean it forward or backward.

        I'm sure you know that to lean it forward or aft you actually need to apply the force (well, technically a torque,) at 90 Degrees to where you want the rotor to 'precess' or tilt. This is because the spinning mass of the rotor makes it subject to gyroscopic precession []. So your control rods essentially need to be at the sides.

        Another factor you'll need to consider is that as the aircraft gains velocity the ret

    • Or just build a autogyro, and not worry about individual blade pitch at all... You just rotate the entire set of blades. If you are going for cheap, safe, and low HP the autogyro concept is a considerably better design... It will never beat the dead on target placement that a standard helicopter cycled concept can offer, but it does not look that is what this kid is looking for anyway.. :-)

      Sounds like this kids needs to learn one of the best rules of egr of them all, which is do not re-invent the wheel. :-)
      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        As an added bonus, due to the flight profile (especially the stall recovery) an autogyro would be even more of a deathtrap than his helicopter already is.
  • DEAR SIR (Score:5, Funny)

    by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:53AM (#21072223)

    (hey it's caps-lock day today anyway)
  • Good for him. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gibble ( 514795 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:55AM (#21072245) Homepage
    Seriously, I don't care how crude or rudimentary it is, build a helicopter that actually flies, wow. With proper tools, and funding, he could go on to make some great innovations, unfortunately, like he said, his government doesn't recognize achievements, and he'll likely end up going elsewhere.
  • But for his sake and his family's, I hope this is also a remotely controlled helicopter, at least for the crash-er, flight tests. People have enough trouble with machines purpose-built for flight by engineers and tradesmen who know what they're doing. From watching youtube videos, I can easily imagine a dozen failure modes that will send pieces rapidly in multiple directions.
  • BS (Score:5, Informative)

    by ddrichardson ( 869910 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:58AM (#21072287) Homepage

    I would love to see more photos of this but suspect we wont. His description of the controls doesn't really fit with how rotary wing aircraft operate and there are other reservations.

    133 horsepower is very underpowered considering the smallest I work with is the Gazelle with 858shp and the quoted 300 rpm on blades that size is very low to give any kind of lift, in fact it is ridiculous. Car engines are relatively heavy and looking at the welded head and the car seats, I cannot imagine this has the capability to lift off with a person on board.

    Looking at the photo, it also appears not to have a swash plate or similar mechanism, so how the rotor disc is positioned to give directional flight I have no idea. On the plus side he does have a big red navigation light on top. Never mind that it's not on the port side as it's supposed to be.

  • heh. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis ( 1048476 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @10:59AM (#21072295)
    I dunno, its home made, Heath Robinson, scrapheap challenge and scary as hell ...

    ... but strangely a lot more plausible then Air Wolf and Blue Thunder.

    (I'm informed by a pilot colleague that without squash plates and cyclic controls - whatever the hell they are - its not a true helicopter and hence is uncontrollable. Still we all agreed it was better then we could do.)
    • I'm still more impressed with the home made helicopter than I would be a home made sputnik in the story above. Now if the BBC had a story about a guy who had launched a home made sputnik into orbit for $10,000 then I'd be impressed.
    • For the record, it's a swashplate [] not a squash plate. It's right near the Jesus Nut. (heh.)
    • Your pilot friend is referring to the swashplate []. As the rotors turn, their pitch changes relative to their position. This allows them to develop more lift in one spot and less in another. This, in turn, is what causes the pitch and roll of the helicopter to change. The cyclic control is the stick typically positioned between the pilot's knees and allows him to change the orientation of the swashplate. The rudder pedals (typically) alter the pitch of the tail rotor blades, which adjusts the yaw. The collect
  • For a four-seater it is a big aircraft, measuring twelve metres (39 feet) long, seven metres high by five wide. It has never attained an altitude of more than seven feet.
    If you look at the picture of said helicopter, something is amiss: seven metres high? The guy standing next to it is as tall as it. Is Nigeria a land of giants, of does sombody need to fix their metric conversion?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by McWilde ( 643703 )
      I noticed that too. I don't think there actually was any conversion, they just replaced the word "feet" by "metres". It looks about seven feet high, five feet wide, twelve feet long. Why they would include that sentence is beyond me, on the picture it looks quite cramped for a four-seater.
  • Neat... (Score:2, Insightful)

    More power to this guy. Any info on its mpg? Safety is a bit of an issue, but that's if he runs into something in front of him - not much will happen by falling from a 7-15 foot height.

    Something like that would actually be handy for travelling in many parts of the world where the roads are poor and access is difficult - cheap helicopters would be great for getting around and getting access.

    Imagine using these in the aftermath of natural disasters when the roads are washed out and areas are inaccessib
    • Re:Neat... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sciros ( 986030 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:08PM (#21073151) Journal
      Its mpg? Easy -- 0 mpg. Doesn't matter how many gallons of anything you pour into it, unless it's Liquid Schwartz, I don't see it really flying anywhere. ... ... ... "Imagine using these in New Orleans"??!? We have actual rescue helicopters here, they are big and awesome and can actually fly properly, hehehe.

      Cheap and small is all well and good, but when you want complex tech to be reliable, the "cheap" goes away real quick. Especially when you're trusting lives to that tech.
  • I don't see why Nigeria wouldn't buy his helicopter, beyond the few problems:
    1. Built from random car parts. Parts from broken cars, obviously quality material to start with. Better make sure your junk yard is properly stocked with old buicks.
    2. Maximum altitude is 15 feet. But if anything goes wrong, you can just jump to the ground.
    3. Carrying capacity. If it can lift one person 15 feet, how high can it lift with 1 ton of cargo?
    4. Besides the maker, who are you going to convince to trust their life to this
  • by NeuroManson ( 214835 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:06AM (#21072387) Homepage
    "I watched action movies a lot and I was fascinated by the way choppers fly. I decided it would be easier to build one than to build a car,"

    It's easier to crash one too.
    • It's easier to crash one too.

      Obliviously it was intended to be used in Hollywood movies based upon his impressions of action movies.

  • Well done! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maaskaas ( 1103983 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:12AM (#21072451)
    This is pretty amazing. The technical aspects of how flawed this helicopter is does not really go with the intent of the article. He obviously wanted a challenge, as I can imagine that being a physics student in Nigeria can't be too fulfilling, and building a helicopter and succeeding is a great accomplishment. Just reading what parts he used shows that he made something from nothing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      After being around aircraft all of my working life 30+ years, maybe just maybe there is someone who looks outside of the mindset box and see's one without all of the stray parts. Helicopters have driveshaft's running every direction except forward. Definately give the boy a Visa and put him to work.
  • Pretty sharp kid. Give him a visa and send him to the US where he can better money than he could ever make back home.... Gee, and I wonder why these countries are not able to keep their most talented people? :-)
  • Similar principles, similar components, and a whole lot less dangerous when something stops working. Far better at getting across country too.
  • On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Engr.John Ferguson who died while flying his home-made helicopter;I wish to notify you that late Engr.John Ferguson made you a beneficiary to his WILL. He left the sum of Seven Million One Hundred Thousand Dollars (USD$7,100.000.00 ) to you in the codicil and last testament to his WILL. Late Engr.John Ferguson died on the 22th day of October, 2007 at the age of 80 years, and his WILL is ready for execution. According tohim this money is to support
  • "Mubarak Muhammed Abdullahi" is Nigeriasn for "MacGyver"
  • ...a plane ticket, before he kills himself.

    Nice talent and even better, motivation.

    If Nigeria doesn't appreciate him, somebody else will.

  • It has never attained an altitude of more than seven feet. This story seems overhyped. I wonder if Nigeria is our next gallant ally in the war against terror and drugs.
  • Sikorsky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @11:56AM (#21073051)
    I suggest everyone read up on Igor Sikorskiy, the inventor (more or less) of the helicopter.

    "You can't make a helicopter without ultrasonic and x-ray fracture inspection."

    Well sure that makes it safer, but Sikorskiy didn't have any of that. Hell, I don't think they did that in the Vietnam era.

    "You need 900 horsepower (or some damn thing) to make a working heli."

    Sikorskiy's first helicopter ran on a 90-hp piston engine, with a welded steel frame.

    It's true that this guy's helicopter is probably overweight, flying on ground-effect only, and it seems to be missing the most important (and complicated) part, the swashplate / cyclic blade control. But give him the resources Sikorkiy had, and I think he could do it.
  • A real GEM (Score:3, Informative)

    by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @12:31PM (#21073429) Homepage
    As in "Ground Effect Machine". At a seven foot altitude, this thing is well within its own ground effect. In other words, it's a hovercraft that looks like a helicopter.

    Mind, I'll give the guy props for effort and ingenuity, and if he gets the 15 foot altitude version working that would be kind of fun to skim around in over open enough terrain. But an actual helicopter that can fly out of ground effect is a bit more of a challenge. (Me, I've lusted after Rotorway's homebuilt kits since their original Scorpion [] days.)
  • by vrmlguy ( 120854 ) <samwyse&gmail,com> on Monday October 22, 2007 @01:32PM (#21074147) Homepage Journal
    Request for urgent business relationship

    First, I must solicit your strictest confidence in this transaction. This is by virtue of its nature as being utterly confidential and 'top secret'. I am sure and have confidence of your ability and reliability to prosecute a transaction of this great magnitude involving a pending transaction requiring maximum confidence.

    I am a physics undergraduate in northern Nigeria who is interested in production of helicopters with funds which are presently trapped in Nigeria. In order to commence this business we solicit your assistance to enable us to transfer into your account the said trapped funds.

    The source of this fund is as follows; during the last military regime here in Nigeria, the government officials set up aircraft companies and awarded themselves contracts which were grossly over-invoiced in various ministries. The present civilian government set up a contract review panel and we have identified a lot of inflated military contract funds which are presently floating in the central bank of Nigeria ready for payment.

    However, by virtue of my position as a physics undergraduate, I cannot acquire this money in my name. I have therefore, been delegated as a matter of trust by my colleagues of the university to look for an overseas partner into whose account we would transfer the sum of US$21,320,000.00 (twenty one million, three hundred and twenty thousand US dollars). Hence we are writing you this letter. We have agreed to share the money thus; 1. 20% for the account owner 2. 70% for us (the students) 3. 10% to be used in settling taxation and all local and foreign expenses. It is from the 70% that we wish to commence the helicopter manufacturing business.

    Please, note that this transaction is 100% safe and we hope to commence the transfer latest seven (7) banking days from the date of the receipt of the following information by telephone/fax; 234-1-7740449, your signed and stamped letterhead paper. The above information will enable us write letters of claim and job description respectively. This way we will use your name to apply for payment and re-award the contract in your name.

    We are looking forward to doing this business with you and solicit your confidentiality in this transaction. Please acknowledge the receipt of this letter using the above telephone/fax numbers. I will send you detailed information of this pending project when I have heard from you.

    Yours faithfully,

    Dr Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi
  • by Sporkinum ( 655143 ) on Monday October 22, 2007 @03:11PM (#21075615)
    Stanley Hiller did it, so why not this young Nigerian? His chopper was yellow too! []

    Stanley finished high school despite the many extracurricular activities in his life, entering the University of California at Berkeley at age 16. His college phase lasted but a year: he was consumed with the history and technology of vertical flight, intensifying his designing of a co-axial with the aid of a draftsman, a welder and a part-time auto mechanic. Although many materials were frozen by the War Production Board, he managed to improvise a 100-pound model. Discouraged by Army officials, the 17-year-old inventor lugged his aircraft and drawings to Washington DC, where higher authorities not only permitted his proposed XH-44 helicopter to be finished, but granted Stanley a deferment from the draft board.

    Although UC Berkeley had little chance to influence young Stanley because he dropped out to build his business at the end of his freshman year, the university did yield the love of his life, Carolyn Balsdon, whom he married when they were both 22.

    By 1944, Stanley Hiller, Jr., completed the first successful flight of a helicopter in the western United States. He flew his yellow fabric-covered contraption himself, although he had never flown a helicopter nor seen one fly. After at least one mishap, in August of that year a successful demonstration was made at San Francisco's Marina Green, where a plaque today commemorates the historic event. The flight propelled the young inventor-who had no engineering degrees and, in fact, never finished college-into international headlines. He became the youngest person ever to receive the coveted Fawcett Aviation Award for major contributions to the advancement of aviation. Eventually, the little co-axial XH-44 "Hiller-Copter" would earn a permanent place in Smithsonian Institution.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's