From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Machinist Speaks out On Mini-500 Issues
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 17:25:24 GMT
I just received this email and thought it was quite interesting.
You don't know me, but I've been following this Mini 500 debacle for
some time. I don't own one (nor will I ever), nor do I have a heli
rating on my private pilot's license. I do have a problem with
individuals who will say and sell anything to make a buck in the
homebuilt market, regardless of the lives at stake, and regardless of
how it is perceived by the FAA or the general public. It is this
class of individual that poses the greatest regulatory threat to the
homebuilt arena. Certainly Mr. Fetters fits in this catagory.
Due to a skin thickness deficiency, I do not post to the newsgroups.
I do like to help out when I can, however, trying to stay "behind the
scenes". Call Tony Pucillo for a reference if you like. I am a
machinist by profession and I am currently building a much modified
Sonerai 1. Today (9-13-99) dfetters posted a response to Ed Randolph
that touched on a few areas of my expertise and I thought I would pass
these observations on to you.
Under the subject of "Re: Mini 500 blades", dfetters claims that an
ex-employee loosened EXHAUST manifold caused a cylinder to lean out
and seize a piston. Speaking as an ex-ASE certified Master Engine
Machinist, I don't see how this is possible. Perhaps he meant to say
INTAKE manifold, or perhaps he doesn't know the difference.
Further down this post, dfetters says the reason for the M/R shaft
runout is because it was "centerless ground". Having operated
precision grinders for about 10 years, this response was proof
positive that dfetters does'nt know squat about machining OR design.
Any precision grinder should be able to hold a tolerance of .001" or
less (my own standard was .0002"), and to specify centerless grinding
on a component usually connotes an even closer required tolerance. To
produce the runout figures that Mr. Randolph quotes would require some
EXTREMELY poor workmanship on the part of the machinist. I have not
seen one of these shafts first-hand, but I could make a fairly
accurate educated guess as to what happened if I had more details. In
any event, a design tolerance of +/- .005 on something as critical as
a M/R shaft is a joke, and one of Mr. Randolph's readings (.0110)
exceeds this by a wide margin.
The excuse of using the sand mold casting technique to explain the
difference in the thickness of the mounting ears is also highly
questionable. Either there is a defect in the pattern or the foundry
doing the work is only qualified to cast lawn ornaments (on second
thought, that's what you now have!). Definetly not up to A/C quality
Anyway, just trying to help and this is my 2 cents. Use it if you
can. If you have any questions, e-mail or give me a call.
Name withheld by request.
Subject: Re: Machinist Speaks out On Mini-500 Issues
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1999 03:26:36 GMT
In article <37DF8E4E.1806085A@mwis.net>,
> terrible terra wrote:
> > I guess you weren't answering Ed's question then.
> > He wrote: ...why is my M/R shaft so out of round = top of shaft -
> > .0045, middle of shaft - .0016, bottom of shaft - .0110 ??
> > You replied: Because it's "centerless ground". The design tolerance
> > is +0.005"/-0.005" out of round.
> > Now you are talking wall thickness. I thought I understood your
> > answer, I guess not.
> With past conversations with Ed, I understood him to be asking about
> wall thickness. I think that is what he was asking here.
> Dennis Fetters
Dennis, I was not talking about "wall thickness",I was talking about
the "non roundness of a rotating shaft". I never mentioned wall
thickness! The top measurement was taken at the top of the shaft = 0 to
180 degrees = 2.2440, 90 to 270 degrees = 2.2485, middle just above
ring gear adapter = 0 to 180* = 2.2380, 90 to 270* = 2.254, bottom of
shaft = 0 to 180* = 2.2430, 90 to 270* = 2.2545, Inside diameter at top
of shaft = 1.9870, I.D. at bottom of shaft = 1.2995. Why is there such
a difference in the top & bottom I.D.s = 0.6875?? Also at not point in
measuring I.D.to O.D.can I find any concentrici, to the best of my
ability,as I do not have the precision tool to compare them. I have
been using a double point indicator. The O.D. run out at top of shaft
is from .005 positive or to the right too .004 negitive or to the left.
The top control yoke( # 0027 ) rotates 3/16 th. of an inch( how many
thousands is 3/16", my conversion chart doesn't show 3/16" ) out of a
true circle( scribe mark in center of yoke ) between 0 degrees & 270
degrees in the direction of rotation. This ** has ** to affect track &
balance as blades flap up or down,depending on position of blades in
rotation ( # 0027 helps control flapping of blades )!! No wonder I
can't keep mine balanced. Any answers, Dennis?? Also why is about 3 &
1/2 inch of shim sticking out from under ring gear where gear is bolted
to ring gear carrier? Is it working it's way out from under ring gear?
I'll check to see if the bolts are torqued right. What is the torque
for those bolts? Still looking for answers!!
Ed Randolph # 005
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Mini 500 blades.
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 15:24:00 GMT
>I myself hope that your recent decision to participate in the NG will
>help clarify some of the misconceptions that some of us non-owners have
>on Mini500 issues. As the owner and pilot of a certified (and
>"relatively" expensive) helicopter, I would love to see a viable
>alternative to the purchase/ maintenance/ operation costs of piston
>engined helis. A Mini500 or Voyager type heli would be perfect for many
>of us (if they all worked "as advertised). I'm not convinced that it is
>possible to build a heli for the prices that I see quoted. Time will
That's the dream fetters sells Gary. That Voyager-500 is absolutely
beautiful. It sparkles, shines and begs you to fly it. Our Mini-500
is the same. It's very seductive. However, as you have already seen
here, the machining is of the quality used in construction of lawn
ornaments not helicopters.
Gambling in Las Vegas is somewhat the same in that the casinos sell a
dream. The dream of instant wealth and something for nothing.
Thousands go broke weekly because they open their wallets to buy this
dream and fail. If you offer to sell a man a dream like this he opens
his wallet. fetter's dream machine is no different in my opinion. We
all wanted it to work, me as much as anyone.
Our ship sits there and seduces you to fly it because it's so
beautiful...that is until you put a dial indicator on an out of round
shaft and see the radial run out is something you wouldn't tollerate
on an American Flier wagon. Or you look at the quality of the parts
in the control system like aluminum bushings in control linkages that
wear out in 30 hours of shaking. Or you look at the defective main
rotor blades which look more like the line of a banana than a
rotorblade...or you look at RHCI's fix to the nose high position of
the fuselage in forward flight which is to add an elevator deflected
downward on the horizontal stabilizer. This in itself wouldn't be so
bad but it causes a violent tuck when the downwash stops in a real
engine failure. So, just when you need to get the rotor disk tilted
backward and airflow coming up through the blades it tucks forward on
you instead. Some people report 90 degree pitch over in a real engine
Larry Barklage tells me that is exactly what killed his brother, the
violent tuck when his engine stopped. Allen didn't have the room to
recover properly. He just got control over the nose as he punched in.
I have a sneaking hunch that Gil Armbruster experienced something
quite similar when he got killed. He was probably too low to recover
from the tuck when his engine quit.
So, RHCI puts a fixed elevator on the horizontal stab which is
deflected down to compensate for a positive pitching moment in forward
flight as the MR system pumps air down. This evidently balances
fairly well as long as you have the downwash. As soon as the engine
stops and you lose the downwash, that negatively pitched surface on
the horizontal stab pitches your nose down violently. Of course your
first reaction is to pull back on the cyclic but if you do you can
chop your tail off. If you don't your rotor rpm decays because you
still have downward airflow on the rotor disk. Until you get that disk
tilted backward and establish upward flow, you are throwing away
rotational kenetic energy. Joe Rinke and Fred Stewart have
experienced this as have others who speak with me regularly. Rinke
told me if this happens to you below 1000 feet AGL there is almost no
way to recover. I suspect something like this is just what happened
On the engine side of the story, Rotax, particularly Eric Tucker told
all of us at the builder's meeting that Rotax did not recommend the
582 be used in this application. I've said it before and I'll say it
again, the maximum continuous rpm that engine was designed for is 6500
rpm. They tell you that you can operate above that up to 6800 rpm for
5 minutes. I asked Eric what the failure mode was and it has nothing
to do with the bottom end. Hell, they run those same parts at 12,000
rpm in snowmobile races. What happens is heat related. You just
can't dissipate the heat properly above 6500 rpm. I have to fly ours
at 104% just to fly, and that is about 6800 rpm. So, it's not a
matter of "IF" your engine will fail, it's a matter of "WHEN." Ask
Rotax yourself. I'm not making this up.
The difference in rotor energy is quadratic in rpm too. You have 16%
more energy at 104% than at 100%. That's quit a bit. Our ship is
sluggish as hell at 100% but flies fine at 105% or with 25% more
rotational kenetic energy in the MR system. It's still gutless though
with my weight so I can only hover with about 3 gallons of fuel on
I've also measured the MR tip clearance to the tail boom and it's
about 24 inches in flight. I measured the clearance on an R-22 and
it's about 48 inches. The Robie still has tail boom strikes with
twice the clearance of the Mini-500.
So, yes, it's beautiful, it's seductive and it begs you to fly it
until you do. Then you find out about all the design flaws, inferior
hardware and that it wears out quickly because most of it is
constructed from matterials that are either not aircraft grade or are
poorly machined. At least that's the case on our machine. I'm not so
sure an inexpensive helicopter for the general public is possible. If
you cut corners to make it affordable you reduce safety. Nobody wants
to die over this, but they have! If guys like Allen Barklage with
32,000 hours of helo time get killed in it, the average weekend helo
pilot certainly has no chance in hell of surviving in it over any
length of time.
Just my opinions on this thing. I don't want to see any more people
get killed in it. My advice to everyone is just don't buy into that
dream. In my mind, I know beyond all doubt that it is a death trap,
it's something I want nothing to do with until it's fixed...if that is
From: dfetters <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Machinist Speaks out On Mini-500 Issues
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999 00:29:43 -0500
Badwater Bill wrote:
> I just received this email and thought it was quite interesting.
> Hi Bill,
> You don't know me, but I've been following this Mini 500 debacle for
> some time. I don't own one (nor will I ever), nor do I have a heli
> rating on my private pilot's license.
> I do have a problem with
> individuals who will say and sell anything to make a buck in the
> homebuilt market, regardless of the lives at stake, and regardless of
> how it is perceived by the FAA or the general public. It is this
> class of individual that poses the greatest regulatory threat to the
> homebuilt arena. Certainly Mr. Fetters fits in this catagory.
I'm sorry, but your misinformed. I never said that I would sell anything
to make a buck. I sell kit helicopters and service them. The facts are
that to date there has never been a Mini-500 crash that was the fault of
the aircraft. I know that people don't like to hear that, but that is
the truth. I defy anyone here to post the proof that I'm wrong, please.
> Under the subject of "Re: Mini 500 blades", dfetters claims that an
> ex-employee loosened EXHAUST manifold caused a cylinder to lean out
> and seize a piston. Speaking as an ex-ASE certified Master Engine
> Machinist, I don't see how this is possible. Perhaps he meant to say
> INTAKE manifold, or perhaps he doesn't know the difference.
No, it was the exhaust manifold. You do understand that this is a
two-stroke engine, do you not? This is the cause of the failure. As the
engine operates it draws air and fuel through vacuum pressure from the
crank case, and tuned exhaust. If the exhaust manifold is loose enough,
then air will be sucked into the cylinder, and that will lean the
> Further down this post, dfetters says the reason for the M/R shaft
> runout is because it was "centerless ground". Having operated
> precision grinders for about 10 years, this response was proof
> positive that dfetters does'nt know squat about machining OR design.
> Any precision grinder should be able to hold a tolerance of .001" or
> less (my own standard was .0002"), and to specify centerless grinding
> on a component usually connotes an even closer required tolerance. To
> produce the runout figures that Mr. Randolph quotes would require some
> EXTREMELY poor workmanship on the part of the machinist. I have not
> seen one of these shafts first-hand, but I could make a fairly
> accurate educated guess as to what happened if I had more details. In
> any event, a design tolerance of +/- .005 on something as critical as
> a M/R shaft is a joke, and one of Mr. Randolph's readings (.0110)
> exceeds this by a wide margin.
I guess you misunderstood my post also, so I'll just copy and past what
I said in another post about this....................
"Well, I can see that your turning my answer around. For those that
really want to know, I was describing the tolerance from the inside
diameter to the out side diameter. The Tube we buy has a plus or minus
0.005" tolerance From the center of the O.D. to the center of the I.D.
When you grind the tube, the outside is round, but it is ground to the
outside diameter, so the wall thickness ma vary some. This is not a
problem, because the thickness of a hair is only 0.005", but I'm sure
there will be a big debate over that too."
> The excuse of using the sand mold casting technique to explain the
> difference in the thickness of the mounting ears is also highly
> questionable. Either there is a defect in the pattern or the foundry
> doing the work is only qualified to cast lawn ornaments (on second
> thought, that's what you now have!). Definetly not up to A/C quality
> Anyway, just trying to help and this is my 2 cents. Use it if you
> can. If you have any questions, e-mail or give me a call.
There is no defect in the mold. There is a plus or minis 0.015"
tolerance in a casting. Then it gets heat treated before machining.
Between the pouring and the heat treating there could be up to a 0.040"
warp of the part, but that is why we build a casting oversize, and leave
area to clean up. This is normal, and has no effect on the performance
of the part.
Hope you better understand.
Subject: Re: Machinist Speaks out On Mini-500 Issues
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1999 02:22:35 GMT
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
A Man Named Epithealious Terribealious wrote:
> >I'm sorry, but your misinformed. I never said that I would sell
> >anything to make a buck. I sell kit helicopters and service them. The
> >facts are that to date there has never been a Mini-500 crash that was
> >the fault of the aircraft. I know that people don't like to hear that,
> >but that is the truth. I defy anyone here to post the proof that I'm
> >wrong, please.
> What does the NTSB report on Allen's crash say dennis? Does it say
> that the engine failed? Did Ralph Raser crash when his engine failed
> causing him to roll over and beat his machine to death? Are you in la
> la land? If engine failures and siezures are not part of what you
> call the "aircraft" then what are they?
> >There is no defect in the mold. There is a plus or minis 0.015"
> >tolerance in a casting. Then it gets heat treated before machining.
> >Between the pouring and the heat treating there could be up to a 0.040"
> >warp of the part, but that is why we build a casting oversize, and
> >leave area to clean up. This is normal, and has no effect on the
> >performance of the part.
> >Hope you better understand.
> >Dennis Fetters
> I hope he does too. I don't. I'm sure I'll get a response or he'll
> post one here and we'll see what he has to say.
Bill & Dennis, I will show what my M/R gear box ears measure w/
micrometer in thousands. This is the combined thickness as they are
Rt. Frt. ear = .701, left Frt. ear = .739, Rt.Rear ear = .739, Left
Rear ear = .736! Dennis, I thought you stated in a previous post that
the combined thickness was to be 3/4 of an inch = .750!! None of mine
measure that amount!! But, at least 2 of them are the same. I gues I
goofed by putting a .040 washer under rt. frt. ear, should have only
been .038! The .040 or to be more accurate,.038 metal is missing on the
rt. frt. ear bottom half of case. Why is that Dennis, as there was not
enough alum. to machine. There is no machined counter sink on that ear.
Just a machined surface that doesn't have full circle of machined
surface as there is not enough alum. casting to machine a counter sink.
By the way,Dennis,how many Mini 500 have a knurled M/R shaft at
bearing mating area on top & bottom of ring gear carrier? If any are,
why were they knurled?
Ed Randolph # 005, Please, do not go away ,Dennis, I have many more
questions that need answered !!
From: billphil@Earthlink.net (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Machinist Challenges RHCI once again on Mini-500
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1999 19:49:45 GMT
Here we go again. My only consolation is that everytime Fetters opens
his mouth to rest his foot, perhaps a couple more people decide that
RHCI is a company they should not buy their next heli kit from.
Anyway, I'll cut/paste/comment his latest post. You can do the same,
as you wish. Let's begin;
"I'm sorry, but your misinformed."
I'm sorry, but no I'm not. I can spell, though. And I do know a
thing or two about basic sentence structure.
"I never said that I would sell anything to make a buck."
It's not what he has said. It's what he has done. After that, it
becomes an issue of what he has said to cover up what he has done.
"The facts are that to date there has never been a Mini-500 crash that
was the fault of the aircraft...............(snip)................I
defy anyone here to post that I'm wrong, please."
How convenient it is to be in a business where "dead men tell no
tales." I suspect others will jump on this with more detail than I
can offer. One thing we can count on is that it will NEVER be the
fault of Fetters or RHCI. It is ALWAYS an ex-employee (who hired this
employee to begin with?), or sloppy construction (who wrote the
construction manual?), or poor maintenance (who wrote the maintenance
manual?), or low pilot hours (how many hours is enough? More than
30,000?). The list could go on and on.
This is the critical issue where Fetters ALWAYS misses the point. It
is not that he has designed/built/and sold a defective product. Even
Sikorsky, Hughes, Bell, etc., have at one time or another released
aircraft with defects, either in design or workmanship. The
difference is in HOW these companies have handled the situation when
the problem came to their attention. They (1) acknowledge a problem
exists. (2) Ground the aircraft or apply flight limitations. (3) Admit
they made an mistake. And then they (4) research, design and
thoroughly test an adequate solution. It is why they are still in
business, and why RHCI day's are numbered.
"You do understand that this is a two-stroke engine, do you not?
I do understand that this is a 3-cylinder piston-port two-cycle engine
likely derived from a hot-rod snowmobile, made by company I had never
heard of before and can find no information on. I cannot find any
reference where a previous iteration of this engine has successfully
run for any length of time in ANY application, which makes me a tad
suspicious. I do have a good bit of background racing 2-cycle
go-karts in my earlier years, and can honestly say I have probably
blown one up in just about every possible way. Flex pipes of various
lengths between the exhaust port and the expansion chamber are used
as tuning aid and they leak like a sieve. I have even had my "blimpy"
knocked completely off by a competitor. Before I was black-flagged,
the engine ran like crap, lost a LOT of power, but it did not seize
"If the exhaust manifold is loose enough, then air will be sucked into
the cylinder, and that will lean the mixture."
Sorry. It doesn't work that way. Fetters should study some books on
2-cycle engines and then re-think his stance here. I have about a
half a dozen books here but the one I recommend is "The Two Stroke
Engine - Design and Tuning, by K. G. Draper". (While he's at it, he
should pick up a friggin dictionary) Since he insists it was the
exhaust manifold, I'll make the assumption he does know the
difference, and will offer the following possible scenario:
The manifold was inexplicably loosened by previously mentioned
ex-employee. Exhaust gasses leaked out, causing a lower than normal
EGT reading. Said ex-employee leaned out that particular cylinder to
boost the EGT.
In a copy and past (his spelling) post of one of his previous posts he
says - "Well, I can see that your turning my answer around."
No, what we are trying to point out is that he (Fetters) doesn't know
what the hell he is talking about. His apparent ignorance of basic
machining practices, terminology, and tolerances only casts a deeper
doubt on his abilities to design and manufacture a complex vehicle
such as a helicopter.
"............(snip)............This is not a problem, because the
thickness of a hair is only 0.005", but I'm sure there will be a big
debate over that too."
Debate about what? Hair? I just checked one of mine- .0021" Fetters
has some awful thick damn hair. Should we deduce from this that thick
hair equals thick head?
A little bit further, while discussing the issue of casting
tolerances, he writes; "This is normal, and has no effect on the
performance of the part."
Let's hope he's correct. Lets hope he said to himself that RHCI can't
really afford to have these components cast, stress relieved, heat
treated, and machined the way they SHOULD BE for an aircraft, so we'll
just add some extra mass to make up the difference. For the sake of
those that choose to still fly this bird, I certainly hope so. What
it (the large tolerances) does have an effect on is the confidence of
the builders and pilots to believe that the components have been well
engineered and fabricated. It only serves to increase suspicion of
other areas, and from what I can tell, those suspicions are well
Have at it, Bill
Name held by request
From: terrible terra <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Mini tail rotor system
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1999 01:45:28 -0700
> Badwater Bill wrote:
> > Well, Dennis, why don't you respond to Joe Rinke's claims in public
> > that you doctored that picture of the Voyager. Hell, it's the same
> > background you used in the other Mini-500 brochure. How stupid do you
> > think people are? Why don't you admit you misrepresented the Voyager
> > in that photograph that you had modified. Go look:
> Admit it was? Hell, I'm the one who did it! Anyone could see that it was a
> composite picture for an advertisement. We never said it wasn't. You will
> turn anything into something bad when it's not.
Dennis, you're supposed to tell us the picture is a composite *before* we
discover it for ourselves! You had an artist fake the pictures long ago with
the Mini-500 brochures, and we couldn't tell. And you DIDN'T tell. But you did
accuse Joe Rinke of using a computer to fake a sign on the side of a building,
you made quite a big deal about that. Soon after, we found your phony Voyager
picture. Must be pretty embarrassing, huh? You should have used the artist
again, you big dummy.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Mini-500 postings question?
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 20:52:14 GMT
On 17 Sep 1999 14:53:32 GMT, email@example.com (WKoslosky) wrote:
>Yes I Have a piece of shit Mini 500. Two friends of mine also had piece of shit
>500's. I'm Bill Koslosky s/n 101. Bill Bennet's 500 is crashed after a
>multitude of problems. Gil Armbruster is dead after a multitude of problems. I
>have only hovered mine and consider it far too dangerous to fly. When you
>consider the number of 500's sold. the number completed. The total number of
>hours flying, other than at hover. the number of injuries and deaths. This has
>to be one of the most deadly machines ever concieved.Playing Russian Roulette
>Might be a safer Hobby.
I just got an email from Dave Martin, Editor of Kitplanes this morning
asking me to reconsider our position on the Mini-500 since RHCI and
Ken Armstrong have answered all of my concerns and are posting their
(what Dennis calls) research on the subject. It's interesting how
even Martin seems to have been duped by fetters into believing this
thing is perfectly safe now that the rotor mast support has patched
some vibrational problems and the PEP tuned exhaust (which invalidates
ROTAX's warrantee) have solved all the engine problems.
Gil had the PEP on his and his quit him. Allen died due to the
violent tuck. Are these problems solved Dave? Rotax says, "Don't run
that engine over 6500 rpm continuously or it will fail you due to the
lack of heat removal. You may run it up to 6800 for not more than 5
minutes. If you operate it outside of these limitations you are not
following the manufacture's recommendations."
How does the PEP kit cure this problem?
How about the violent tuck and negative pitchover when the engine
I don't see the RHCI has bent over backward to fix any of this. Dave
Martin seems to just ignore my continuous question about this and
wants me to consider changing my position on this. Sorry Dave, if you
were more technical you might understand the problem so I wouldn't
have to bring it up in every email I send to you.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Machinist Speaks out On Mini-500 Issues
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 21:26:11 GMT
On 16 Sep 1999 13:42:47 GMT, email@example.com (JDana2) wrote:
>It is now apparent how a helo mfgr. can sell a kit so cheaply. Poor quality
>control, inferior grade materials,and a design of questionable origin . When
>one does that , one should at leasr try to use the help of the builders to give
>you feed back as to what to improve!!! One even has to take everyone's
>comments under advisement because even in the most ignorant of statements ,
>there may be a grain of truth or a better idea. JIM DANA
Since I was voted the President of the International Experimental
Helicopter Association Inc. I have done my best to try to open a
conversation and two way exchange of all ideas with Dennis Fetters.
He has refused to negotiate, communicate or in any way take any free
advice or information from any of us that might better his product.
He has repeated voiced to everyone who would listen that he wants NO
communication with me or any of the people who belong to this group.
He will not recognize this group in any way as a resource.
I only have one thing to say. That has been a mistake and will
continue to be a mistake as long as he postures himself in this
manner. There were nearly 100 people at the meeting in Florida where
we formed this organization. He had about 100 at his meeting. So,
our group represents about 50% of those who were sincerely interested
enough to spend the travel money to attend either meeting. I'm sure
that there would have been more people at our meeting and more at his
meeting if he had not tried to sabotage us by holding his meeting on
the same weekend. That announcement came many weeks after we had
already planned our meeting.
I interpret the outcome and attendee numbers to mean that roughly 50%
off all the builders in the US are interested in our
organization...which is really their organization. I would like
nothing more than to have a constructive dialog with RHCI since we
truly represent about 50% of his builders. It is futile to have it
any other way.
I would like to come on here and tell you all about the things that we
have discussed, the changes that have been made and what is in the
works at the moment. All of that would help Fetters and his company.
Dave Martin asked me to change my pose on all of this in an email this
morning. I would like nothing better than to do just that. But when
the President of the company who manufactures this aircraft which has
many problems won't even communicate with an organization which
potentially represents 50% of his clientele I really have no choice
but to continue to point out the deficiencies of this aircraft until
they are corrected.
I am not out to ruin RHCI. I think that would be a big mistake on
everyone's part in spite of the fact that Fetters appears to be hard
headed. There are about $10 million in helicopters out there and
Fetters is and should be the primary resource for supporting those
machines. The guy is just about impossible to deal with however. He
refuses to fix things on aircraft that are in the field when he knows
they are not airworthy. I have living proof of that right here with
our ship. Our tail rotor blades need fixing and are under warrantee.
Just because Fred Stewart didn't have that done a few years back
doesn't mean it should not be done. There are many kit builders out
there right now with kits still in the box that are over 4 years old.
Is RHCI not going to warrant those tail rotor blades too since they
are 4 years old? If they don't, I'm going to make it public. So, why
are we different? Why can't we get our ship fixed? I think it's
because I'm the President of the IEHA and represent people who have
serious problems and who have locked horns with Fetters in the past.
Because of that, our ship becomes abandoned and I become the whipping
Think about it Dennis. All your stance and you position does is cause
you lots of trouble. Wouldn't you like to work with us instead? I
ask you Dennis to change your position. I am forwarding this post to
Dave Martin too so he can see that I am doing this. It seems that all
he does is get your side of things all the time.
Bill Phillips, President IEHA Inc.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Fetters Thinks That Kitplanes Exhonerates Him?
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 04:57:26 GMT
>How about it, Mr. Fetters/Al Faris... how about looking directly at the
>stories we've published and tell us what is allegedly wrong rather than
>avoiding the issue and using the very tactics you decried as recently as
>this very day? The most recent story was reposted here a few weeks ago...
>whereupon you saw fit to ignore and engage in some of the conduct you have
>just repudiated... here's your chance to show us that you actually meant
>what you said.
>However; I am very glad to see you admit that such tactics and actions are
>wrong and unprofessional... it makes our response so much the easier.
I have to agree with everything you've said here Zoom. Fetters
continues to sidestep all of the real issues. He can't come back and
answer master machinists on the group. He picks and chooses just what
he will answer of my questions and the answers are his stock ones that
have worked in marketing this killer-copter for years. He lies and
tells people I tried to commit a felony and blackmail him. My
attorneys will like that one. I never asked him to fix our machine
for free. I asked him to waive the $750 transfer fee which I consider
extortion. You'll notice that to this day our ship is not flying. We
have the money in the organization to fix it now too but in my last
communication with him he wouldn't sell us parts.
I feel sorry for Ken Armstrong. I think he was a sacrificial lamb in
this game. He's the one who really lost out here because he wasn't
able to do any real research. He flew it, yes, and it flew well, yes
it does...I agree. So what?
He took Fetters word for many things and parroted them in his
article. I got interrupted but I read his first answer to my six
questions about the temperature building when running the Rotax over
6500 rpm. His answer was that the temperature stayed constant and
cool...or something like that. Well of course the temperature gauge
he was watching stayed cool, probably right at 160 degrees because
that's the coolant temperature. Ours does too. It has nothing to do
with the piston temperature however. When you run the guts out of
this engine the cylinder walls stay cool because the coolant takes
away all the heat. The radiator and liquid cooling works real well.
The cylinder walls also stay at a constant diameter because of this.
BUT, the piston heats up, expands into the wall and you get a seizure.
Ken sidestepped the whole question probably inadvertently too.
Fetters answer is a laugh. You'll notice how carefully he answers
that Rotax warrants the engine. That's correct. But if you seize it
from using it in this helicopter and running it at high power so you
lock up that piston, they don't warrant it. Eric Tucker told me this
in front of 100 people at the Florida meeting. That self proclaimed
educated man Dennis Fetters comments again on the Rotax 582 and it's
use in airplanes. Well, Rotax says they don't recommend it for use in
helicopters for just the reasons Fetters spouts. Fetters goes on to
say that the engine at 6800 rpm is only operating at 70% power in
translational lift. Yep, that's right, but how many of you Mini-500
owners have hovered for more than 5 minutes at 104% rpm and 120 %
power with the PEP kit? If you do, you are generating more heat than
the engine was designed to eliminate.
There's no magic here, you run at those high power settings and you
will have a failure eventually.
I'm too tired tonight to even read the stuff on the Kitplanes site but
I will. And I will prepare a rebuttal with more questions and Dave
Martin has promised me to post them on that very sight. So, hang in
there Dennis. It may take me a couple days but I'm going to be very
Don't ever accuse me of committing a felony either. I demand a full
apology right here and now or you WILL be hearing from my attorneys.
From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Fetters, the Man Who Always Tells it Straight...Yeah Sure!
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 05:33:19 GMT
In a post this evening Dennis Fetters published:
They know that Fred Stewart gave Bill Phillips a Mini-500 to buy him,
and Phillips tried to blackmail RHCI to fix his free Mini-500, for
This is an accusation that I attempted to commit a felony. I demand
you to prove this or retract it Fetters. You have one day.
1. Fred Stewart did not give me a helicopter. Fred Stewart donated a
helicopter to a local organization who made it available to me for
mechanical testing, flight testing and the opportunity to deal with
YOU. I can prove that and you are a blatant liar.
2. I did not ask you to fix the helicopter for free. First I asked
you to waive the $750 transfer of ownership fee. When you didn't do
it I asked you to waive that fee as a tax deductible donation to the
same organization Fred donated the machine to. When you rejected that
I asked you to postpone it for a few months until we could get the
money. You refused. What I did ask you was to allow me to send in my
tail rotor blades for the FREE fix that you had under a manufactures
warranty. You rejected that saying the time period had expired on
that fix and told me it would cost us $65.00. Well, I thought I was
getting somewhere and I agreed to send them in, pay the $65 dollars
and get the fix. You came back and again rejected that without the
paying the $750 transfer fee.
What a guy. You say tonight in your posts how you made fixes free to
the owners or at cost. I'm sure General Motors could learn something
from you. They could have a transfer of ownership fee on every used
car they sell or refuse to supply parts. That's restriction of trade
and I may call you to task on it someday amoung many other things.
I heard that you pay $150 for the PEP pipe. Is that made available at
cost to the fat people like me who can't fly it without that pipe?
Nope. What is it Dennis, you only mark it up to $950 the last time I
looked. I could weld up that pipe myself for $100 bucks. Who do you
think you are kidding? The warranted fix on the tail rotor blades was
offered for a few months eh? Well I have friends who've had their
kits for a few years and haven't gotten to the point where they are
dealing with the tail rotor yet. Is the warranty invalid on those
kits since they missed the three month window?
Fetters, you go on and on and on about how you are so giving to your
builders and owners. Yet everything I get here and I do get about 20
emails a week tell me you are trying to milk every single dollar you
can out of all of the builders? To whom did you supply free parts
You told us to ground our ship because was not airworthy and you
refused to do a $65 fix when we are willing to pay for it. I spoke
with the Missouri Attorney General's office on Friday for the second
time. It was a good conversation too. They called me and we talked
for a good half an hour. All of this is being filed with my complaint
against you and your company. You are a liar and a cheat in my
opinion. You use good people like Dave Martin and Ken Armstrong with
impeccable reputations to present your side of the issues and you have
the audacity to call it research. You aren't even a good con Dennis.
You are a cheap con. Your arguments don't hold water at all. You are
so ruthless that you point out Zoom's weaknesses to divert attention
from you when you are the one being questioned. Cheap trick Dennis
but it doesn't work here. Zoom appears to be a God-like figure
compared to you and only one year ago I was entangled with him
legally. He's done a magnificent job at exposing you and your
You stay posted for my answers to the yours on that Kitplanes site
too. It'll take me a day or two.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Mini-500 Negative Tuck over Problem in Detail
Date: Tue, 05 Oct 1999 06:51:52 GMT
I asked many people to email me their responses and experiences to the
negative tuck over problems they've had in their Mini-500's. I
compiled these for Kitplanes but have not had time to get them to
David Martin. I ask you who are concerned to take a look at this
webpage for a detailed explaination of that flight characteristic.
RHCI flies the tail. Every other helicopter I've ever seen has the
tail downloaded in forward flight. You NEVER want an upload on the
tail because as you go faster it will pitch over on you.
All airplanes have a download on the tail. All commercial helicopters
have a download on the tail. When you scale down an MD-500 to a
Mini-500 and you don't do it right, you have to upload the tail.
I'll go into much more detail about this in the next few days as I get
time. But, in the meantime, look here and learn something.
From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Mini-500 Negative Tuck over Problem in Detail
Date: Tue, 05 Oct 1999 15:12:30 GMT
On Tue, 5 Oct 1999 09:00:33 -0500, "Ken Leander"
>It's a good article, but the cause of the tuck doesn't sound right to me.
>As I understand it, the tuck does not occur when a normal autorotation is
>practiced. At 75MPH when the engine stops there may be an unrecoverable
>situation from severe nose tuck, but it is my understanding that at the same
>speed with the throttle just lowered (and the engine didn't stop) that the
>autorotation is possible and the tuck isn't as severe. Do you have evidence
>A while back an FAA inspector, the guy that does the final inspections,
>wrote that the Mini-500 is a very pretty ship but that it is UNPROVEN. He
>put that in capital letters. It still seems it is unproven. Extreme
>caution should be advised.
You are very astute. I too have asked this exact question of all the
people who have experienced the negative tuck. Andy LaBouef is one.
Andy told me that doing a practice autorotation gives you an advantage
because you know it's coming. He told me if you are going 90 knots
and chop the power while at the same time leading a bit with aft
cyclic you can indeed overcome the negative tuck.
Joe Rinke says the same thing.
The problem that seems to get these guys is the "unanticipated" engine
failure. It seems that you get behind it about 1 or 2 seconds before
you react, you are already over 45 degrees in that dive. Once diving
you accelerate and because Dennis has that negative trim tab on the
horizontal stab, it just gets worse as you pick up forward airspeed.
Both Andy and Joe told me it seems like a string sort of just holds
your tail up no matter what you do with the cyclic since you really
have no control over the deflection of that trim tab on the horizontal
stab.. Finally you have to be aggressive enough to just pull back but
not so much that you cut off the tail. Of course you are now down to
about 80% rpm too and below that it's unrecoverable. In fact the main
rotor system is actually stopped when you hit the ground in some
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Kitplanes November Issue...Mini-500
Date: Thu, 07 Oct 1999 13:22:45 GMT
Kitplanes Mini Revolution Article.
I just received my copy of Kitplanes and read Ken Armstrong's article.
Ken did a good job with what he was assigned to do. Kitplanes is not
in the business of trying to be a consumer advocate or actually
digging into the deep technical engineering deficiencies of the
aircraft they test fly. Ken was very accurate in his wording of what
the International Experimental Helicopter Association Inc. wants. We
want fixes to the existing problems that are well defined and have
plagued the owners for sometime. As many of you will remember, we as
a group vowed to raise our own money, hire engineers and fix the thing
ourselves. RHCI reacted to this pressure and began trying to fix many
of the problems we as a group defined which allowed us to simply sit
back and watch instead of being active as we were prepared to be. Ken
attended our meeting at Sun and Fun and saw that we, as a group, were
very level headed about our mission. He also witnessed and wrote that
"the attendees almost unanimously expressed a desire to work with the
company on problems and fixes." Within an hour after that meeting I
walked over to Dennis Fetters booth. I put out my hand to shake his
in an attempt to establish contact and begin doing just what our
members directed. Fetters was aloof and non responsive yet this is
the same man who has repeatedly stated he would support an independent
builders group which elected it's own officers and made
recommendations to RHCI. My efforts to establish even a simple dialog
were in vain. Mr. Fetters simply did not respond. He does not at
this time respond to an independent builder's group like he has
committed to do in writing and orally at meetings in the past.
Ken goes on to say that Fetters has tried to price fixes
realistically. I know that we could weld up that tuned pipe in my
garage for about $50 in materials. If I hired someone to build the
PEP kit it may cost as much as $150. It's primarily a tuned exhaust
pipe. Fetters offers this to the consumer for $950. This is not
realistic. Mr. Fetters has been heard by many committing to offer
most of the fixes at his cost. Why then is this PEP kit so inflated?
While on the topic of the PEP kit, our technical advisors tell me the
PEP tuned exhaust actually makes the ROTAX 582 more prone to failure
through seizure. The engine is working above the maximum continuous
operating rpm specified by the operators manual to begin with. When
you ask for 20% more power from the engine, more waste heat is
generated by burning more fuel. This heat is difficult to remove
effectively and can cause the piston to expand in diameter. Since the
cylinder wall is liquid cooled, it remains relatively constant in
temperature and diameter. The piston/cylinder clearance disappears
and the engine seizes.
RHCI also has refused to sell parts to second hand owners of the
Mini-500 unless they paid a $750 transfer of ownership fee and signed
a new contract with RHCI. We feel this is extortion and a violation
and restriction of trade. I ask you all to think of selling a used
car. Would Ford or GM ask for $750 from the new owner each time the
automobile changed hands in order for the new owner to buy parts?
This doesn't even sound remotely reasonable! Not only that but
Fetters has told people their ships were not airworthy and not to fly
them until they put on all the lasted fixesbut then refused to sell
them the parts until the transfer fee was paid. This happened to us
directly since we acquired a used helicopter. Fetters position on
this has been exactly opposite to what he told Ken Armstrong and what
ended up in print.
In Ken's section on the flight evaluation I found it fun to read and
sort of exciting in some ways since I have flown the aircraft many
times myself. The Mini-500 is fun to fly but the price in personal
health may be just too high. We take exception to the 28,000 hours of
fleet flying time which came from Dennis Fetters. Our input from the
builders tells us there are about 400 or more kits out there but only
about 100 flying (less in the US). Most have put fewer than 50 hours
on their machines. That translates to more like 5000 hours on the
fleet with 44 accidents and nine fatalities. We would be happy to
verify Fetter's claims. We will call all of the owners in the US and
take a poll of those completed and the number of hours flown. RHCI
simply needs to supply us with a complete list of all purchasers and
their telephone numbers.
In the last section of Ken's article he states that the pilot's
operating handbook cautions pilots to apply aft cyclic while the
collective is being lowered at the onset of an autorotation. Our
builders and fliers agree completely with this and say the negative
tuck over can be controlled this way. They go on to say when
confronted with a true engine failure, the human reaction time is
slower than required to perform the entry in this way. Apparently the
helicopter tucks over first and in some cases throws the pilot up and
forward in his seat belt (negative g). As this happens, the pilot, if
not very careful, could push forward on the cyclic and pull up on the
collective. Even if this doesn't happen and the pilot lowers the
collective as rapidly as possible, the helicopter is in a steep dive
by that time. The horizontal stabilizer is being flownupward
forcesince it has a downwardly deflected trim tab on it similar to
down elevator on an airplane. So, as the Mini-500 picks up speed the
tail lifts higher (more uplifting force with more airlow). This is
simply a pitch divergence from which people may not recover. It has
many effects, one of which is to prolong the amount of time before air
can change direction and begin flowing UP through the blades. Upward
flowing air is necessary to establish the aerodynamic forces required
Finally, we have to take exception with Ken's closing statements
concerning personalities and our mission. What we are trying to do is
support changes in this machine to make it a safer helicopter. The
personalities are strong, yes, but right now, I have a helicopter
Dennis Fetters refuses to sell me any parts for. Our helicopter has
some 30 hours total flying time and is worn out in many areas. Ken
states that the machine appears to be free of "significant vices." I
may agree with Ken if I flew the newest and latest modified ship as
far as most of the flight characteristics. However, Ken did not do an
extensive engineering evaluation of the materials used to build this
ship. He did not fly a new ship for 30 hours and micrometer many
hundreds of parts that could wear out of tolerance in that time. And,
he did not have a surprise engine failure and subsequent entry into
autorotation which could have resulted in a violent negative pitch
It is these items where we have strong disagreement with Mr. Fetters.
Our concerns are not some obscure secret:
1. We have many witnesses to the violent negative tuck upon an
unsuspected engine failure.
2. The machine wears out in a few hours when the advertising
campaigns by RHCI touted design for a 2000 hour TBO.
3. The engine is being run at rpm and power settings above those
specified and warranted by Rotax to simply operate in normal flight.
4. The downscaling of the very successful MD-500 turbine
helicopter presents many new problems like:
a. insufficient tailcone-mainrotor clearance,
b. high CG on skids that are very long and narrow which we feel
has cause many rollovers
c. and possibly some very serious problems with downwash on the
horizontal stabilizer which required RCHI to "fly" the tail in
contrast to downloading the tail in almost every other aircraft design
5. Use of nylock nuts in the engine compartments especially on
6. Insufficient quality control over major fabricated parts like
the main rotorblades. Most are warped with a forward sweep.
Additionally there have been many bearing problems and even chipped
gears in transmissions from the usage of inadequate materials.
7. Lack of good honest support by RHCI on many problems. This
manifests itself as avoidance to admitting real problems when we
"consumers" are certain Mr. Fetters knows of the deficiency. These
range from the frame cracks, inadequate bearings and cooling system
materials that melt to the warped blades mentioned above.
Some of our members and even staff from RHCI have come forward to tell
me that Mr. Fetters was well aware of shipping defective parts in
numerous kits. Our sources tell us that Fetters simply felt the
inadequate parts may not be discovered by a builder with an untrained
eye. Plus, correctly fabricated parts to ship were, "just around the
corner" and Fetters felt the kit-builder would not get to the point in
the build where a certain part was needed before RHCI shipped an
adequate replacement. If this is true, and it appears to be the case,
that's a lot of keeping track. Who was shipped what defective part?
And, where they are in construction could be impossible at best to
After meeting Ken Armstrong at Sun and Fun I felt like he'd been sent
out on a mission to do a job where the research could not be done
accurately. I recall that Ken, himself was frustrated with Mr.
Fetters since no schedule seemed to be negotiated for him to test fly
one of the machines. Ken did the best anyone could ever ask him to
do. He gave an in-depth evaluation of a machine from an expert
pilot's point of view. The part on the flight characteristics which
he explored were well written and even exciting to read. The Mini-500
is actually most pilot's greatest dream. I've had a photograph of one
on my bulletin board since 1992. I must however, reiterate our
position. Ken opens his article with the statement, "Any helicopter
is only as safe as the pilot in command." In this case we feel that
is not true. Great pilots like Allen Barklage with 32,000 hours of
logged chopper time and who routinely did touch-down autorotations
have died in the Mini-500. Their skills were no match to the
conditions they were subjected to. In another section Ken says that
"pilot error" was a factor in every accident. That is probably very
true! If highly experienced pilots with tens of thousands of hours
are put into situations they can't deal with, the Mini-500 can and
will put most of the low time pilots into similar or worse situations.
We feel the Mini-500 has some distance to go before it's safe enough
for anyone to fly. From the engine to bearings, to quality control
issues and actual design and flight characteristics, the Mini-500 is
not for the weak at heart. Many are dead who thought they were just
researching another homebuilt in relative safety. Kitbuilt
helicopters are a different animal than a kitplane. Many of us could
go down to the lumber yard and buy the correct rough-stock wood to
build a small airplane. Within 90 to 150 days we could have a little
airplane similar to a Minimax or a Fisher, put a lawn mower engine on
it, a hand carved propand go fly. Not only could we fly it but it
would probably be extremely safe and last for many years with little
NOT SO WITH HELICOPTERS. There is a lot going on in a helicopter from
the alloys you need in transmissions and bearings to the harmonic
resonances due to all the hundreds of rapidly moving parts. One
single man could not simply go out and build one without a lot of
engineering help. They are EXTREMELY complex as Mr. Fetters will even
attest. So, the dream of an inexpensive vertical flying machine may
not be a reality at this stage of our technical development as a
society. At least our opinion is that the Mini-500, although a great
start, is not that dream.
Bill Phillips, President
International Experimental Helicopter Association Inc.
From: Kevin O'Brien <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Our Mini-500 Engine (Russian Roulette) I might have been next!
Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000 03:42:07 -0400
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Bill Phillips
> On Thu, 27 Apr 2000 22:15:08 GMT, Don Campbell <email@example.com>
> >I remember talking to a older flyer back in the 70's, it was the first
> >time I heard the
> >name "Dr. Killer" applied to a plane (Beach Bonanza)
I always heard this as 'fork tailed doctor killer'. Some professionals
become excellent pilots. Some, however, have too big a head. Gravity is
never impressed with your success or status or standing, it only cares
about your mass.
> >In one case it was a good plane need a good flyer, In the other it was
> >a bad bird killing
> >good flyers. I don't see either one talked about very much in my
This is true Don... I think it's a little more subtle than Bill does and
I'll address that in a moment.
> There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Kitplanes and Dave Martin
> continued to support the Mini-500 because fetters continued to
> advertise with them. I'm convinced of this.
> I've received some private email from an insider, just his morning
> that sheads a great deal of light on the tactics of the publishers of
> this magazine. They make their money from advertisment.
Hello, Earth calling Bill. Of COURSE they make their money from adverts.
That's what publishing is all about. However, they are not quite for
sale. In my opinion they merely don't say anything if they haven't got
anything good to say, and when there's both good and bad -- say, the
Seawind amphib -- they only print the good. It's not simply sucking up
to an advertizer (sure, they'll be having a bit of that ;) they also
write pollyanna stories about companies that don't run ads as well. It's
partly boosterism and partly denial, too.
Other hobbies are a lot worse. You probably know somebody has built a
kit car. Check out the consumer page at www.kitcar.com -- we ought to
chip in to buy Curt Scott a flying license, so that we could get
consumer reporting like that.
> Kitplanes has become and infomercial only. Don't say anything
> controversial, don't expose fault. Just keep those nice polite
> articles coming and don't rock the boat. This is what I see in
Yeah. I thought they went over the line when they attacked you as the
cause of Revo's troubles. By and large you would never know companies go
out of biz in this industry from reading Kitplanes.
> Not only that, there is no depth in that magazine. I never learn
> anything from it. There is very little on "How to do" things. Just
> pilot's reveiws of how nice things fly.
Yeah, I was really excited recently when they had a cover PIREP on a ROn
Sands-plans built Nieuport. There was next to nothing in the artice
about the construction of the plane, and I thought that was
disappointing. There are better how-tos in custom planes, but they do
have at least two construction articles each issue.
> I read Ken Armstrong's article on the Mini-500 in November. It was a
> nice article. It said nothing about how the helicopter wears out in
> 30 hours.
> It said nothing about the negative pitchover which occurs
> if you are cruising over 80 knots and have a real engine failure.
There's a real chilling NTSB -- you know the one -- where the guy
described an auto like that to his buddy. The helicopter scared him.
Next day it killed him dead as a lobster.
> said nothing about running the 582 at 110% of rated power just to fly.
> It was a typical Kitplanes kiss-ass article to an advertiser with no
> depth and no help to those in the field who are trying to make this
> thing work.
He accepted Dennis's word that the PEP would cure all, I think. I think
Dennis came to believe that himself which made it duck soup for him to
sell the idea to others.
> I don't blame Ken for this either. He did his job. If he's have dug
> in, he wouldn't have produced the article that Martin wanted.
You don't need a conspiracy to explain how they decided to do that which
best benefits their organisation, and rationalised it later.
> I laughed like hell that Kitplanes came out with their glowing article
> the very month that RHCI closed it's doors. Poetic justice on an
> asshole like Dave Martin.
It's not funny really, because that rag is most people's intro to our
avocation, and when people have bogus information they do dumb stuff,
like put down deposits on Voyager-500s.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Our Mini-500 Engine (Russian Roulette) I might have been next!
Date: 26 Apr 2000
All of you who have been reading this group for awhile have followed
the Mini-500 saga over the past few years even if not directly
involved. You've read reports of the most critical component, the
engine, failing due to cold seizures. This has produced emergency
conditions that have killed people. In fact it appears that "Cold
Seizure" of the Rotax 582 liquid cooled engine, in this application,
has been just about he most prevalent failure mode at this time. I
say "at this time" since most of the ships are still very low time and
most other component's time/life figures are not known at all. Many
more failure modes can potentially crop up in the future as the number
of flight hours continues to climb.
Many of you also know that Fred Stewart built two Mini-500's, one of
which he donated to a charitable organization here in Las Vegas who
made that machine available for me to evaluate. The ship, number 120
had 32 hours on is when it arrived here. I flew it ten more hours in
hovers at 2000 msl. At that point I had an engine seal failure on the
gear end. It caused no damage but I saw oil leaking from the engine
so I removed it for a tear down.
About two months ago we sent it to California Power Systems for an
inspection. Our specific instructions were to tear the thing down,
inspect it, rebuild it if necessary and ship it back to us. A man
named Cesar (Spanish pronunciation) did the work and called me last
night with the bill. I got a cold chill up my spine when I heard
what he had to say.
I appears that this engine has done exactly what Eric Tucker from
Rotax told us a year ago at our builder's meeting in Florida. Mr.
Tucker told us that "cold seizure" in this engine is a slow process
that occurs over many flights where the lower piston-skirt (below the
wrist-pin) comes in contact with the cylinder wall and abrades it by
depositing aluminum on the wall itself. This occurs by not warming
the engine up long enough before demanding power out of it. Our
engine has these marks and was just about to seize. Cesar said we had
maybe an hour or so more and that would have been it.
For those of you who have not heard the discussion about the warm up I
want to relate it once more. Especially the new people like Katt and
others who just bought acquired their machines.
This engine is liquid cooled. That means that the diameter of the
cylinder remains constant once the engine is heat soaked and the
coolant temp is 160 F. The piston however, expands and contracts
depending on power loading requirements. It is critically important
that "heat-soak" or heat-equilibrium be established before you pull
pitch demanding full power. You can watch for heat-soak easily. When
you first start up watch the temp rise until it's at 160 degrees,
you'll see it drop rapidly as the thermostat opens. It will drop down
to about 130 or 140. The thermostat closes and it heats again until
reaching 160, then the thermostat opens again and the temp may drop to
145 or so this second time. It goes through this cycle about five
times until it stays rock solid at 160 degrees F. You are ready to
Remember that you have a system running at constant rpm but varying
load demands. This causes the heat generated to vary all over the
place depending on what power you are requiring.
If you pull pitch before this temperature "dance" is over, you'll see
the thermostat open and your liquid coolant temperature fall. When
this happens, the cylinder diameter decreases and the hot piston
contacts the cylinder wall in the piston skirt region. This can
happen a few times unnoticeably until the aluminum deposited on the
cylinder wall gets thick enough that it causes a complete failure
through rapid piston seizure.
Gil Armbruster, may God rest his soul, told me this happened to him
the day before his got killed. In a conversation with him he said
that he had pulled pitch too early the day before and saw the damn
coolant temperature decrease 10 degrees while he was flying. He was
worried about it too. In retrospect, Gil should have done a tear down
and inspected it.
So, according to Eric Tucker from Rotax, this cold seizure problem
that results in a complete failure is something that actually comes
on gradually over a few flights where there has been some scuffing of
the piston against the cylinder wall. He went on to say in answering
a question that I asked that the engine was not designed to run at
6800 rpm continuously. That rpm while under power is the 5 minute
limit and max continuous is 6500 rpm. Well, ship number 120 won't fly
with me in it at 2000 feet and three gallons of gas unless I run it at
104% (in the green according to fetters) which is 6800 rpm...I've
I asked several questions trying to really pin Eric Tucker down on
what exactly the mechanism is for engine failure when running at that
elevated, "not recommended by the factory" rpm. His answers always
came back to "heat removal." At this rpm (6800) the heat removal from
the engine is inadequate. The failures occur in areas where it is
evident that there has been overheating. This includes the over
expansion of the diameter of the piston resulting in contact to the
cylinder wall and then on to complete seizure.
So, the engine is not strong enough to power this ship. When fetters
put the PEP kit on it and got another 15% to 20% more power out of it,
sure it flew better, but it produced even more heat. Gil's ship had
If a two cycle engine is used for this application it has to be an
engine which is de rated. I noticed in flying the ship that a left
pedal turn caused me to drop out of the sky because I was at full
throttle. There was just not enough power to fly it. The over taxed
system was operating on the very edge of it's capacity. In order to
fix this problem an engine needs to be used where you fly and run it
at some power setting which is at least 20% lower than design maximum.
That gives you some reserve and the system operates within the engine
manufacture's design limitations.
In closing, I would like to say that the ship we have here appears to
have been right near the point where a cold seizure was eminent.
Within only a few more hours if I'd have gotten brave and flown it in
ELT... then you'd be reading about me...probably as a fatal statistic.
When people with over 30,000 hours of rotor wing pilotage logged can't
tame this dragon in an unanticipated autorotation I have no chance of
survival should it happen to me.
Our engine was damaged. The piston had contacted the cylinder wall
and the aluminum build-up that Eric Tucker spoke about had started.
It was just a matter of time and that engine would have failed.
President, the Mini-500 Builder's Group
From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: How to Make $8,000,000 on Toy Helicopters
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 15:09:47 GMT
Rick Stit worked for Dennis Fetters for quite awhile. In a
conversation with him a few weeks ago this is what we figured:
Mr. Stit painstakingly analyzed the costs of the Mini-500 kit and came
up with a cost figure for a kit "out the door" at about $12,000 to
Revolution Helicopters. Since the aircraft sold for more than twice
that, the profit margin was a good $12,000 to $15,000. Dennis sold
about 500 of them internationally at a profit of nearly $6,000,000 to
$7,000,000. I also understand that he got federal loans amounting to
well over one million dollars in flood relief which he didn't need or
spend...or pay back. Then according to Mr. Stit he took in nearly 50
deposits on the Voyager 2-seater, many of which were full deposits.
Mr. Stit feels this amounts to well over a million dollars too. So,
we're up to $9,000,000 of pure cash that Dennis might have stashed.
In conversations with Stan Robinson, Mr. Robinson tells a completely
conflicting story. He says that even on travel to the plant he was
required by Dennis and Laura Fetters to pay for his own meals when
they went out to dinner. They lived in a modest home and drove used
cars.....seems contradictory doesn't it?
Well, what would you do if you were setting up to bail out? I'd do
exactly the same thing. I'd live in a small home, drive an old pickup
and show no affluence. I'd make everyone think I was just about to go
under at any moment. I'd solicit my old time buddies like Dave Martin
editor of Kitplanes Magazine to have his staff write articles and
publish web pages showing how everyone was out to get me while I just
kept on battling in the name of good old American capitalism. I'd con
everyone while I moved money out of the country. And, you'd have to
move it out of the country because one day the packman would require
you to pay up. The cops would find you and the money and you'd have
I doubt that Dennis spent the million or so he took in on Voyager
deposits on labor or parts. I doubt that Dennis spent the million or
so he borrowed from the federal government in flood damage loans. I
doubt Dennis spent the seven million or so profit on the Mini-500's.
How can you spend nearly nine million dollars when you live in a
hundred thousand dollar home, drive old cars and count every penny in
front of your help and contractors? Nope. I think that money is
still there. Maybe off shore somewhere, but still there. I think
Laura might know all about it too. Laura was probably cut a sweet
deal by Dennis so he could change Gods and marry his new princess.
So, all of you who made deposits on a helicopter that didn't and
doesn't exist ought to have your lawyers go talk to Laura since Dennis
has become very difficult to find (It was reported to me that two days
ago the police tried to find him and arrest him...but no joy)! I'm
not an advice giver but that would be my move if I'd put one nickel
down on a Voyager or anything else RHCI sold.
And last but not least...to Dave Martin editor of Kitplanes Magazine.
Why don't you write an article about a great imposter, a con, a thief
and a crook? That's what I think Dennis Fetters is.
Less than 10 months ago you sponsored a glowing endorsement of the
Mini-500, Revolution Helicopters and Dennis Fetters. It appears that
you sponsored and supported a crook and now a wanted criminal Dave.
How ironic that the November 1999 magazine came out just as Dennis
declared he was broke and shut down the plant. Later at the BK
auction it's speculated that Dennis put up a sock puppet to bid on the
remaining tools, molds and parts. Why don't you go do some real
journalism and find the truth behind that one? Better yet, why don't
you admit that you were wrong and apologize to all of the people's
families who lost loved ones and all of those who lost money banking
on RHCI because of your Magazine's direct endorsement? You fought me
to the end Dave. I told you Dennis was a scammer at the time and you
told me you believed Dennis and I was the center of a great conspiracy
to put RHCI out of business. You did everything you could to try and
get me to stop our campaign to expose the Mini-500 for the piece of
trash it is.
I spoke with Fetters many times on the telephone concerning his
whoa's. Dennis was very convincing. Very convincing! By listening
to his side, I was almost convinced that he was being picked on by Joe
Rinke and Fred Stewart. After that I even helped him write his side
of the story in two parts for posting on the rec.aviation.rotorcraft
newsgroup. I edited every word of it for him since he's a poor
writer. I gave that man every chance in a public forum to tell his
side of the story...and he did. I was conned too Dave. Dennis was
good (is good). When Fred was about to give me a Mini-500 so I could
see what it was all about I called Fetters and asked him for his
support. I was still a believer. I asked him if he would help me
make this helicopter the best helicopter of the fleet in order to
prove to everyone the value of the machine. He agreed to do that.
Then, the very day Fred arrived, Fetters backpedaled out of his
commitment. I saw the man for what he was.
I'm going to tell you something Dave...you were wrong! You were
wrong about the man and the helicopter. Why don't you admit it and
President, Mini-500 Builders Association
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: A Year Tells a Lot!!!
Date: Sat, 09 Dec 2000 02:59:01 GMT
The last year has told a lot about the true emotions and intentions of
the "Detractors" as dennis fetters (I use lower case out of complete
disrespect) called all of us. Yes, we have gone on and done exactly
what we said we'd do. I notice that Fred Stewart is not the central
Magnate of a large experimental helicopter producing industry as
dennis fetters (df) demanded was Fred's goal. I notice that I am not
the financier of any endeavor to build and fly experimental death
traps as was df's ranting to all, only one year ago.
Yes, all of the evils that fetters projected were in the wings, just
waiting to take over his lucrative and vast operation, seemed to be
nothing but fluff. None of the "Detractors" even attended the auction
where the crap that df was building helicopters out of was pushed off
on someone else no one knew. Joe Rinke, a real threat to df in df's
mind, never did a thing to overtake the world position of Revolution
Helicopters Corporation Inc. (what a stupid fool using corp. Inc RHCi
.only an illiterate would even try to pull that one off to make it
sound like Robinson Helicopters Corporation RHC).
And Kitplanes magazine and Dave Martin telling me he was convinced by
dennis fetters that there was a conspiracy to take over his lucrative
operation. Jesus, give me a break. Who'd want it???
Well Dave, you were wrong. Now, a year later, df is wanted by the
police, has left the country as far as anyone can tell, bilked a few
million out of the idiots who bought his crap and not one of the
"Detractors" started that big helicopter plant in the sky to take df's
sales. Yep, Dave, it was YOU who were duped and in turn you duped
many others out there by your gross stupidity. You touted that
Mini-500 up to the bitter end. You cried foul on fetter's behalf
while people were falling from the sky's into 6 foot coffins--but
Kitplanes kept in there sucking that advertisement money out of
fetters and touting one of the most dangerous machines to ever to be
placed on the aviation market. Yep, it was KITPLANES who wrote the
article at the very death of RHC.Inc. How poetic that your glossy
article was published the very month that fetters went bankrupt and
shut his doors. What a laugh your rag is. But, what an injustice to
the people in this great country who believe what they read in your
Now, one year later, there is no one who wants to take over the
Mini-500 design. You thought there were many in line. Some goofballs
have looked over the past year--people with no understanding of the
problems. Each has spent their money and lost on the stance of trying
to con before they got conned. Each has touted the Mini-500 then lost
money trying to revive it. A year later now I don't see Fred
Stewart or Joe Rinke or Ed Randolf or Charlie Green, or all the others
who were labeled "Detractors" in this grand scheme to take over the
experimental helicopter market of the planet, doing one thing to
promote this bastard-child industry.
So, Dave (and Kitplanes) you were wrong. We had no ulterior motive.
What we had, that you seemed to NOT have, is a sense of morality. We
had the sense to do something about this terrible ship that murdered
our friends. And, we won! So fuck you Dave. You can kiss my ass and
the asses in a long line of people who worked with us. It was YOU sir
who was the fool.
From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Fetters Watch (was Re: Troll...)
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 11:53:34 GMT
You make some good points as usual Ron. I sat down yesterday and did
some telephoning. What I have are nothing but second hand rumors.
Not all of them are from Campbell either. I get some info from Rick
Stit who was an engineer who worked for fetters (lower case out of
disrespect). Much of what I've passed on to the ng's are things these
sources, who still live in Excelsior Springs and the surrounding
environs, have to say, including Bob Urban. But, in the final
analysis, what I have are nothing but rumors and unverified by any
What I hear from Fred Stewart, Rick Stit, Joe Rinke, Campbell, Lee
Saroughan, Stan Robinson, Bob Urban and others is:
Fetters was in default on his flood loans from the federal government
and they were trying to find him for this reason mostly. The rumor
mill says that he's out of the country right now. Of course Campbell
says the FBI contacted him and bla bla bla. At one point Campbell
pointed the FBI to me, told me the name of the investigator and that a
telephone call to me was imminent. That never occurred. The latest I
hear is that fetters put in a ringer on the bankruptcy auction who
bought the tooling. They guy was oriental. I even have his
photo...so the China connection might make sense.
I also hear that some have obtained judgments against fetters for
specific performance on the Voyager. I know for sure that many people
put down full deposits ($50k) on that thing and lost them. I have
been told that there have been a few law suits over this with default
judgments since fetters didn't show up.
My interest in all of this is for one reason and one reason only.
First off, I don't give a damn where fetters is or what he's doing. I
don't care. I just don't want to ever deal with him again. He can
have a nice life and leave me alone. I'll do the same for him. His
threatening and staging with law suits were nothing but saber
rattling. While I was poised and ready to strike for blood. It came
close but fetters knew he'd lose so he backed off. I have my own
suspicions about that too. I think he was pocketing lots of money and
a law suit with me would open a can of worms with others jumping on
the band wagon once we got rolling. I was ready to rock and roll. I
looked forward to suing him big time to shut him down until he fixed
the problems with the death trap...what I really wanted...and my
letters will show this... was to work with him. But as Stan Robinson
will attest...that's almost impossible. Stan was the best thing that
ever happened to fetters but fetters was too dumb to see it. I'm of
the opinion that nobody who knows more than fetters can survive around
him. His ego is larger than the room he occupies.
Anyway, as I said above, I'm laying low, I'm pissed about not being
able to talk with Gil Armbruster for the rest of my life or Allen
Barklage because of that shitty death trap. I'm so pissed that if
fetters manufactured that thing on Mars and tried to sell it here I'd
spend whatever resources I have to test it and validate or invalidate
it. That son of a bitch will do it right or I'll be on his ass like a
fly on a turd.
So, that's my position. That was ALWAYS my position...i.e. fix it or
give it up. Guys like Dave Martin, editor of Kitplanes simply got in
my way. When he went to press with that article by Ken Armstrong last
November '99' he pissed me off to no end. He knew there were big
problems and in the previous two years there had been 8 fatalities and
, my two buddies included and some 40 crashes. Twenty five percent of
the deaths were my friends. This doesn't even scratch the surface of
all the people with permanent injuries like blindness and broken
backs. They were the lucky ones. Fetters knew the problems. He, of
all people was uniquely aware of many things we don't even have a clue
on. He was built out of pure greed. He lost his soul over the buck.
Martin wasn't far behind. He was touting the Mini-500 in Kitplanes as
Revolution Helicopters closed their doors. Martin used his magazine
to win a battle but he lost the war and looked positively stupid for
that move to all of the experimental rotor pilots out here. We aren't
a big group either and none of us will forget the lack of help from
So, no, I guess I don't have "Hard Facts" on this...just a lot of
rumor. I haven't got hard facts because I really don't care as long
as fetters is out of my life and the big picture. I have spent NO
time validating any stories about him, Laura or their whereabouts.
You see, Ron, I just don't find him interesting. I find him to be an
uneducated, self aggrandizing puke. I have almost no interest in him
other than stopping any attempt he has at putting that Mini-500 back
on the world market without serious changes to it. That is my only
interest. I don't initiate any telephone calls to try and get
information on him. I just sit here and people call me from time to
time. I sit and listen and sort of keep a running tab on the latest.
But, I initiate no calls to anyone concerning him or what he's doing.
He's not that important to me or what I'm doing. Others find him
interesting and keep track of him...so be it.
If I really wanted to, I'd go back there and do some research on him.
But what would that prove? I have partially won what I wanted. I won
in a negative sense however. What I really wanted was a nice little
dream helicopter in my backyard, and the Mini-500 is about 60% the way
there. I felt that by working with fetters I could contribute to MY
dream. I had personal motives. That proved to be impossible. So,
what we had to do as an organization is give him an ultimatum, fix it
or stop making it. He chose the latter.
President, Mini-500 Builders Association
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Troll...
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 02:56:34 GMT
>Had the helicopter been truthfully presented, very few people would have
>been tempted to even try it. To top it off, as I understand, purchasers
>were "not" allowed to work on the design, or even replace the underpowerd
>and over worked engine with something more suitable.
>The problem is not that some one tried to produce a single seat helicopter,
>but rather that they represented it as something it was not and the results
>of that misrepresentation.
Perfectly said Roger as usual. Not only was the thing poorly designed
and the parts poorly machined, there was a contract that all
purchasers signed which demanded that they make absolutely no
modifications to the machine. Joe Rinke modified his with a turbine
and was sued by fetters for breach of that contract.
The helicopter was something that should have only been owned by an
engineer who was also a machinist and a test pilot in rotorcraft. If
that had been the market, no one would have bitched. fetters marketed
it to the common man as the ultimate magic carpet to use as a commuter
to work and play. All of his sales videos represented the machine as
a viable, proven helicopter for the common man. It was none of this.
You couldn't even fly it 2000 feet msl above your home base without
re- jetting the carburetor which meant disassembly of the carburetor.
If you didn't rejet it, it would destroy itself. There were many
kinks like this that fetters was well aware of but stonewalled the
public about. My dear friend Gil Armbruster called me the night
before he killed himself and told me that he had witnessed a
temperature drop on lift off the week earlier and he knew it was
because he hadn't warmed the whole cooling system up so that all of it
was at operating temp. Upon lift off, the thermostat opened up and
shot a lot of cool water to the engine, reduced the cylinder radius on
a HOT piston and most likely scuffed the lower pistons on the cylinder
walls. Rotax claims this is quite common and aluminum deposits on the
cylinder wall from such a collision. You may not even know it. They
the next time you fly, the aluminum causes a seizure.
John Ammeter was here that night with his wife and we just sat down to
dinner when Gil called. Little did I know that he would be dead 12
hours later from that piece of shit helicopter. I cut him short
because of my company but he was wanting to talk to me about that temp
drop he had seen and ask me what I thought. Many times over the
previous weeks both Carl Johansson and I spoke with one another and
voiced our concern about Gil. I posted at least three times that I
figured he was in for the next crash and I wanted him to be very
careful with that thing. This was especially true since he'd put on
that PEP kit which was nothing but a tuned pipe to suck more out of
The engine was designed to run at 6500 max with a 5 minute limit at
6800 rpm. The top of the green arch which produced 100% rotor rpm was
6800 rpm. That's where you had to run it all the time. Then with the
tuned pipe you got another 10% more power. There was just no where
for the heat to go. The system was not designed for heat removal off
the piston crown at that operating torque and rpm. So the piston
would heat and expand and seize up. Virtually all the deaths were
from this form of engine failure.
Fetters knew all of this. He knew it for years. Rotax withdrew their
warranty on that engine if it was used in that configuration. They
also tried to stop selling it to fetters at one point until he took
them to court and demanded that they sell to him. Rotax knew the
engine was underpowered and abused in this configuration. Dave Martin
of Kitplanes knew all this too. That rat bastard sat in the same
meetings I sat in where Rotax explained all of this in excruciating
detail...but Ron still loves the prick. I can't see why. Martin went
to press while many of us begged him not to. The Kitplanes
endorsement in light of all of this was devastating to the consumer in
my opinion. It white washed and denied the existance of real hard
engineering data we all had.
There were many other things wrong with that ship too. I could walk
around it as an old home builder and restorer of airplanes and find
about 20 hard points of possible failure, JUST BY LOOKING AT IT. The
tail rotor blades were held on with nylock nuts. ALL HELICOPTERS
built by factories use castellated nuts and cotter pins on ANY
The control push rods were routed through the engine compartment where
the ambient temps get up in the mid 250's F. All control push rods
had nylock nuts on the bolts. As any homebuilder or A and P knows,
you NEVER use nylock nuts in an engine compartment. You use steel
locking nuts that can only be used once. There were crashes due to
poor welding on the correlator on the pitch control that adds power as
you pull pitch and reduces power as you lower pitch of the main rotor
blades. I know of one man who is now blind due to control failure.
It goes on and on and on.
One of the most dangerous things was the thing tucked over on you if
your engine seized up. That was because fetters never could design
the nose angle in it to be flat during cruise flight...so what's he
do? He puts a fixed elevator on the tail and deflects it down. Well
as you are pumping air down in forward flight it hits that big
horizontal stab and makes you want to pitch up...the down elevator
fixed this. But, if the engine fails, all of a sudden you now have
air coming up from underneath. You lose the downthrust on that stab.
So it would naturally pitch over on you...but with that fixed elevator
there it's uncontrollable and you go inverted...just the wrong move to
To transition to autorotation from forward flight, you pull back on
the stick (cyclic control) and reduce the pitch with the collective to
get that air flowing UP through the blades. You couldn't do this if
you had that engine seizure above about 60 knots...you'd just tuck
over and die...just like Gil did and Allen Barklage did.
Not only that, the engine was a 2-cycle engine with oil
injection...not oil mixing. When you reduced power the oil to the
engine was reduced...but in a helicopter the rpm remains constant.
So, you are varying the lubrication on that engine all over the place
and you don't know where it is. On an approach in a helicopter you
reduce power way back but the blades and therefore the engine keeps
turning at the same rpm. If you come way back you shut off all the
oil to the engine. Then at the bottom when you want to land, it's
completely different than an airplane. You have to crank in full
power to stop the descent and land under full power. You do this with
an under lubricated engine and cool liquid coolant in the system. In
fact you can lose so much heat on a descent that your temp needle will
drop out of the green. On the bottom when you add power the piston
expands into a cool cylinder and.....bingo...cold seizure.
Fetters knew all of this and so did many others including Martin and
Rotax. But the son's a bitches didn't address a bit of it in public.
That greedy little bastard Dave Martin whom Ron loves so much did just
the opposite. While the builders and consumers I represent were
dropping out of the sky in deathly crashes he goes to press with a
nice article about how wonderful the little ship is. He opens up a
website with my questions to fetters on it and gives me a certain
amount of time to answer fetter's responses which I did...but then
Martin never published them.
He's as biased as it gets. Ron works for him and I have to respect
Ron for not chewing on the hand that feeds him and publishes his
stuff. But Martin is nothing to me. Nothing but a crooked publisher
who had his hand out for a buck because fetters found a way to
continue to pay Kitplanes for advertisements during all of this
controversy. Carl Johansson and I hammered Martin over it privately
and he remained committed to fetters. I could have seen this if
Martin hadn't had the same data we did. But Martin sat right next to
me in the same God Damn meetings where Rotax spoke, Rinke spoke, Fred
Stewart spoke and the guy who makes the Helicycle spoke (B.J. Schram).
We all knew the severe problems way before Gil and Allen died. It was
all the stonewalling of the industry and the inertia that fetters had
that resulted in the continued crashes and fatalities.
I'm not going to type all night but I have to say that there were
hundreds of other things wrong with that ship too. You could never
balance the blades properly for forward flight, Ralph Raser finally
put a controllable elevator on his to overcome the tucking. There was
a horrible harmonic along the drive shaft to the tail rotor because it
was never straight. The assembly instructions had you JB welding the
middle bearing guide in the tail cone. So, if you weren't using a
laser you had a Hook's joint on a universal joint there that flopped
one way then the other on each revolution. It goes on and on and on.
Helicopters are not simple like airplanes. I could grab O'ring Seals
right now and go to the lumber yard, buy some lumber, then go over to
Cloth World and buy some cotton cloth and a Briggs and Stratton
engine. We could buy a prop somewhere and we could build an airplane
that would fly in about 6 weeks. Not only would it fly, it would fly
well too. And it would fly for years with no problems. That's an
easy thing to do. With helicopters...NO WAY. You just can't do it
unless you have a research budget like Robinson , Bell, or Hughes.
The helicopter is just too goofy and too complicated to screw with. I
will never fly an experimental helicopter again in my life. I have a
hard time sometimes IN THE FACTORY BUILT ONES. But, I'd rather spend
$50k with two other guys and buy an R-22 than $30k on a Mini-500 kit
that I cannot modify due to contractual reasons but where many times
each year the factory grounds them if you don't put some new mod on
that fixes something screwy. Yes, that's the way it was.
So, that's what I think about the Mini-500 and why I think Dave Martin
contributed to the crashes. What he could have done with his magazine
is help reveal the problems and work with us on the fixes. He could
have applied the heat to fetters to work with real engineers and
scientists to make the thing right. There were many of us who
volunteered our expertise to help fix the thing. All of us who did
loved the dream of the Mini-500 as much as fetters. At the time (last
year) I had a photograph of a Mini-500 on my bulletin board at home
since 1992. For seven years I looked up at that photo and dreamed of
one. It was a great dream. So great that it killed nine people and
maimed many more. fetters knew the problems all along but kept
screaming "pilot error" while it tucked and went in inverted if the
engine quit. Joe Rinke had an engine failure at about 3000 feet doing
about 80 knots. He tucked past vertical but somehow bailed it out
without taking off the tail (if you pull back too hard the rotor cuts
your boom off).
The history and the real life experiences of this helicopter go on and
on. There's enough data to fix it. But fetters was the type of guy
that no one could work with. His ego filled any room he entered.
Many of us would have and tried to work with him and help him. No
joy. One of the nicest and brightest mechanical engineers I ever met
was a guy named Stan Robinson who built the engine for the 2-place
Mini (the Voyager). Stan would not let the Voyager go to market unless
it worked. He of all people knew the real problems. But, they never
got the Voyager to fly right. It would not fly forward more than
about 20 mph without severe problems. Stan knew how to fix it but in
many meetings with fetters go no where. Stan had a contract to supply
the engine ONLY when the Voyager flew correctly. Stan held fetter's
feet to the fire on that contract and lost millions of dollars because
he would not sell or supply that engine to a death trap helicopter.
There's a guy with some ethics. So, a man with ethics finally made a
stand and buried fetters. Martin had the tools to make a stand too
but he didn't.
So, that's a small portion of the history surrounding this turn-key
kit as it was advertised.
From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Response to Rodger, Mini-500 Continued
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000 15:21:16 GMT
On Tue, 19 Dec 2000 06:13:43 -0600, BOb U. <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>Good job, bad Bill.
>>The one thing I'd take exception to is your wholesale denigration of oil
>>injection systems. I tuned oil injected 2-stroke road bikes for many
>>years, and never had a seisure with a properly adjusted system. I even
>>roadraced 2-stroke bikes with the oil injection system in place.
>>Just my semi-informed opinion
I don't degrade the value of an oil injected bike at all. I even own
one. I race a Susuki 185 through the desert all the time with oil
injection and I love it. It's much safer than mixing because you
don't forget and the injector is tuned for that engine. That's not my
In helicopters you have an engine that runs at a constant rpm. On the
ramp when you spin it up you go to 100% rotor rpm with no pitch in the
blades. That takes about 5-10% power to keep it going. That means
that you are only burning 5-10% the gas you would burn if the engine
were under load at that rpm. In a dirt bike if you are running 100%
rpm, you are usually wide open and at full power. There in lies the
In a helicopter as you raise the collective and put in positive pitch
to the blades you start producing drag. If you didn't add power the
rotor rpm would decrease. So, you add power to keep the main rotor
rpm up. Just about the time you lift off the pad you are almost at
full power (same rpm) If you do this right, the main rotor rpm
doesn't change a bit. If you add too much power you over speed the
Same thing on approaches. You are cruising along at 80 knots under
about 70% power because you have what is called Effective
Translational Lift [ETL]. You reduce manifold pressure and drop the
collective to flatten out the pitch in the blades to come down. If
you drop the pitch too much you over speed. If you drop the power too
much you under speed. So, the trick is to keep the power in there
that you need to keep CONSTANT RPM. In a descent you may reduce the
power back to 10% or less but the engine in the Mini-500 still is
running at 6800 rpm. This means that all the bearings and surfaces
that are passing one another are still at red line velocity. The only
thing that's missing is the high cylinder head pressure and the
heading of the piston crown. BUT, you reduced your lubrication of all
of those swinging parts concurrently with the reduction in fuel flow
since the oil is mixed in the fuel or is injected in proportion to the
fuel consumption to keep the ratio at 50/1.
This is what bites you. Poor lubrication over long descents or long
warm up periods on the ramp while running that little engine at 100%
Now, I'm using that Rotax engine (the 582) in my gyroplane. But, I
have a prop on it. Using a prop is much better because the rpm
changes with power setting in most cases. So, the more power the prop
is there and puts more load on the engine. Just like the dirt bike.
The only thing to watch for in using 2-stokes for airplane use is the
long approach at high velocity. Here again you can have reduced power
and high propeller rpm as the wind drives the prop during descent.
For this reason when I teach an ultralight pilot to fly I tell them to
maintain high power settings on approach and use flaps or spoilers to
increase drag and therefore angle of descent. You have to keep that
high power in there on approach to keep oil going into the engine.
The other technique is to slow way down to a couple knots above a
stall where the prop and the engine rpm decline along with the reduced
power. Here, you don't have the high bearing velocities and don't
need that lubrication.