Fort Worth firm has plan to re-imagine old helicopters



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Posted on January 9, 2011 at 10:31 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 10 at 4:19 PM

FORT WORTH — We've all wished for it at one time or another when trapped in traffic — a car that would lift us out of the jam and fly above delays.

That vehicle, regrettably, is far down the road.

But a Fort Worth company is working on technology that might someday make a flying SUV a reality, beginning with some innovative ideas in helicopters.

The AVX might be a police helicopter; a bus to offshore oil rigs; an urban SUV; or even a flying Jeep.

The concept from the brains of Bell Helicopter executives with decades of experience in vertical flight is to make helicopters more efficient, easier to pilot — and cheaper.

The AVX  is based on a Bell helicopter design that's been flying for decades.

The U.S. Army needs to refurbish 330 of its OH-58D model choppers. AVX, a small company in Fort Worth, thinks it has a cheap way to do it that could advance helicopter technology.

"This is very unique," said Troy Gaffey, president and chief engineer of AVX Aircraft Company. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before."

Instead of one rotor for lift, the AVX chopper has two, which rotate in different directions. That design uses less power and makes the aircraft more stable. In addition, the design uses two pusher fans, which boost airspeed and altitude.

In a conventional helicopter, the rotor creates a spinning force. That makes it want to spin around. To keep that from happening, there's a tail rotor, which helps hold the aircraft in place.

Coaxial rotors eliminate the spinning, along with the need for a tail rotor.

Where the tail rotor would normally be, the AVX design has two large fans which push the aircraft forward.

"It's being flown more like a regular airplane than it is a helicopter," said AVX spokesman Frank King.

In an AVX simulator, Ron Magnuson flies over Kabul, Afghanistan — a good test for any helicopter because of it's high altitude heat — two factors which drain the efficiency of anything that flies. Without having to waste energy on a tail rotor, the AVX has more power.

"That means you can lift more weight, which is very, very significant," Magnuson explained.

AVX will present its concept to the U.S. Army this month, and the competition is stiff.

The company is confident, saying, "let the best idea fly."