I’ve been introduced to Piasecki PA-97 few weeks back when looking for some interesting blimp concepts. PA-97 is the Helistat – a hybrid airship/helicopter, designed for heavy vertical lift.
The PA-97 was built under a 1980 U.S. Navy contract for the Forest Service to demonstrate a heavy vertical airlifter for harvesting timber from inaccessible terrain. The single demonstrator used a retired Navy ZPG-2W blimp envelope and four Sikorsky H-34J helicopters. The combination of a large blimp with powered lift made the 343 foot (104.57 m) long helistat the largest dynamic lift aircraft in the world.Wikipedia on Piasecki PA-97
This monster project kicked off in 1980 and cost $40 million. Like you can see on the picture below, its prototype looked adventurous on a first sight.
Well, things didn’t go well at all when the PA-97 crashed immediately after liftoff on a first test flight, killing one of its pilots.
There are few things about PA-97 project to learn from:
– Using Helium, as a lifting gas, won’t help you when you are also using helicopters
– It is possible to convince your government to invest $40 million into idea like this
– There are apparently more crazier people on this planet than what I thought 😉