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The Route to Rotors at Osh: Go on Safari

Kit copter company shows low-cost path to vertical lift

By James Wynbrandt

July 27, 2018 - Many fixed-wing pilots view rotorcraft as difficult to fly and expensive to own and operate, but Safari Helicopter is working to shatter both assumptions at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 with the display of its Safari 400 and Safari 500 kitbuilt helicopters.

In business under a succession of names for some 60 years, Bobby and Delane Baker bought Safari Helicopter (Ultralight/Rotorcraft Display, Booth 934) in 2009, and “it’s been a hoot ever since,” Bobby said.

The experimental two-place rotorcraft are powered by a 180-hp Lycoming O-360 engine, their frames are 4130 chromoly steel tubing, and cabin shells are carbon fiber. The drive train is gear driven (no belts), the main shaft and spindle are titanium, and the blades are composite carbon fiber and extruded aluminum.

“It’s as close to certified as we can get without being certified,” Bobby said. Customers all over the world use them for “mustering cattle, to take pictures out of, to hunt, all kinds of stuff,” he said.

The kits include the engine, leather seats, carpet, steam gauge instruments, and switches.

“You can put the copter together and go fly and not spend one dime more,” Bobby said. Options for a full glass cockpit and full IFR package are available. “You can get anything you want,” he added, and that includes attachments for a spray system, a cargo hook, floats, side pods, “snow shoes,” and a trailer for ground transport.

With its large bubble canopy over the cabin, the 400 looks like a small Bell 47, while the soon-to-be-available 500, announced two years ago and featuring a carbon fiber tail boom, resembles a Hughes 500. Safari has 11 of the 500 models on order and is taking $1,000 deposits for delivery positions. “When it comes to your slot, if you back out, we’ll give you your $1,000 back,” Bobby said.

Build time for the 400 is about 450 hours, and for the 500 about 450 to 500 hours. Reaction to the products at this year’s show is “better than I’ve seen it since 2008,” he said. “I sold two on Monday, a 500 and 400.”

The Safari 400 kit costs $142,800, and the company is offering the Safari 500 for the same price at the fly-in, but “after the show it’s going up considerably.”

For the next phase of expansion, the Georgia company is “looking for full-service dealers knowledgeable about helicopters [that are] not only willing to sell, but support them as well,” Delane said.

Whether interested in buying or representing the company, visitors can see the Safaris fly at the Ultralight/Rotorcraft Display between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily during the fly-in.

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