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Helio Courier Still Great, Just more Rare
By Randy Dufault
July 27, 2017 - In 1965 a factory representative stopped by the flight school Stephen Ruby was training at in the Detroit, Michigan area. The salesman had arrived in a brand new Helio Courier 250 and proceeded to conduct a flight demonstration.
“It stopped traffic in both directions,” Stephen said. “I told myself that someday I am going to have one of those.”
He did go on to have an ownership stake in two different Helios.
Noted for an ability to take off and land in incredibly short distances, Couriers can haul substantial loads and nearly hover in level flight. It is considered by many to be one of the better bush planes ever conceived.
According to Mike Mower of the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) the 1954 design has no published stall speed or stall warning device. He has accumulated over 3,000 hours in the type. He gathered much of his experience flying in the Philippines where a typical runway was 720 feet long and, in one particular case, 470 feet long.
“It is sturdy and easy to load,” Mike said. “It has a great margin of safety.”
At one time JAARS operated the largest collection of Couriers in the world. Three remain in the fleet, all in the U.S, with two used for training. The other serves a public relations role and flies occasional air show performances. Aging airframes and avgas availability issues required the organization to acquire other jet-powered aircraft types for their overseas operations.
Ten Helio Couriers are participating here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017. This is the largest gathering since a celebration of the type’s 50th anniversary drew 17 to AirVenture 2004. It is a culmination of a two-year online effort by Stephen to repeat the 2004 experience.
Kevin Dunn of Bolivar, Missouri, is one of the owners answering Stephen’s call. Like JAARS, Dunn’s plane delivers training through a nonprofit organization called Service Oriented Aviation Readiness (S.O.A.R.). S.O.A.R. trains pilots and aviation mechanics specifically for mission aviation.
Kevin estimates that the 10 Couriers here in Oshkosh represent about 10 percent of the flying fleet. Many of the remaining 90 percent are working airplanes in Alaska and Canada, doing what Couriers do best. Production substantially ceased in 1974 after the manufacture of approximately 500 examples. Efforts to resume production continue to this day.
Mike, who has demonstrated the Courier in front of AirVenture crowds, does still enjoy flying the type.
“It’s just fun to fly,” he said. “Especially in its environment.”