Rotorway Exec 162F: any opinions?

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The kit helicopter Exec 162F from Rotorway got fairly good reviews in a Swedish magazine recently and has a modest price ($64350 plus avionics). It is claimed to be somewhat easier to handle in emergencies than its size would suggest. Any comments on this? Does anyone have experience from this flying machine? Would it be a good choice of a small helicopter, provided one had the skill/time/patience to assemble it?

-- Albert Karlsson, May 19, 2004

Answers

If you look at Trade-a-Plane you'll see a lot of rather old Rotorways for sale with 50 or 75 hours on them. In other words, once assembled these machines hardly ever fly. I've seen a few at Oshkosh and one flying at the Moosehead Lake (ME) Seaplane fly-in. The expectation with a homebuilt helicopter is that you should budget for some maintenance after each and every flight. By contrast the R22/R44 helicopters can usually make it to their 50-hour oil change before a mechanic's intervention is required. And of course if you're going to fly around to different parts of the country it is important to have a machine that is easily serviced and for which parts are stocked in depth.

The Safari helicopter kit doesn't look as slick but it uses a standard Lycoming engine and might be more maintainable. They had one flying at Oshkosh all day every day.

-- Philip Greenspun, May 19, 2004


Just to add a little data on certified helicopter reliability... Our Robinson R44 is coming up on 8 months and 400 hours (flight school usage runs up the hours quickly). We have had two problems with the ship so far... (1) a chafed wire harness in the tail that resulted in a short and nav light circuit breaker popping, (2) the King radio display winked out once (radio still worked, but frequencies no longer visible; turning off then on resolved the problem).

-- Philip Greenspun, February 13, 2007

Oops. I was trying to clean out some of the back-and-forth that wasn't supported by direct personal experience with the Rotorway and, by mistake, managed to delete almost everything. Here are a few that I rescued from the Google cache...

From Mark Young: "I built, registered two Rotorway 152 with all the upgrades. Maintenance always after every flight of 1 hour, usually 5-25 hours of adjustments. In 125 hours of flying had to land unscheduled 15+ time to repair, adjust or recover. Beautiful ship, terrible sitting position after 30 mins. Good looking Whore with AIDS. Sorry about B.J's deaths in his newest model, the helicycle.. I totaly lost any kind of faith in the Rotorway product after six years of building and helping other builders."

From Grant Norwitz: "A perspective on Rotorway. I flew on every occasion at Oshkosh in my Rotorway, including the main parade. I'm not quite sure why your contributor managed to see the Safari and not the Rotorways... yes, many of them. In addition to the Rotorway's good looks, I tended to out perform the others in the pattern. Any aircraft, fixed wing or rotorcraft all require maintenance to be safe. Ignore it long enough and you will have an issue. The Rotorway is no exception, yet if the NTSB records are an indicator, it is safer than it's competitors. In addition, it is true value for money. The cost of operation is lower than other kits, and is significantly lower than a Robinson. There are 1000 of them out there, 25% of the R22, and of course, amateur built, yet as the numbers show, far fewer accidents... maybe it is just a good product. "

From Nathan Bottazzi: "I have a friend that is/was a rotorway owner. I have always said rotorway has way to many moving parts. I'm nervous of the multiple rubber bands (especially tail rotor)drive belt. His words "rotorway says they have had no problems with belt as long as they were properly maintained". With approximetly 50 hrs on ship he finely decided to take a flight further than 6miles, to a friends private airport. He made it, except on landing 30 ft or so from the ground the ship went into a spin. He did survive, although ship is totaled. Ship flipped over after touchdown. I guess that must be rotorways 1st tailrotor failure(yeah right!). I would also like to add, most builders have 80-90k in these with improvements, labor etc. Buy a timed out r22 for 20k rebuild kit for $55k TB by robinson certified a&p for &20k. For $90-95k you wil have twice the ship reliability wise! Remember every time you are tinkering (to often)with your rotorway, you are taking a gambeling chance with human error. I don't care how good you are!! Well on that note I hope i have saved a life!!"

-- Philip Greenspun, March 22, 2007


I have a 162F that I purchased as a rebuilt machine and since have added the ACIS to it. With all of Al Behuncik's adaptations and modifications (AP Helicopter out of Red Deer, Alberta) on this machine I do not experience the labour of maintenance that a pevious respondent has stated after each flight. I have trained on the R22 and while it has superior tailrotor characteristics, I prefer the handling, style and performance of the Rotorway. As for comfort, in the R22 I had to use a lower back roll for the discomfort, while in the Rotorway I feel no discomfort. This is a brilliant two-place helicopter that will get even better with the new ownership and goal to certification. I highly recommend Al's modifications for reliability and safety though!

Ted Thorne

-- Ted Thorne, June 23, 2007


Further to my comments of June '07 and as a rebuttle to the infrequent trouble free flying stated by a previous contributor, a recent return flight in July by Al Behuncik (AP Heliproducts.com) to Oshkosh from central Alberta (Canada) was trouble free! That is about a 20 hour flight one way over two and a half days and . . . the third year he has done this. Two other Rotorway units making the same trip failed because of human pilot error. These resulted in no injuries but both ships were destroyed and are in the process of near total rebuilds. The undertaking of the building of one of these kits should not be taken lightly. One must talk to other expert builders and research what modifications and adaptations have been implemented to improve upon the design and performance of these craft that in the end will make them safer and more relaible beyond the package that comes from the plant. Interestingly enough, some of these changes are being adopted by Rotorway now and that is a credit to their desire to remain competitive in producing an affordable, safe and reliable machine.

Ted Thorne

-- Ted Thorne, August 21, 2007


there were i some drive shaft failure. I think 16 accidents when there was a fleet of 400 one at 50 hours. 2002. Check this link. I would love to fly one but I would not put my family in one. http://www.epi-eng.com/RW/RW-01-ProjectOverview.htm

-- don horton, January 25, 2008

I worked in a factory as an electrician for 5 years. I took 2 years of A&P school to make sure I had the basics down before starting. I have a bachelors degree in Industrial Arts, specializing in metal working, composites, and electronics. I felt very qualified to build. I shared a hanger with a Navy trained airframe mechanic and an Army pilot with 30+ years in helicopters. After all, they tell you it's a very simple kit-you don't even have to weld.

I bought my kit in 1999. The trucking company Rotorway chose lost it and showed up at my house with an empty truck. They found it four days later. The builders manual didn't always match the videos, which didn't quite match the blueprints which almost never matched the FAA approved methods. Oh yeah, they have changed the kit a few times without updating the videos/blueprints/manuals.

They weld some parts that you later have to tap threads into using a wire feed welder and don't normalize the metal. You try to tap hardened steel and guess who gets to grind, cut, and reweld the parts after the tap breaks off in the frame (3 freakin' times). Advice, tap it weld it, then grind it to length. You can clean out the threads easily then.

They recommended using a gravity type inclinometer but I sprung for a digital which measured to 1/10th of a degree. They recommended using plumb bobs and string to align the tailboom, I used a laser. I painted the inside of the tailboom to prevent corrosion of the steel rivets in the aluminum body skin. Ever hear of dissimilar metal corrosion?

My hanger partners built a Vans RV8 in less time than I spent working on my R162F. But hey, the Rotorway estimate is 350 hours right? If you have already completed 10 of them, don't care what yours looks like, have a fully equipped A&P shop, and 10 guys helping you, maybe 350. Maybe. My pals tried to help me finish it, but to quote one, "This is the most foulded up piece of crap kit I ever saw."

We followed the instuctions to assemble the doors and cracked 5 before we got 2 ready. One of them was still cracked, but I just stop drilled it and covered it with fiberglass. Hell, I wasn't going to have the doors on much, was I?

Every time I called the factory for help, their tech guy was out to lunch. It didn't matter what time of day I called. He would eventually return my call, and his only response to any question was, "Work with it." Better yet, "It's not really a big deal." Buddy, with my ass hangin' under, it's a big deal. I finally flew to Phoenix, rented a car and drove to the factory to get answers. That shocked the ever lovin' crap out of him.

I sold my R162, uncompleted at a loss of over $40,000. If someone gave me a plastic model of anything I'd throw it away before I ever attempted to build again. My experience with Rotorway is; if your check clears, you don't exist until you need parts. Adios Sucker!

If you want to fly a helicopter, join the Army. If you want a divorce, an ulcer, scars on your wrists, and an empty bank account, buy a Rotorway.

-- Randy Siepel, July 2, 2008


As a reply to the earlier poster who inferred Rotorway being a safer helicopter (compared to Robinson) simply due to the fewer reported NTSB accidents, it's all in the math. Rotorways fly very few hours compared to the tens of thousand Robinsons fly each year. The correct comparison of an R22 vs a Rotorway should merely take into account the ratio of accidents or incidents per hours flown. Doing that would quickly show the Robinson is far and away the most sensible answer to anyone wanting to own a very light heli.

-- Mark Dalton, July 6, 2008

The Rotorway kits as most experimental have all been consistently up graded. I have owned several of these from the early 133's to the 152's. All were crap!! If a company has to constantly supply you with up grades and bulletins you would think they would get their shit together BEFORE selling any of these! There have been MANY failures not discussed with many components. I would never purchase another ! We will see where this New Talon goes especially since it is an all new ship. Now you know what that means-- here we go all over again. Anyone who has to be the first kid on the block to have the newest of anything is the Ginni pig and just an outright idiot!!Stick with a BELL or Robinson..For not much more you can have a ship 20 times better!!... I have had several Mini 500's as well NONE have ever left the ground since I value my life dearly!!Scott

-- Scott Krause, December 3, 2008

Scott, Just curious. If you feel that these aircraft are so bad, why have you owned so many?

-- Mark Dalton, December 4, 2008

Reply -- To previousy asked question.

I had purchased Two of these from a deceased party hoping to enjoy a reliable helicopter. I have been and still love heli's like many people do. I bought them Cheap!! So I had nothing to loose.I enjoyed building a large scale model. I sold the 2 I had knowing their down falls. I then stumbled upon a 152 hoping it was much better. Well it still had many issues and that is the reason for my comment about an infinite amount of up grades and bulletins!!All ships were NEW as well. They are simply a TOY and will never be used for a reliable commute.Owning one of these is very much like the person that owns a Fiat and drives it 2-3 day a month and is always wrenching on it.When a product is perfected there are NO changes to the design just simply an exchange of timed out components!!That can be related to any product or vehicle!!...Scott

-- Scott Krause, December 4, 2008

In reference to the reliability issues I have a different experience than some posted here. I flew a 162F for a total of just under 90 hours over a 70 day period usually logging no less than 4 hours per flight day in most cases and several times logging over 8 hours. This particular ship had a TT of over 2200 hours at the time this was flown. During this period the only work done was the factory recommeded service at 25, 50 and 75 hours and nothing outside of specified service was required other than one rivet replaced and the tail rotor belts tensioned twice. As a caveat to this post I have to mention this was a factory ship(owned by Rotorway, tail number N906) and was maintained by them up to the point where I took temporary delivery for the ~90 hours. Perhaps with the many hours on this airframe every possible bug was worked out but there certainly were no maintenance issues and it ran flawlessly in various locations from sea level to 4500' and temperatures from 37F to 95F. It was also trailered almost 3000 miles during this time as well. Perhaps the factory knows a long list of tips and tricks the individual owner doesn't have the benefit to experience. This is just a snapshot of a limited flight window and maybe with 250 or 500 hours it would read differently but it certainly did not expose any undue requirements for operation or maintenance, especially considering how many hours were on this ship.

-- J Wheeler, January 14, 2009

Mr Wheeler, Thank you for your response. So I take it from your response you had very positive experiences with the 162f. I am also assuming you would recommend this machine to the hobby enthusiast. I am seriously considering buying one and have made plans to test fly one shortly. Is there anything else I should be aware of? or watch out for when purchasing a 162f? Upgrade Kits that should be added? thanx, Mike Clark

-- Mike Clark, January 14, 2009

Mr Clark, I assume from your question you are going to look at a ship already built. As in any aircraft purchase there are many things to look at and with an experimental it is only as good as the person who built it and how it was maintained. It will range from new ships with no hours I wouldn't sit in even for a run up to older ones that one might take for long cross country jaunts. The best thing you can do is take someone with you that is familiar with whatever ship you are considering (whether it is this, a Robi or anything else) and if you look at resources such as ROG (Rotorway Ownners Group forum www.rotorwayownersgroup.com) there are people available. Barring that then carefully look at the fit and finish, it is the very little things that will tell the story. Everything should be mated perfectly, there should be no binding in controls or fixtures, doors should fit perfectly, look very carefully a rivets, especially on the stabilizers. A sign of a good ship, but not conclusive, is one that is litterally spotless. With the rear panels off, before your flight, look through the frame gussets especially under and near the oil bath as the 162 always leaks a little here - a very fussy owner will clean this religiously. A less than careful owner will let oil accumulate on top of the oil bath as well and may not carefully seal the inspection window. Check behind the seat panel (PIC - left side) as the factory oil cap is notorious for spewing oil mist all over the oil sump and frame mebers nearby. Another accumulation spot is at the very base of the engine where there is a very important bearing one must keep an eye on - at the base and on the tray just below it look for cleanliness, the fore and aft side are rather hard to reach and clean but a detail oriented owner will make the extra effort. A location that gathers grime and is commonly over looked by so-so owners is inside the fuselauge - look at the body pan through the front inspection panel - a less than perfect owner will let, or not notice, dust and grime accumulate in there on the bottom tub. This will also afford you the opprtunity to view the wiring harness going to the instruments which should be no less than perfect, clean, tied down, no splices etc. With the rear panels off (on the PIC side)follow the bottom strut from tail boom to a point where it passes the drive belts - if belts are constantly left out of adjustment there will be paint and markings on this tube where the belts make contact. This is of course a very short list of just some of the things that may be more obvious - others require a tape measure, calipers and experience with the aircraft but will give you a starting point. It should be obvious by speech and actions if you are dealing with a seller who displays great pride and care in their ship and you may even notice a tiny tear if they think you may be the buyer that is going to leave with their baby. Good luck.

-- J Wheeler, January 14, 2009

Dear Mike, Re-read the post carefully. You'll notice the gentleman was flying a FACTORY-OWNED SHIP. Unless you plan to purchase a factory-owned ship, think very, very carefully before doing so. In my opinion, unless you enjoy constant headaches and maintenance you'll end up regretting the purchase. I have a neighbor who has owned several and they are about as safe and reliable as a three-legged table.

-- Mark Dalton, January 15, 2009

Hi guys, do ye have any comments on the CHR Safari helicopter. I am seriously considering purchasing one of these machines to self assembly. Regards Leo

-- leo hilliard, August 17, 2009

Bought one with 45 hours on it and paid 42K$s then 135 hours later sold it to an instructor for 35K#s to buy a Enstrom... Big error the Enstrom is slower and heaver and 4 times the cost to maintain. Now I am going back and looking for a low time 162F [Love that dual FADEX].Two are now available at 45K$s and just as soon as I finish my new medical [I am 79]{insurance wants it} I start biding on one. Why?...because it is the best I've found since I started instuctor's school in Long Beach in 1977.. If you don't beleive me go to [www.flywithorv.com] He has over 2000 hrs. in type my closest certified instrctor located in MO. He has a web site with over 50 testimonials; I am in AR. I am listed there with the extended landing gear. Great stuff for autorotations/ LOL...George3ham@artelco.com

-- george hamilton, August 17, 2009

Be certain to read Orv Neisingh's "True Heli Stories" on his website. In particular, click on "Near Crashes" and then read the "Always Be Ready For Anything To Happen" article. In it he details mechanical failure after failure of the various Rotorway's he's flown and the subsequent near misses he has had with these helicopters. I don't understand what would possibly motivate one to fly these aircraft. Their accident records speak for themselves.

-- Mark Dalton, August 19, 2009

I am an A&P w IA and have been working aircraft for @40 years. I am now retired and have taken up assisting builders with Rotorway projects. One must remember that these craft are EXPERIMENTAL and as such are for education and recreation. For the price of R22 blades you can enter the world of helicopters with a Rotorway. It is what it is and is definitely not as reliable as a certified ship. Many of the faults are with the builders lack of attention to detail as well as a lack of experience. Note that at Homer's annual fly in there are numerous certified ships? Why? Because there owners bought a Rotorway and enjoyed the build and flying experience enough to realize the limitations and upgrade to more purposeful machines. To some point that explains why you see ships available with less than 100 hours advertised. Buying a certified ship is more than many newbees want to invest in something they are not fully committed to. I personally enjoy the building more than the flying. Some only want to fly on a tight budget. Many fly homebuilt aircraft for similar reasons. Many of Orv's adventures are due to building errors not caught on inspection. Once he leaves the aircraft is safe and the pilot well trained. In all aircraft we train for the emergency event, however, in helicopters it is even more important due to the complexity of the craft. My two cents!

Bob

-- Bob St.Denis, December 2, 2009


My advice for all you mechanics, engineers, and tinkerers out there is to buy a partially completed Rotorway kit and finish assembling it. That will fulfill your need to build something. Next, sell it as soon as possible and buy an R-22 or 269.

Personally, I trained on an R-22 and later purchased a Hughes 269/TH-55 for about $65,000 with great component times. The main reason for going to the 269 is much more payload, significantly more rotor mass (According to Robinson, you have about 1.1 seconds to lower the collective and enter the autorotation once the engine dies.), elimination of carburetor icing, and minimizing the possibility of mass bumping.

-- Steve Berry, October 11, 2010


Wow I,m quite con fussed now I was hoping to buy a new version of a roterway. But. With all those scary testimonials I,m not to sure about it now I would really appreciate it if you would email me what thoughts you all have on purchasing a chopper because I know that a home built by the he vrs a certified one there is a big price difference but in. Lives to be lost or lived I don't think that I want to go with something that will mame me or my family but I really was hoping for a roterway and find a well known builder to build it for me. So at is where I stand unless I look at a used r22. Thank you for your time. Because where I live we are along way from the civilized world so if you like fishing. Some up here northern Quebec canada

-- Patrick York, February 13, 2011

Hello Patrick

I am of Sept-Iles on the north coast in Quebec

I bought a kit Rotorway Talon and I built the machine currently.

excuse my English, I speak French

I trust AL Behuncik Rotorway of Canada.

This is a friends.

The Rotorway has been modified to be safer and simpler to build.

More costly damage.

this is not a toy

It must be built carefully and seriously. regular audit of all.

and you will be happy to have a helicopter.

St�ane Leblanc Sept-Iles , Qu�c , canada. Talon- 162 F

-- Stphane Leblanc, February 25, 2012


I always find it amusing to hear everyones opinions on this topic. I am a comercial Heli pilot, helicopter equipment designer, and earonautical mechanical engineering tech. I do intend on embarking on the Rotoway experience sooner rather than later. First, this is an experimental aircraft, it was not designed to be assembled then treated like the quad in your garage. Oil changes when you feel like it and inspections when you have time or motivation. Second this is an aircraft, unless you are an unrelenting perfectionist who feels they have the engineering understanding, and fabrication skills to build such a complicated project. Stick to building mountain bikes, and homebuilt trailers for your go carts, and remote controled heli's. Also dont compare a Helicopter to a homebuilt fixed wing, two different animals. Airplanes have wings and props, not tetering rotorheads that only work well when tracked and maintained properly, and gearboxes which critcally match tail and mainrotor rotation with movable control surfaces. Enough ranting about the dissapointment that unqualified and uninformed homebuilders experience. Try Maintaining a hughes 500 for a while and see how you like unschedualled maintanance after that.. If you are going to build a Rotorway, throw away the motor and get a Kiss Kit.I am a proponent of tailrotor driveshafts, and governed turbine power is way safer for those who have no experience corolating a throttle, leading it prior to any planned increase in load etc. in other words at all times... Overpitching is no fun and can really change how you view landings.. Nothing replaces a few thousand hours of experience flying. but once you get there, you treat all aircraft as finely tuned instruments that take a team to operate. DOM,AME,Chief Pilot, Chief operations officer, Pilot. and incesant recurrent training for all. This is the only scenario that makes the risk of flying any helicopter reasonable. When I was taking my comercial license my instructors first words were " we are about to take comand of 1000 + parts all built by the lowest bidder flying in close and uncoordinated formation that are inhearently unstable" The second thing he said was "You are going to lose a friend or two in this industry, its a sad fact, make every effort to ensure its not you" Having said that create this support group for your self as a private pilot. Find others in the industry that can mentor you in this way. Understand everyones role intimately and attend recurrent training courses. Trade shows like HAI and HAC have courses all day every day go to the show and view all of the cool stuff, then come home with a signature in your log book having audited a course. you dont have to be a comercial pilot for this, or a pilot even for that sake. But take a professional approach to your private flying. This makes the skies I fly in much safer, and your family much more secure. Kurt Hiebert Pres. Heliap Aviation Products Inc.

-- Kurt Hiebert, May 8, 2012

What is a Kiss Kit? Also, many of the posts are related to the Exec162. Since the Talon was introduced in 2008, have many of the 162 problems been solved?

-- Paul Workman, March 17, 2013

I'm also about to buy one so I would like to hear all the pros and cons the more information the better

-- Bruce Chandler, September 13, 2014