This page title could not be more appropriate as more and more RotorWay helicopters are becoming available in the used market. Unfortunately, if you do not do your homework and just follow the emotion of wanting to own your own helicopter, you can get burned. This is true of certified and experimental aircraft. If it looks like a steal or a really great price, it just may not be. Most disturbing is the out and out misrepresentations that some sellers are offering. I am about to tell of a couple of examples of some recent purchases of Rotorway helicopters that I became involved with, unfortunately after the purchases were completed.
I was referred to a new owner of an used Exec 90 that was seemingly having power problems. The helicopter could barely hover with two people on board. I traveled to the location and within minutes I discovered some serious issues with this helicopter. First off, the helicopter had been involved in a hard landing and tail strike. The replacement skid tubes were much larger in diameter and plus the amazing fact they were made of steel. It turns out, these skid tubes weighed 38 pounds more than the stock skid tubes. In addition, there was evidence the rear landing gear was bent outward from a hard landing. The gear was bent back and a heavy gusset was welded to reinforce the repair. This is not an accepted practice when the landing gear is damaged. The rear portion of the tailboom and vertical stabilizer were repaired with a combination of doublers & fiberglass. None of the damage or repair was reported in the logbook. Certainly, as everyone knows, damage history can reduce the value of an aircraft. The buyer of this aircraft even had a A&P do a pre-purchase inspection for him. But if someone is not familiar with a RotorWay helicopter, it seems unreasonable that fair and accurate report could be made. The helicopter was repaired and brought back to an airworthy condition for about $10,000.00
The second helicopter purchase was represented as an Exec 162 model. Notice I left off the "F" that normally follows any reference to the FADEC Exec model. This clearly was not an Exec 162F with FADECs. The buyer purchased what was presented to him as an Exec 162F. He paid what he thought was a good price of $30,000.00. All it needed was a little interior work and new avionics. The owner had an local aircraft repair center install new avionics and a beautiful interior. They did a great job and it looked expensive, because it was.
The owner called me to help him with rigging checks and blade balance. Upon my arrival and inspection, I informed the owner there were some serious issues with his RotorWay helicopter.
I explained to him that this was not an Exec 162F, as it was obviously a carburetor engine. The helicopter clearly had a blade strike. The airframe was bent and repaired at the square tubes. The MR blades were replaced with Waitman blades. Generally there is nothing wrong with Waitman blades, but whenever I see a RotorWay without stock MR blades, I usually suspect they are replacement blades because of a strike. Again none of this was recorded in the logbooks.
But here is the really disappointing fact about this sale. The logbook did stipulate "major alterations" as upgrades, presumably after the blade strike. It was then given a new airworthiness certificate and was designated an EXEC 162 by a DAR, which is a Designated Airworthiness Representative appointed by the FAA to issue airworthiness certificates to experimental aircraft. Unless the DAR is an expert and knowledgeable about RotorWay helicopters, he or she is not going to know which model it is, nor is it their job to determine that. The responsibility of the presenting the proper paperwork for the DAR is the owner/builder. It is also the responsibility of the owner builder to keep an accurate a logbook with correct entries. This did not happen and this owner was clearly misinformed by the seller. The prevoius owner is still active in the RotorWay community and has done this before. So yes, the fact remains "Buyer Beware".
There will always be many well built RotorWay helicopters for sale. How do you find them and what guidelines should you use? Do your homework. Discover as much as you can about RotorWay helicopters and the models available. Find out from the seller when the kit was delivered. The kit delivery date is far more important than the C. of A. date. Talk to other owners at the fly-ins and airshows. Become a member of rotorwayownersgroup.com
I am available to help you with a pre-purchase inspection and help protect you from making a bad purchase. I also invite potential RotorWay owners to come and visit us here at our helicopter center for and demo flight and spend some time learning about RotorWay helicopters. You can then become an educated buyer and make a sound purchase decision.
Mark Peterson, CFI R/H