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Helio Aircraft are About to Make a Comeback

Helio airplanes have an excellent track record of reliability and performance, having seen action in some of the harshest environments all around the world.

Helios are widely known for their short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities, which means they don’t need much in the way of runway for taking off and landing.

The Helio brand has been around for years. The company started as The Koppen-Bollinger Aircraft Corporation in 1948, before being renamed as the Helio Aircraft Corporation in the 1950s.

Despite its popularity as a steady workhorse, Helio ceased production of the Courier and Stallion aircraft in 1974.

Although a few Couriers were built in the 1980s, it wasn’t until a few management and ownership changes later that the company—now known as Helio Aircraft LLC—had announced that it would resume production on the Helio Courier and Helio Stallion.

Production updates are regularly announced on the company website.

The remaining Helio Couriers in excellent working condition today are quite few and far between. Photo from General Aviation News
The remaining Helio Couriers in excellent working condition today are quite few and far between. Photo from General Aviation News

The Helio brand is most associated with these two aircraft:

  • The Helio Courier, the company’s trademark high-wing C/STOL light utility aircraft,
  • And the Helio Stallion, a military gunship that saw action during the Vietnam War.

The Helio Courier

“If it had claws, it could land on a fencepost.”

The Courier has excellent slow flight capability, with a minimum-control speed of about 28mph, making it perfect for confined off-airport operations.

A solidly reliable light utility aircraft, the Courier has a 39-foot wingspan, a loaded weight of about 3,600 pounds, and a range of about 950 miles carrying five people.

An improved, more powerful version of the Courier was used by the US Air Force from 1958 onwards.

Known as the U-10 Super Courier, this variant saw action in the Vietnam War and was used extensively by the US Army Special Forces and the CIA for supply drops, liaison work, insertion/extraction operations, reconnaissance, and forward air control.

Because of its superior STOL capabilities, Helio Couriers remain very popular among bush pilots in Canada, where they operate in rough terrain where there are usually no prepared landing strips or runways.

Couriers in the service of the Sheriff’s departments of Gaithersburg, Maryland and Pima County, Arizona are of the rare tri-gear model, with gyro-stabilized cameras under the wing for aerial observation.

Other Couriers, such as those being flown by Winged Vision, Inc. have high definition slow-flying television camera platforms for the coverage of major sports events.

The Helio Stallion

“Who says bush planes have to be slow?”

The Helio Stallion was first developed in 1964 as a turboprop-powered variant of the Courier. Eventually, it ended up not just having a completely different design, but it was also much larger and more costly to produce.

The United States Air Force, however, turned out to be interested in the design and commissioned a gunship version with an M197 three-barrel 20x120mm rotary cannon mounted in the left cargo door.

Now designated as the AU-24A gunship, the Stallion also had five additional hardpoints for extra fuel or additional ordnance.

Eighteen of these AU-24As were purchased by the USAF. Fourteen of these were later delivered to Cambodia’s Khmer Air Force to be used in border surveillance and counter-infiltration roles.

Helio’s next-generation Stallion is currently marketed as a bush plane and utility aircraft. It is designed to fully maneuverable and controllable at 37 knots and has a cruise speed of 175 knots.

Designed for takeoff and landing distances under 350 feet while carrying 1,700 pounds of payload, the new Helio Stallion has an estimated range of over 1,000 nautical miles with standard fuel capacity.

Conclusion

Drawing from a pool of proven techniques and skills from the aviation industry and others, Helio Aircraft LLC today consists of a team of seasoned experts working together since the late 1990s to pave the way for the return of the latest generation of Helio aircraft.

Both the Courier and the Stallion will continue to draw on the trademark strengths that have made them so popular after all these years. New improvements will also be built into the newer models, making them even more competitive in the global light utility aircraft market.

Incredibly versatile, the new Helio aircraft is envisioned to fulfill a variety of roles, including law enforcement and military, bush and float operations, security, transport and logistics, aerial photography and surveying, and recreation.

The new Helio Couriers and Stallions have several hardpoints available and can be outfitted in various landing gear configurations, including tricycle landing gear, conventional landing gear, straight floats, amphibious floats, or skis.

For details on the newest Helio Aircraft, visit the official website, or call (928) 717-1069 today.

Sources

  1. General Aviation News
  2. EAA.org
  3. GlobalSecurity.org
  4. U.S. Air Force
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