de Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle — A “Chopper” for the Infantry

Here is more on the de Lackner HZ-1 Aerocycle. A total of 12 were built and delivered to the U.S. Army for testing. Two were lost during the test programme, both due to the contra-rotating blades colliding with one another. Amazingly, in both cases, pilot Selmer Sundby survived. He was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his work testing the HZ-1. The consequences of the pilot’s falling off the platform above the rapidly spinning rotors were unpleasant to contemplate. Consequently, the pilot was provided with a safety belt to keep this from happening. An “Ultra-Fast Opening Personnel Parachute” was developed to allow escape from accidents at altitudes as low as 25 feet (7.6 metres), but proved too unreliable to be useful.

The Aerocycle was intended to be flyable with as little as 20 minutes of training, and usable by infantry for crossing minefields, rough terrain, or striking behind enemy lines. Testing showed the craft was much more difficult to fly than hoped, and the project was cancelled.