|B-8M in Canada Aviation Museum|
|Manufacturer||Bensen or homebuilt|
|First flight||6 December 1955|
The Bensen B-8 is a small, single-seat autogyro developed in the United States in the 1950s. Although the original manufacturer stopped production in 1987, plans for homebuilders are still available as of 2017. Its design was a refinement of the Bensen B-7, and like that aircraft, the B-8 was initially built as an unpowered rotor-kite. It first flew in this form in 1955, and on 6 December a powered version, designated B-8M (M for motorised) first flew. The design proved to be extremely popular and long-lasting, with thousands of sets of plans sold over the next thirty years.
Design and development
The B-8's design is extremely minimalist, with not much more to the aircraft than a pilot's seat, a single tailfin, a rotor, and (in powered versions) the powerplant. In May 1968 a B-8 and B-8M were studied by the USAF under the Discretionary Descent Vehicle (DDV) program as the X-25B and X-25A respectively. In this scheme, it was proposed to integrate combat aircraft ejection seats with a small autogyro or rotor kite to allow downed pilots more control over their post-ejection landing spot. The X-25A and X-25B were used to evaluate the piloting and training requirements of the autogyros. No full-scale operational tests were ever performed. The U.S. Air Force stopped funding the DDV program with the end of the Vietnam War.
One B-8M, named Spirit of Kitty Hawk (registration N2588B) was used to make a special commemorative flight exactly duplicating the first flight of the Wright brothers' original Flyer on the sixtieth anniversary of the occasion. This same aircraft was flown by Igor Bensen himself between May 1967 and June 1968 to set twelve world and US speed, distance, and altitude records for autogyros, the largest number of such records to be held by any non-military rotorcraft.
- B-8 Gyro-Glider - unpowered rotor-kite intended to be towed behind a car
- B-8B Hydro-Boat - B-8 with a full boat hull intended to be towed behind another boat
- B-8M Gyro-Copter - standard motorised version, main production type. Usually powered by a McCulloch 4318 engine
- B-8MH Hover-Gyro - twin, coaxial rotor design with powered lower rotor and autorotating upper rotor, giving it the capability of hovering. Upper rotor and drive propeller powered by separate engines
- B-8MJ Gyro-Copter - B-8M modified for "jump" take off by a small second engine providing power to rotor head with anti-torque provided by rudder correction under power.
- B-8MW Hydro Copter - float-equipped B-8M
- X-25A - B-8M evaluated by USAF. Single example (serial 68-10770) first flown 5 June 1968 and preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
- B-8 Super Bug - similar to B-8M but with extra engine to spin up rotor before take-off
- B-8HD Super Gyro-Copter - development of Super Bug first flown in 1979 with hydraulic drive to pre-rotate rotor rather than separate engine
- B-8V - B-8 powered by a Volkswagen air-cooled engine
- B-8W Hydro-Glider - float-equipped B-8 intended to be towed behind a boat
- X-25B - B-8 evaluated by USAF. Single example (serial 68-10771) first flown 23 January 1968 and preserved at the AFFTC Museum at Edwards Air Force Base.
- Rotorcraft Minicopter Mk 1 - South African variant with pre-rotator and cockpit fairing.
- Aeroflyte DGH-1 - 70 hp (52 kW) license-built model from Aeroflyte.
Aircraft on display
Specifications (Typical B-8M, standard rotor)
Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83
- Crew: 1 (pilot)
- Length: 11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)
- Main rotor diameter: 20 ft 0 in (6.91 m)
- Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.90 m)
- Main rotor area: 314 ft2 (29.17 m2)
- Empty weight: 247 lb (112 kg)
- Gross weight: 500 lb (227 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × McCulloch 4318AX flat-four piston engine, 72 hp (54 kW)
- Maximum speed: 55 mph (137 km/h)
- Range: 100 miles (160 km)
- Endurance: 1.5 hours
- Service ceiling: 12,500 ft (3,800 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Jenkins et al. AMERICAN X-VEHICLES, X-25 NASA, June 2003. Accessed: 18 February 2012.
- Air Progress: 8. October 1977. Missing or empty
- Air Trails: 80. Winter 1971. Missing or empty
- Air Progress Sport Aircraft: 4. Winter 1969. Missing or empty
- "EAA Fly-In". Flying Magazine: 37. November 1960.
- US Southwest Soaring Museum (2010). "Sailplanes, Hang Gliders & Motor Gliders". Retrieved 26 May 2011.
- Bensen B-8M 'Autogyro'"
- Lewis, Rebecca, (2003) Flight of the Imagination, North Carolina Museum of History, Office of Archives and History, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, retrieved 4 September 2013
- Simpson, R. W. (1998). Airlife's Helicopters and Rotorcraft. Ramsbury: Airlife Publishing. pp. 209–10.
- Taylor, John W. R. (1982). Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83. London: Jane's Yearbooks. ISBN 0-7106-0748-2.
- Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions. pp. 152–53.
- World Aircraft Information Files. London: Bright Star Publishing. File 890 Sheets 25–26.
- FAI records set by Igor Bensen in B-8M
- Plans for B8
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