What’s the best engine for a kit-built helicopter?

QUESTION: I just purchased a Safari kit-built helicopter. The factory has configured the kit for the O-360. The engine is mounted vertically using a conversion kit supplied by the manufacturer. My question concerns which version of the O-360, in your opinion, would be best suited for this application. Would you recommend turbo charging or electronic ignition (Light Speed, Lasar)? I would prefer to buy a new engine, so please limit your selection to current models. The helicopter will be operated most often at or near sea level. My priorities are reliability, ease of maintenance and cost (in that order). Any recommendation would be greatly appreciated.

Rick Reese

ANSWER: Interesting question, Rick. I’m not certain I can give you a good answer, but I will try to get you pointed in the right direction. First, I’d highly recommend that you “”pick the brain”” of someone at the kit supplier for more specific details regarding the engine they are suggesting.

The question that comes to my mind is how the oil sump and carburetor are installed using the conversion kit. I’d ask if there is any reason you could not use the O-360-A4M model that incorporates the solid crankshaft in the front main bearing area. Brantley Helicopter used an IVO-360-A1A Lycoming, which was an unusual configuration that included a special oil sump. Of course it was fuel injected, which was required for the vertical installation.

Officials from the company supplying the kit should provide you as much information as possible with items they have had actual hard experience with rather than just something on paper. I realize this may seem a bit strong, but this project represents a substantial investment on your behalf and warrants as much sound information as you can get before putting your money on the table.

We’ll be curious to learn of the progress you make with this interesting project.

Paul McBride, recognized worldwide as an expert on engines, retired after almost 40 years with Lycoming. Send your questions to: AskPaul@GeneralAviationNews.com.

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