Flying Platform Revival Under Way

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A Florida company is hoping to revive a proven 1950s concept that mounted a ducted fan under a stand-up control station to create a 21st century version of the Hiller "flying platform." Flying Platform LLC, of Lake Placid, Fla., had the nuts and bolts of their design at U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla., and engineer Warren Novack said modern materials and engines have shaved half the weight off the Hiller design, which reached the point of U.S. Army trials in the 1950s. "We like to think this is an improved version," he said.

The prototype will be powered by two Rotax 503 engines for a total of about 100 horsepower turning counterrotating props. Novack said the ducted fan design is inherently stable and the physics prevent an upset. Directional control is by weigh shift and altitude is controlled by the throttle. "It's really easy to fly," he said. This aircraft has not flown but the company hopes to have it in the air by June. It will be offering kits that don't include engines at first. It's not clear where the company is aiming in terms of aircraft classification. The aircraft on display was about 280 pounds empty, which would put it in the Light Sport category. A reduction to 254 pounds, which Novack says is possible, would make it an ultralight.