Before Sikorsky came the Froebe Brothers
Doug Froebe and his brothers, Theodore and Nicholas are some of Canada’s pioneers of homebuilt aircraft. The brothers built a Heath Parasol in 1927. They later went on to build Canada’s first helicopter known as the Froebe Helicopter.
Canada’s first helicopter was designed and built by the three Froebe brothers on their farm near Homewood, 65 km southwest of Winnipeg, in the 1930s. They had a keen interest in flight and engines, and started their experiments by constructing a Heath Parasol home-built aeroplane. They then began working on vertical flight.
Gathering whatever information they could find, the brothers bought a used aircraft engine, constructed a frame from aircraft grade steel tubing, and made or purchased other parts as they were needed. (Mechanics will recognize parts from automobiles and farm machinery.)
The helicopter was well designed and constructed with cyclic, collective, and throttle controls, all being manipulated by both hands. The contra-rotating rotor blades, were made of stainless steel covered by fabric, and powered by an 98 hp de Havilland 4-cylinder in-line, air-cooled engine.
Total flying time for the machine was four hours and five minutes, made in a number of short test flights. Its flight was marred by severe vibration and a shortage of power. The flight log book indicated that the best flights were made in the dense, cold air of winter. At the start of WWII the brothers set aside their experiments.
The helicopter was discovered in a granary, intact except for the tires, on the Froebe farm, and donated to the Museum by the Froebe family.
- Rotorspan: 8.53 m (28′)
- Length: 4.14 m (13′ 7″)
- Engine: D.H. Gypsy 98 hp