Another brick in the wall, Part 2

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One of the Bensen B-8M Gyrocopters built (assembled?) by Quebec Copter Aircraft Incorporated. C.M. Seifert, “Production line for homebuilts.” Canadian Aviation, July 1967, 35.
One of the Bensen B-8M Gyrocopters built (assembled?) by Quebec Copter Aircraft Incorporated. C.M. Seifert, “Production line for homebuilts.” Canadian Aviation, July 1967, 35.

Welcome, my reading friend. Let us jump into the heart of the matter without further ado. As interesting as they were, the Moto-Plane and Raz-Mut ultralights were only one aspect of Jean Saint-Germain’s aeronautical activities.

Fascinated by the performance of the Bensen B-8M Gyrocopter single seat autogiro, an American aircraft tested for the first time in December 1955, the Québec inventor and pilot bought a production license and launched a promotional campaign. You seem puzzled, my reading friend. O I C. Let us pause for a moment to go over the topic at hand. An autogiro or gyroplane is a less complex and expensive cousin of the helicopter developed in the 1920s by Spain’s Juan de la Cierva y Codorníu. Its rotor is not powered by an engine and rotates freely.

Igor B. Bensen, founder of Bensen Aircraft Corporation, designed several light autogiros in the 1950 and 1960s. Available as plans or kits usable by homebuilders, these autogiros were among the most successful aircraft of this type of the 20th century. About 2 000 Gyrocopters fly around the world in 1977. Forty years later, close to 80 (airworthy?) Gyrocopters could be found in the Canadian civil aircraft register.

In 1962, Bensen launched the Popular Rotorcraft Association, a group that played a crucial role in the history of homebuilding as it relates to light / private autogiros and helicopters. It still existed as of 2017, but back to our story.

Having quickly found potential customers for his autogiros, Saint-Germain founded Quebec Copter Aircraft Incorporated, in Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, near Drummondville, Québec. Work on the first Gyrocopter began around October 1965. As the months went by, Saint-Germain created a social and sport centre which included a skydiving school and a private airfield with a paved runway and a control tower. He also offered an autogiro flying course apparently completed by at least 150 people. Several of them had heard of Saint-Germain’s projects through advertising spots broadcasted by a private television station in Montréal, Québec, owned by Télé Métropole Incorporée.

Quebec Copter Aircraft received an undetermined number of orders from private pilots starting in 1965. Some of these may not have been completed. Indeed, the Department of Transport refused to register these autogiros because their manufacture in a workshop took them out of the ultralight category of aircraft, which included homebuilt autogiros. Saint-Germain went bankrupt in November 1967. This being said (typed?), Quebec Copter Aircraft may have remained active until 1970. As things turned out, at least 25 Gyrocopters completed (or assembled?) by this small company ended up in the Canadian civil aircraft register. It should be noted that the collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum includes a Gyrocopter completed in Ontario.

The story of the fascinating aeronautical adventures of Saint-Germain continues in the third and final part of this article. Do not miss it, or you’ll be sorry.

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Rénald Fortier