To dream the impossible dream, Part 3

The full size mock up of the Berlin Doman BD-19 helicopter. Anon., “Jane’s all the World’s Aircraft Supplement – Berlin Doman.” Flying Review International, April 1969, 31.

Again, hello, my reading friend. Are you ready? Let’s go. Despite the successive failure of the LZ-5 production projects in the United States and Canada, Doman Helicopters, Incorporated did not give up hope of commercialising this helicopter – or a more modern machine. One only needs to think about the Doman D-12, a small two seat helicopter proposed in 1958. It should be noted that the LZ-5 made in Canada may have carried out at least one demonstration flight at Le Bourget airport in Paris during a Salon international de l’aéronautique. It then carried an American civil registration.

In the early 1960s, Doman Helicopters signed a partnership with a second tier American aircraft maker, Kaiser Fleetwings Corporation, to develop a light observation helicopter for the United States Army – a program mentioned in an October issue of this blog / bulletin / thingee. This KD-161 did not proceed beyond the drafting stage.

In early 1960, Doman Helicopters signed an agreement with Aeronautica Sicula Società Anomima, a company associated with Società Aeronautica Italiana Ambrosini, a second tier aircraft maker from Italy. This production project involving the D-10, a derivative of the LZ-5 drawn around 1958, went nowhere. At some later point, Doman Helicopters renewed its links with its Italian partner, meanwhile renamed Società Aeronautica Italiana (SAI), to make fuselages that would be completed in the United States by another company. SAI was ejected from the project around 1965. Said project soon turned to dust. If truth be told, Doman Helicopters was experiencing serious difficulties since the early 1960s.

The small helicopter manufacturer ceased operations around 1961. It then transferred its assets to a new company, Caribe Doman Helicopters, Incorporated, based in Puerto Rico, an island of the West Indies and unincorporated territory of the United States. The hopes of Doman and his colleagues were disappointed yet again. They did not receive any orders. In 1967, Doman Helicopters became Berlin Doman Helicopters, Incorporated. This change did not improve the situation. The three-turbine, 10-seat BD-68 helicopter and its cheaper derivative, the twin engine 9-seat BD-19, did not proceed beyond the full size mock up stage. Berlin Doman Helicopters closed its doors in 1969. This failure illustrates very well the serious difficulties faced by small aircraft manufacturers trying to earn a place in a market dominated by a few large American, British and French companies.

Doman joined the Vertol Division of Boeing Company around 1970. He worked on a few helicopters projects. Around 1974-75, the American aerospace giant made him responsible for its research work on wind turbines. The oil crisis of 1973-74 had struck hard and several American companies were interested in renewable energies. Boeing having decided not to go further in this field, Doman moved to Hamilton Standard Propeller Corporation, a division of United Aircraft Corporation, another American aerospace giant. He oversaw the development of two types of giant wind turbines that were seemingly not put in production.

Doman subsequently collaborated with Italian engineers. The wind turbine of advanced design that they developed, known as the Gamma, did not proceed beyond the prototype stage. Installed around 1992, it was involved in an accident. The concept changed hands a few times over the years. Around 2003, Doman and an Italian engineer founded Gamma Ventures, Incorporated to commercialise its production rights, but without much success one must say. Doman died in June 2016 at the age of 95. A company based in the Netherlands, Seawind Ocean Technologies Besloten Vennootschap, was then trying to revive his Gamma wind turbine.

One last detail before you go, if I may. Doman-Fleet Helicopters Limited, the small company founded by Doman Helicopters and its Canadian partner, Fleet Manufacturing Limited, became Dumont Aluminium Products Limited in June 1961. The company, which was based in Hamilton, Ontario, made aluminum awnings, sidings and storm windows for the growing Canadian housing market. Eager to eliminate its deficit for the year 1963, Fleet Manufacturing sold the company to a competitor, Shully’s Industries Limited of Malton, Ontario, around September of that same year.

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Rénald Fortier