Bensen B-8M Gyrocopter
The Bensen B-8M Gyro-Copter hangs in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
In 1953, Dr. Igor Bensen, an immigrant from the Russian Revolution where he had been chief research engineer of the Kaman Aircraft Corporation, established the Bensen Aircraft Corporation in Raleigh, North Carolina. He initially planned to produce commercial helicopters, but switched to the private market when he realized that the relative safety of rotary craft would be attractive to private pilots.
His first aircraft was the Bensen B-8 Gyro-Glider, which was unpowered and could be flown without a pilot license in the United States. It could be built at home from a kit that an aspiring pilot would purchase from the company or could be purchased already assembled.
His Bensen Gyro-Copter was also designed for home construction. It was first flown on December 6, 1955. The autogyro was a powered version of the Gyro-Glider and could fit in anyone's garage. The Model B-8M could also be converted from an aircraft to an automobile by simply locking its blades in place.
The most famous Gyro-Copter was the Spirit of Kitty Hawk. It received that name because it exactly duplicated the Wright brothers' first flight on its sixtieth anniversary. The aircraft also set twelve world and national autogyro speed, distance, and altitude records in May 1967 and June 1968. The aircraft held more records than any other nonmilitary rotary aircraft in the world.
Production of the Gyrocopter continued until 1987.