Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Big City Getaway

Looking for a simple day trip? Just a neat destination to give you an excuse to ride? We bet some days you are. That is what Big City Getaway is all about. There are great roads and interesting destinations all around. Every month we’ll give you one in Big City Getaway.

American Helicopter Museum

1220 American Blvd., West Chester, PA 19380 • 610-436-9600

AHMCopterBikeWe have a few acoustic guitars here at Backroads Central – but the ‘go-to’ guitar is an old Ovation 6 string.

Everything about it is beautiful. But, the reason I mention it is that this month’s stop here in the Big City Getaway is all about helicopters.

Ovation’s Charlie Kaman got his start making helicopters and, being a serious guitarist, he thought they could build better than what was on the market at the time.

Ovation already had mountains of research measuring how helicopters twist, torque and vibrate. They had a couple of intense years of guitar research behind them by 1966 as well. It's probably safe to say that no guitar manufacturer knew more about vibration, mode shapes and resonances than Kaman’s engineers.

Which brings us back to the American Helicopter Museum – cause’ it’s all about torque and design, baby!

Rotary aircraft have been around since the late 1930’s and history says that on September 14, 1939, the VS-300, the world's first practical helicopter, took flight at Stratford, Connecticut. Designed by Igor Sikorsky and built by the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division of the United Aircraft Corporation, the helicopter was the first to incorporate a single main rotor and tail rotor design.

AHMTorqueSince then the versatile and amazing aircraft have taken off – literally.

Planes and jets go by all the time but unless the jet is something special or military, we hardly notice. But, have a helicopter come by on a low pass and we are all looking.

Backroads Central is under a flight path for the U.S. Army and we have some great helicopters come by on occasion. When 6 Chinooks, in formation, flew over… the office shook, the cats ran under the beds and we ran out to the driveway to see the show.

Much of the cutting edge design, thinking and production of these innovative crafts all took place along the Delaware River and west, in and around the Philly region.

To celebrate this fact you will find the American Helicopter Museum which opened to the public in October 1996 to serve as a "lasting tribute to those men and women who pioneered the development of rotary wing aircraft" and to encourage future generations of aviation pioneers.

Located at the Brandywine Airport, the museum holds over 40 civilian and military autogyros, covertiplanes and some serious helicopters.AHMInside2

So many of the real pioneers of these craft called this region home – Harold Frederick Pitcaim, Arthur Young and Frank Piasecki. The American Helicopter Museum continues to record the new and ever expanding role of the U.S. helicopter industry. The exhibits span the history of rotary wing aircraft from the earliest rotorcraft to the newest tilt-rotor military craft.

They have a V-22 Osprey! We had never been up so close to one of these unique crafts.

If you are a museum person (Dr. John, we mean you), expect to spend a few hours taking it all in.

AHMOspreyOn the floor you will find copters from Bell, Hughes and Piasecki. There are a number of hands on displays to educate on just how helicopters really work; and it is education that is key here at the American Helicopter Museum. They are noted for their ‘Women in Aerospace and Technology’ that engages young girls to look toward science and technology in fun and exciting ways and to mentor and encourage their future career and growth opportunities in technology. They also hold a number of Boot Camps and you can start your own journey to flying here.

But, it always seems to be the heavy machinery that grabs our attention (well, mine at least) and I really think we need a fully armed Bell AH-1F Cobra at Monkey with a Gun!

The MASH US Army H-13 helicopter (Bell Model 47) had me singing ‘Suicide is Painless’.

The dual-rotor Boeing CH-46E Sea Knight, built nearby at Boeing Vertol’s Plant 2 near Philadelphia International Airport, was an important part of the Vietnam War and, for those who grew up in New York City, you might remember the civilian version of this aircraft that was flown by New York Airways and landed, for a time, on the Pan-Am building.

The big green U.S. Marine Sikorsky Seahorse was my favorite – just something about the sheer size and big ‘nose’ of this helicopter does it for me and these craft did yeoman’s work snatching Gemini capsules from the ocean.

We were so excited to ‘discover’ this museum, as it was a serendipitous stop, and even happier to share it with you.

If you are a fan of helicopters and aircraft then a stop at the American Helicopter Museum it will get you spinning.