Louis & Helen Darvassey/Stan-Z rotorblades
Coming back from Mentone through north central Oregon on the way back home, I wanted to see parts of the state I've never been in. I left the interstate freeway system out of Baker in the eastern portion of Oregon where the Oregon trail is, and drove up west into the mountains along the Blue Mountains Scenic Byway.
A lot of gold mining occurred in this region after the gold rush in California was winding down. Since the afternoon was so hot, I spent some time wading in the shallow north fork of the John Day River. There were lots of shiny gold sparkles of Fool's Gold in the stream bed. I've read that FG is usually present where the real stuff is. This is granite country, and not the usual basalt that most of Oregon has from it's volcanic past. Fantastic scenery and few people made me consider this area for retirement in the coming years.
I intended to visit and overnight at Lehman Hot Springs, but found the DEQ had shut it down until they get their sewage system upgraded. It probably would have helped if I had called ahead for hours...
After spending the night far up a gravel forest service road, I stopped in a little burg of a town named Ukiah. Can't get cell phone coverage there. It was named by a guy from the California town of the same name some 100+ years ago, since the area reminded him so much of the his former town.
Before I could re-fuel at the one place in town that had gas, a father and son strolled up. The dad (in his mid-80's) was excited because he had lived in Pennsylvania many decades ago, moving out to Oregon in the mid-1970's. He said he lived in Apollo, PA, and that he knew Helen and Louis Darvassey, almost 100 miles away in Oil City, PA, and how he and many others belonged to the gyro club.
He asked if I knew them, and if they were still living. I replied I didn't know them, and that they must be dead by now, but I remember reading about them in older issues of ROTORCRAFT magazine. I said there used to be a "Helen Darvassey Award" in the PRA. He then remembered Helen and Lou were older than he was.
This fella said he had a Bensen gyro that they had a lot of fun towing aloft, and he started the work to get a VW engine on it, but that he sold it prior to flying it w/ the engine mounted.
He also said he knew Stan Z. (can't remember the correct name), who built aluminum rotorblades there in PA. He watched Stan build them, using a spar initially, and then going w/ an extruded leading edge later, using an industrial-grade glue to hold the skins to the spar. He said Stan's blades were extremely well-liked by the fliers in that area. He said Stan and his wife fled Hungary when Russia invaded in '56, and that Stan was quite ingenious in making all sorts of things, without much of an education.
The excitement in this old timer's eyes and voice was something to see and hear.
Then, the gas station's owner came over from across the street from where he lives. He knew all about gyros and other light aircraft from his years of wanting to build something to fly. He went home and brought back one of those directories that contains all kinds of personal aircraft that one could either buy kits or plans for. In it was even a section on rotorcraft, including Sport Copter with their Vortex and Lightning machines. Since mine was somewhat covered up for traveling, I had to show them in the pictures of which one I had on the trailer.
He has some vision problems that he felt prevented him from having good depth perception, but later in life figured out he could use two lights focused at one point below him to see the ground. By then he said he didn't have enough $$ to pursue it any further.
These guys told each guy that happened along on their quads or trucks all about gyros. I just sort of listened for once and let them do the talking, since they knew pretty well how gyros fly and explained how they were so interested in them. Each of them would visit for a bit and then go on their way.
One of the guys related that a rancher (long since passed away) out on the south edge of town who used to have an old Bensen gyro with wooden rotorblades, and related how this rancher used to fly it around his ranch keeping an eye on his cattle and crops.
This small town of Ukiah was surprising in that so many fellows knew about gyros, whereas usually that is not the case when people ask what kind of flying machine is that on the trailer...
Nice , history thanks Kevin
I personally Knew Louis and Stan
I frequently had lunch with Louis Darvasyin Oil City PA,,and stopped by Stan's radiator shop in Vandergrift, PA.
I am so happy to have know these two men,,,,
I have many reprints from" The Wings of Tomorrow",,,,a periodical newsletter printed up by Helen Darvasy,,,Helen was as well the news letter editor for the PRA Magazine back in the 1970's.
Maybe you found the fabled "Shangri Gyro La"!
I used to hear the old pilots in the hangars refer to it from time to time, usually in hushed tones and never openly lest they jinxed any chance of their ever having found it!
You know you'll never be able to find that town again, right?
Ron: I thought there was someone on the forum that used to live in PA. and now lived in one of the southern states...
What was the Helen Darvassey Award for, who started it, and why did it fade away?
What was it about Stan's blades that made so many rave about them?
Oh...Great Gyro Flier of Nafta Countries: You alone have the power to locate this "Shangi-Gyro-La". Since you know no borders, can fly where there are no roads, re-fuel where no others dare, the vortexes bend to your will and no one else. Bring your flying contraption to the gold mountain regions of Oregon, and you'll be richly rewarded in your quest for this nirvana, as you levitate above lost gold mines, and discover new deposits of the mineral that gleems in all eyes that lust for the treasure.
May your Rotax run forever over the haunted canyon walls, may your rotor bearing revolve for a thousand years, and may your rotorblades be caressed by the gentle summer zephyrs that sing their siren song to those smitten by the yellow fever. May time stop on your behalf so you can finish your honorable quest to enter at less-than warp speed into the valleys of eternal gyro-bliss and rotorwing-enchantment.
Once you re-discover this "Shangi-Gyro-La", the town-folk of Ukiah, Oregon will meditate in silent awe over the wise and glorious construction of the world's longest gyro-trailer of some 68'. And, below your blessed rudder pedals, the ants of the earth's rich soil will crave the wings of flight they can never have, while singing the praises of one name Ben, Not Her, But Him: Ben S.!
Also, since you are the type of guy who probably already had figured out the great demand for a firearm that has an integrated GPS system hidden inside, and have produced the prototype, you could easily find this paradise where all else have failed!
Going to El Mirage?
Stan-Zee blades were very similar to Rotordyne blades. They featured a wraparound skin. The airfoil wasn't perfect, but they had less drag than Bensen metal blades -- probably thanks to the absence of the rivets, lap joints and open skin seams that Bensens had. They were very inexpensive; maybe $300 a set in the '70's.
Helen and Lou Darvassy are gone, I'm afraid. Their "Wings of Tomorrow" newsletter presented technical material that was NOT censored by Bensen, as was material in the PRA magazine at the time. (Whether the "censoring" was for our own good, or to maintain Bensen's market share, can be debated.)
Once Bensen surrendered control of the PRA, Helen came in from the cold, so to speak. She then began submitting her material to the PRA, which published it. She was quite a character... read some of the '70's Rotorcraft mags to get a taste of her style.
Kevin, my anti gravity bound compatriot, I chortled when I read your prose!
Who among us knew you were capable of such divine description?
I have some how managed to finally talk my better half into joining us at "the great flat piece of desert in the state that hates my wares!"
I hope your electronic communications are as lucid as your written ones if you want to partake in the "Flying Walenda's Air Circus"
Which rig are you bringing? and what are your plans for the lightning in the long run?
Yes,,,I lived somewhat near Darvasy's
But my basic roots was with West Penn and Homer Kerr who pulled the trainer with his red Ford truck!
I am forgetting most of what I used to know,,,especially since I moved to Alabama 17 years ago!
Maybe it is me? Not sure.
I lived south of Oil City, about 80 miles,,,,near Rural Valley, PA.
Now I live in Alabama,,,so could that be me????
Another fellow was way more involved from PA,,,moved to Atlanta...
I tried looking him up when I was in Atlanta,,,but couldn't get him to re-start the Atlanta area PRA Chapter,,,his name escapes me,,,at the moment,,,when I recall his name I'll mention it!
I was involved in the West Penn Chapter #4 for about 11 years, before moving to Alabama.
I used to , as I earlier said,, visit Stan at his Radiator shop in Vandergrift,,,Stan was a super fellow,,,as well as Louis....
Louis ran a Radio Shack store in Oil City,,,he was mostly into the PC and software end,,,,obsessed with computers,,,and had little to nothing to do with gyros at the end of his life.
As well Stan was the same,,, Stan was into traveling and digging for rubies somewhere in South Carolina,,,,
MR. Doug or Ralph Shompert,,,I think ????was the name of the fellow that was sort of the "Guru" in the gyro arena of the early60's-70's
Yes the Stan-Z Blades were very good,,,in fact the club in PA still uses a set to this day! On their trainer ( yes, they still use the towed two seat glider/trainer.....)
I began my gyro days at West Penn Chapter #4 in 1984,,along with training from the ground at Chapter # 40 the Cincinnati group..
The memories of West Penn and Cincinnati chapters was most memorable in the best sort of way.
Regarding the Helen Darvasy Award,,,,,,hummmm?????
Maybe Ed Alderfer or his wife Bernadine started up the award,,,not positive,,,because Bernadine was very, very active in the Cincinnati Chapter # 40
In 1995 I as the president of sunstate rotor club PRA chpt.26 was awarded the "Helen Darvassy memorial award" for "unselfish Devotion in PRA" I don't know how many times this was awarded or to who. Was very proud to have recieved it however.
The Helen Darvassy award was last awarded to Sunstate and I believe it was never given out again.
A shame. Helen had the spirit and dedication that made the PRA grow to what it was.
I believe the Ken Brock award was not awarded this year. Another tradition, gone.
It is a very small world... thanks for sharing your road trip with us!!
Kevin/Doug/Ron: How Good Were The Stanzee blades? N#G!
At least the early versions. They were NOT quarter-chord balanced and as a result, at least in the one case I am very familiar with, caused a fatal accident in 1968. A Bensen B8-M on floats crashed after one blade went into divergent oscillation in pitch and ripped the rotor assembly right out of the torque tube. The rotor was found at the bottom of the Severn River with one blade having the trailing edge spread open in about 6" sections - 6" open, then 6" closed, then 6" open, etc. all the way from root to tip. Like a double sine-wave. The other blade was not spread open.
I had just come back from the 1968 PRA Convention in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. where I had learned about the quarter-chord balance problem. I tried to explain the design defect to the pilot who had just bought the SZ blades. That was on a Tuesday, the crash happened the following Saturday.
I dropped in at Louis D's shop later that year and told him about the accident. He assured me he would discuss it with Stan Z. and I hope he did.
BTW, I have a stack of "Wings of Tomorrow" issues. One of these days I'll get to scan them. Interesting reading, e.g., what clearance do you need on your Mac pistons? Ans: 0.065" above the rings.
I do know that the West Penn Chapter #4 used StanZee Blades on their towed glider up untill very recent,,,,and had no problems,,,,what you refer to may be old,,,old news and may have been resolved,,,but there are still some Stanzee Blades still flying!!!!!
Jerry: Any further info regarding those blades fished out of the river? I'm curious as to why one blade delaminated in alternating 6" sections, while the other did not. Were they glued every other 6"? Were they a matching set, or one blade from another set mixed with the other one?
I never met the Darvasseys nor Stan. 3K miles distance between us, and before I had a gyro, although I was lusting after them during that time frame.
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