Back Air & Space 18A "Flymobil"

Air & Space 18-A Flymobil

This attractive little jump-start autogyro was designed by Raymond Umbaugh in 1959 after he had built and sold several examples of single-seat cabin developments of the Bensen Gyro-Copter. The Umbaugh 18 prototype (N43U) was flown during 1959, and in August arrangements were made for final development and mass production to be undertaken by Fairchild, the aircraft to be known as the Flymobil. In the event, however, Fairchild built only five development aircraft during 1960, all being tandem 2-seaters with 180hp Lycoming O-360-A1D engines. The original single fin and rudder of the first prototype gave way first to a Vee tail assembly and finally to a triple tail unit with a low-set tailplane bearing two fixed fins and a third movable one in the centre. One of the Fairchild machines was used to gain an FAA type approval certificate in September 1961, and certification of the production version, the Model 18-A, was granted early in 1965. This is built by the Air & Space Manufacturing Co. of Indiana, the agreement with Fairchild meanwhile having been dissolved. No recent figures have been disclosed, but one hundred and ten production Model 18-A's had been completed by the end of 1965. The autogyro has an all-metal fuselage skin, and wooden rotor blades reinforced with glassfibre. The engine drive can be connected to the rotor for jump starts, after which it is disengaged and clutched to the pusher propeller for forward movement.

K.Munson "Helicopters And Other Rotorcraft Since 1907", 1968

Air & Space 18-A Flymobil

The U-17 gyrocopter was the brainchild of Raymond E. Umbaugh, an agricultural fertilisers manufacturer and enthusiast for the unique properties of autogyros. His U-17 design was a tandem two-seat machine with a slim low-set tailboom and a single fin and tiny T-tailplane. The prototype was built for Umbaugh by the Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corporation at Hagerstown, Maryland. It made its first flight in mid- 1959 and was powered by a 195kW Lycoming engine.

The second prototype, designated U-18, was redesigned to eliminate the fairly unsatisfactory stability problems of the first prototype. This aircraft was fitted with a 135kW Lycoming 0-360 and, initially, with a V-tail. The stability problems were still not resolved, however, and a new triple tail with a central rudder was installed. This improved the Umbaugh to the point where it was awarded its Type Certificate (1H 17) on 12 September 1961. Ray Umbaugh embarked on an ambitious plan to market the U-18, placing an order for 10000 units with Fairchild. A large network of dealers and distributors was set up in the United States but Umbaugh started to run into trouble because the manufacturing output of the U-18 was too slow to meet the demands of dealers for demonstration aircraft.

The dealers, who had paid large franchise fees took over Umbaugh, the agreement with Fairchild was terminated and manufacturing moved to Florida. The company finally collapsed with just four aircraft completed and flown. The design was then acquired by Air & Space Manufacturing of Muncie, Indiana which made some modifications to the tail unit and commenced manufacture of the Air & Space 18A. Again, Air & Space was faced with dealer pressure for aircraft and set out to raise capital for expansion. This funds-raising exercise resulted in accusations from the Securities & Exchange Commission of irregularities in the commercial claims made to new investors and, though the company's management was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, the costs and delay resulted in the company's collapse. A total of 99 production aircraft had been registered though only 67 of these appear to have been actually completed.

The assets of Air & Space then went into storage but were eventually reinstated by one of the dealers, Don Farrington of Paducah, Kentucky. Lacking the rights to the type certificate, Farrington Aircraft set up a programme to remanufacture existing aircraft with a modified collective pitch system, fibreglass engine cowlings and new composite blades. Farrington has also developed an amateur-built kit gyrocopter with some features of the U-18 known as the Farrington "Twinstar". This has an open fibreglass cockpit shell, a large twin-fin tail unit and a main rotor mounted on a tubular steel pylon. It is powered by a 110kW Lycoming 0-320 and the first prototype first flew in 1993.

R.Simpson "Airlife's Helicopter and Rotorcraft", 1998

Technical data for Air & Space 18A

Engine: 1 x Lycoming O-360-A1D pistone engine, rated at 135kW, main rotor diameter: 10.67m, fuselage length: 6.04m, height: 2.82m, take-off weight: 816kg, max speed: 177km/h, ceiling: 3658m, range: 483km

Cheryl Crowder, e-mail, 06.10.2017

My father John E. Williams was IE Mgr with Umbaugh 1959-1962 and VP Engineering/Production with Air & Space 1964-1966. I have a few pictures and newspaper articles I could share. Would like to know about Richard W. Bosse and what happened with the company since a few stories have passed down through the family.

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Walter, e-mail, 29.11.2015

I listed a salesman sample of the Umbaugh U-18 on ebay. Check it out. Lots of extras with the model aircraft.

Jaime G Sada, e-mail, 01.03.2015

Does anybody know take off distance figures ?
Does anybody know jump take off density altitude limitations ?

Robert P., II, e-mail, 10.08.2014

My father was a department head for the Muncie Indiana Schools and investigated the employment possibilities for graduates of the vocational school. The company welcomed him and gave a complete tour of the plant. Where we lived there were many Muncie 18s flying over the house. I remember the different sound as compared to a cub or tri-pacer and father always went outside to watch them fly over the house. He was really sad when the Irving Brothers, owners of Air and Space closed.

David Rosinsky, e-mail, 01.10.2012

Well here we go. The Air and Space 18 A is on it's way to resurrection. Heliplane USA Inc. has brought the gyro out of financial troubles and is about to begin production. Presently, according to Gene, he has several aircraft that are refurbished with new engines and ready for immediate sale, and is taking positions for newly built units.

Interested parties can contact as West Coast Sales and Marketing.

Jean-Pierre Harrison, e-mail, 19.02.2012

The 18A uses blades originally manufactured by Parsons Corporation. They are of fibreglass-sheathed wood construction identical to that of the early Hiller and Bell helicopter blades. However, the 18A blades have no twist unlike the helicopter blades. Hiller/Bell and 18A blades are not interchangeable as they are designed for very different purposes and loads.

Anyone have any news on the disposition of the Heliplane/Ferrel bankruptcy?

Brun, e-mail, 31.01.2012


Can anybody tell which helicopter MR blades Umbaugh 18A used? Is it possible to buy non-flying 18A for restoring as experimental?

Thanks in advance,


JAMES JARRELL, e-mail, 20.01.2012

I would be very interested in a kit form of the 18A.
if you get up and runing.i'm also looking at the GBA ARROWHAWCK FROM GROEN BROTHERS AVATION 2 of theres.I would perfer the 18 thank you

Duane Ferrel, e-mail, 17.01.2012

I heard from Dad you were coming. I trust something comes together and we can get this bird flying soon! There is a lot of interest in the aircraft and even more so in the future enhanced models. Trust that the meetings will be productive and fruitful!

David Rosinsky, e-mail, 15.01.2012

Hi Duane, my partner and I have been working with your dad for nearly a year now trying to raise the funds to start production. I thought we had it all sewn up about 6 months ago, but it became a no go. I think we may have a good deal this time. So we are very excited to see the 18A fly again. We may be out in Florida next week or the week after to see the machine and parts. Let's keep our fingers crossed. By the sound of all these posts, it looks like alot of people would like to see this baby on the market again.

Duane Ferrel, e-mail, 30.12.2011

I forgot to mention, we have 6 aircraft mostly assembled. Need to get engines for several. We have parts for those who currently have 18A's and need them. There is a lot of interest in getting this going again...especially for the price point as compared to a helicopter. The new engine will make this unit faster and carry a better payload.

Duane Ferrel, e-mail, 30.12.2011

My father owns the FAA Certification, type certificates, and all remaining inventory from Farrington Aircraft. His company is Heliplane Aircraft. They are in the process of raising capital to get this aircraft in production again. He and John Potter were close friends - and they moved the company to Florida. This plane is ready for a new diesel 200hp engine, composite design. Just needs some capital raised. Anyone interested in this aircraft, please contact Gene Ferrel @ or

qxev, e-mail, 11.12.2011

I have contacts to Russian designers of planes
Which can construct more advanced plane on motives Custer Channelwing

russell comber, e-mail, 25.11.2011

i so wish these where in production .....i for one would buy 1 ....but as been asked befor who has manufacturing rights and can someone ask them please build them again... thanks for the information regards RUSSELL

BS, e-mail, 27.10.2011

I am curious as to why the Smithharts are not mentioned in any of the articles as they acquired the inventory and actually had possesion of the parts, and partially finished copters during the "storage period"

Brad Babic, e-mail, 14.08.2011

1 of these has returned to the air here at Santa Paula, CA. Al Ball, owner/restorer.

Nick Geh, e-mail, 24.07.2011

The last factory production aircraft is still in good condition and flying in the West of Ireland. Made an appearance yesterday at a fly-in at Knock Airport. Owner lives near Ennis in Co. Clare.

polo, e-mail, 15.06.2011

maybe to add to this web site? Kind Regards - Rob

Jose Jiminez, e-mail, 25.03.2011

I worked at the facility in Muncie, Indiana in the early 1960s building these

Dennis Scully, e-mail, 07.03.2011

I saw 2 of these yesterday at the Santa Paula, CA airport. One was completely restored and looked like new. The other was a basket case looking for renovation. I am not sure who owns these two aircraft and we did not see the restored one fly.

George Gravelle, e-mail, 12.11.2010

I had the opportunity to watch the Umbaugh during the 1959 - 61 time frame. My dad was an Aeronautical engineer working on a drone that was being manufactured by Fairchild. We lived in State Line Pennsylvania and we were able to look down the hill to Hagerstown Municiple airport and the Fairchild plant. We would see the Umbaugh in flight a number of times and I always wondered what happen to the aircraft. It was such a pretty aircraft and was airborne in such a short distance. The Idea that it could be a family aircraft that could almost operate out of your back yard. I have been the industry for 47 years now and haven't run across any since the early 60's. Does anyone know of other U-18's that may be around. Another aircraft that we use to see at Hagerstown was the Custer Channel Wing. I was in the Civil Air Patrol at the airport and had an opportunity to see this aircaft several times. It's a shame this aircraft fell out of favor it was a beauty and for me the channel wing made sense. Thanks, to the early pioneers of these aircraft and the people that flew them. They helped me decide about a career in Aviation. George

Howard, e-mail, 13.10.2010

A fascinating machine..... It seems that all the jump machines have pretty complex systems.... particularly the 3 blade rotor that must have lead and lag and flapping capability as well as collective. At that point you are so close to a helicopter that there is little point in making the distinction.

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Steve Warstler, e-mail, 19.06.2010

My father, Max, was the chief test pilot at the Muncie Indiana plant that produced these in the mid 60's. I have fond memories of hopping around in the 18A with dad when I was about 11, or 12. It was less than a mile from the plant on the south side of the "Water Bowl" recreation area to the Delaware county airport. It is great that several of these are still in the air.

Ray Umbaugh, Jr., e-mail, 27.02.2010

I'm Ray Umbaugh's only son and would love any input people have about my Dad's U-18. Thank you

Dollie Matalon, e-mail, 22.02.2010

My husband, Leon L. Matalon, was instrumental in the designing and developing of the aircraft. When Ray went bankrupt and he suddenly lost the job, he was unhappy. He went directly to Fairchild after that . It really was a wonderful concept left to fail!.

Doug Poling, e-mail, 15.12.2009

As the former head of the 18a program for Don and John. Its really good to see there is still an interest in that ship. That airport was one of the neatest places to work great people.

hélio, e-mail, 12.11.2009

this is realy a god machine !
great engine !

vetrivel, e-mail, 17.08.2009

really superb design,it looks differently..

Thomas Domasky, e-mail, 10.08.2009

Price range

Dhayne, e-mail, 30.07.2009

I would like to know who currently owns the production rights for the 18A Gyro.Please feel free to email me (address provided) if anyone has any information thank you.

sean youngjohn, e-mail, 16.06.2009

Mr Farrington ferried a mccullough j2 that I bought In virginia, I forget the owners name but he was in the whiskey business, Don was very fair with me I was training at his airport when his father died, john took over my training, he was a mild mannered gentleman. I eventually gave up on gyroplanes, a hobbie best left to the wealthy, but will always remember my time down in Kentucky.

Kim Howland, e-mail, 09.06.2009

Anticipating my first airplane ride with an uncle years ago from the original Ocala airport, he stopped in the Umbaugh hangar to say hello to fellow machinist friends. His photo of me seated at the tiller on a flying prototype, without cowling or cabin, shows a delighted ten-year boy, wearing a freshly pressed shirt and big grin. Even though my shirt barely survived that mostly enjoyable first flight, it was still a great day in my personal aviation history.

Frank Zumpf, e-mail, 29.03.2009

My mother used to work at the plant in Bartow, Fl & I have a couple of factory movie films of the Umbaugh in test flights.

Rick Larsen, e-mail, 15.01.2009

My Dad, Howard Larsen, worked for Ray Umbaugh when I was a teenager in Ocala, Florida. He was a former Chance Vought engineer (Corsair). He designed the clutch/transmission package that sent temporary power to the rotor on the U-18. Earlier, when Umbaugh's team was working with the old Bensen copters (I believe I'm correct that they were Bensens), modifying them and conducting experiments at the old Ocala airport, one man dropped about 100 ft and was killed on the tarmac when he pitched the rotor back into the pusher prop and lopped off the rotors. I was in CAP and used to hang around the Umbaugh hanger watching the test flights. The U-18 designs flew okay, but were not what you could call 'hot dog' flying machines. They kind of dangled on the rotor and flew like a large beetle--no quick motions. Umbaugh had a big community turnout for demonstration of one of the series and did several takeoffs and landings flying dignitaries and family around. This was late '59 or early '60 as I recall. Always wondered what happened to the machine. I thought it was a pretty slick design. --Rick

Scott, e-mail, 25.08.2008

I grew up near Farrington Airpark, where my dad learned to fly. I kept my own plane there for a while and even lived there in the Summer of 1992. I have some great memories of John Potter as well as a great story of Don Farrington test-flying a TwinStarr that I saw with my own eyes. I'd love to see a book of both John's life and Don's as well. Farrington Airpark (FIO) was ione of the last true "grassroots" airports, and there was always something going on. Sadly, Farrington Airpark is now privately owned and is being operated as a drag strip. Dr. Blane Grow still uses the strip for his own airplanes, which are kept there.

Tom Calovini, e-mail, 29.05.2008

In the early "60"s I ran into the 18A when I was fresh out of college. In my mind this was really going to be the "Model T" of the air. Becoming immersed in the giddy climate of all the Dealers congregating in Hagerstown,MD at the Air View Motel and seeing the prototypes being flown almost daily out of the Fairchild Facility everyone just knew this was going to be the first real mass produced, everyman's airplane.

John Potter was a part of the fabric of the dealer organization and committed himself and all his resources to the cause. I was lucky enough to befriend John and spent countless hours traveling the country with him in his trusty Navion "4032K". It always seemed John would show up when you thought of him.

It was a tragedy not just for John, but for all of us who dedicated our lives to getting the project off the ground, but the inspiring thing is that John never really gave up the dream and was still pushing to the end.

It was an honor for all who were his friends to know John and I would say he was one of the most inspiring and dedicated men to grace aviation.

We miss you John...Tom Calovini

Carlos, e-mail, 29.05.2008

I am interested in knowing where to buy this airplane. or who knows to mount a distribution in Brazil.

Jon, e-mail, 29.04.2008

No, it is out of production. Don Farrington (described in the article above) was doing re-builds but died a few years ago after a heart attack at the Sun-n-fun airshow in Florida. There is still a parts inventory in existence. I fly one regularly. I know of one in zero-time condition that is for sale; see this website:

robert, e-mail, 28.04.2008

Is the gyro 18-A still produced.?? I would really appreciated if somebody can inform me if those gyros are still produced?? thanks

Jon, e-mail, 21.04.2008

That was me flying through Harris Ranch/Coalinga that Dan Humphreys saw in 2007. The aircraft is now based at Palo Alto; I was ferry-flying it out from Houston at the time.

Woody DE SAAR, e-mail, 04.03.2008

Hi there .

I was working for the Farrington Aircraft Corporation from 1993 until 1996 as flight instructoron the 18-A and later also the Twinstarr (to which I now own the manufacturing rights). Your information is fairly accurate. If you need more info or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.I have been working day-to-day with the company for over three years and it was a fabulous time.


Wayne Schober, e-mail, 08.02.2008

I have Air&Space 18A N6117S. In 2004 it was completely torn down and inspected by John Potter at the Paducah facility I helped him during the inspection. I was impressed with the quality of workmanship and construction. It is a robust, aircraft-quality machiine. It has subsequently been trailered to and stored indoors near Albuquerque NM. The overhaul included installation of all pertinent STC mods and 720 chan radio and Mode C Transponder.

The airport it is based at has an Instructor/DE for rotorcraft.

I am considering sale of this gyro due to time constraints. Haven't fully decided.

Contact me for more.

Herman le Roux, e-mail, 28.01.2008

We are very interested in the design and parts used for this aircraft,can someone maybe supply us with more info.



Jean L Bleneau, e-mail, 06.12.2007

Could Rob Kelsall contact me at ? That story will interest Tks

Bill Bray, e-mail, 06.10.2007

Would Jimmie Patterson, stepchild of james w. draper (muncie, IN attorney) please contact me? In regard to his military service as a JAG lawyer in post-WWII Japan. Thanks!

Robert LeMaster, e-mail, 12.07.2007

My father was a Muncie, Indiana school administrator at the vocational (trade) school in Muncie. During the early life of the Muncie 18 he was detailed to determine if the school system could assist in the suppling of trained workers from the "trade school" but nothing ever came of the program for certified welders. Oftern we saw these air craft being tested or sales flights from our home on the west side of Muncie. I remember the owners of the company,Irvins, saying they were working on a military version and a pipe line version of the plane.

jimmie patterson, e-mail, 23.06.2007

my stepfather muncie attorney james w. draper was handling all air&space legal services and it was a family joke that all he recived fro them was an ash tray fom air&space. we called his million dollar ash tray

keith, e-mail, 18.05.2007

Is there still an operation in Kentucky ? Are there any of these for sale anywhere?

Rob Kelsall, e-mail, 07.05.2007

I was directly involved with Don Farrington and John Potter. I was probably John's best friend in the later 15 years of his life. There several web sites with the early history of the 18A but they are not quite correct in some ways and they are all coppies of each other. I have been trying to write a more complete story when I saw this web site, it is the best I have seen. Actually tyhere were 4 tail designs and I have a picture to prove it. It was simular to the T tail but with two large fixed fins on either end of the horiz. stab.
I am also putting together info. for John's story, it was an amazing life. John died about the 28th of June 2006.
Would you like to use my writing, maybe to add to this web site? Kind Regards - Rob

Rob Kelsall, e-mail, 07.05.2007

I was directly involved with Don Farrington and John Potter. I was probably John's best friend in the later 15 years of his life. There several web sites with the early history of the 18A but they are not quite correct in some ways and they are all coppies of each other. I have been trying to write a more complete story when I saw this web site, it is the best I have seen. Actually tyhere were 4 tail designs and I have a picture to prove it. It was simular to the T tail but with two large fixed fins on either end of the horiz. stab.
I am also putting together info. for John's story, it was an amazing life. John died about the 28th of June 2006.
Would you like to use my writing, maybe to add to this web site? Kind Regards - Rob

Dan Humphreys, e-mail, 03.04.2007

Thank You! I saw one of these gyroplanes last Saturday parked at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, CA. It was marked in State of Kentucky patrol livery and I was curious as to what in the hell it was. Now we know. Thanks and warm regards. /dan

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