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

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Cheryl Crowder, e-mail, 06.10.2017reply

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.

Bryancxo, e-mail, 18.11.2020 Cheryl Crowder

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Walter, e-mail, 29.11.2015reply

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, 01.03.2015reply

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

Robert P., II, e-mail, 10.08.2014reply

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.

Howard, e-mail, 13.10.2010reply

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.

George Gravelle, e-mail, 12.11.2010reply

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

Steve Warstler, e-mail, 19.06.2010reply

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.

Dennis Scully, e-mail, 07.03.2011reply

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.

Jose Jiminez, e-mail, 25.03.2011reply

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

Nick Geh, e-mail, 24.07.2011reply

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.

Brad Babic, e-mail, 14.08.2011reply

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

BS, e-mail, 27.10.2011reply

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"

russell comber, e-mail, 25.11.2011reply

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

qxev, e-mail, 11.12.2011reply

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

Duane Ferrel, e-mail, 30.12.2011reply

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.

Willyan D Almeida, e-mail, 29.03.2021 Duane Ferrel

Hi Mr. Duane, how are you?
I hope you are doing well...
I am looking for pictures a blue printers of 18A.
If you have anything, please can you share them with me?


David Rosinsky, e-mail, 15.01.2012reply

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, 17.01.2012reply

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!

JAMES JARRELL, e-mail, 20.01.2012reply

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

Brun, e-mail, 31.01.2012reply


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,


Jean-Pierre Harrison, e-mail, 19.02.2012reply

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?

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