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Bensen X-25A Gyrocopter

Bensen X-25A Gyrocopter(front) and McDonnell XH-20 Little Henry(rear) in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on December 28, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bensen X-25A Gyrocopter(front) and McDonnell XH-20 Little Henry(rear) in the Research & Development Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on December 28, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bensen X-25A Gyrocopter. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bensen X-25A Gyrocopter. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The X-25A’s “cockpit.” The simple instrument panel displayed only essential information. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The X-25A’s “cockpit.” The simple instrument panel displayed only essential information. (U.S. Air Force photo)


In early 1968, the U.S. Air Force ordered three X-25 type aircraft to test methods of improving the odds of a downed flyer’s escape. At the time, the USAF was suffering heavy losses in the Rolling Thunder air campaign over North Vietnam.

The unpowered Bensen X-25 Discretionary Descent Vehicle (also called a “Gyroglider”) theoretically could be stowed in an aircraft, ejected with the pilot and deployed during descent. Its rotary wings would be brought up to speed as it fell, and the pilot would fly it as an autogyro to a safer landing area.

The X-25A Gyrocopter on display represented a more advanced concept with a limited "fly-away" capability. Though similar to the X-25, the X-25A had a more robust structure, and it was powered by a small engine. The two-seat X-25B was originally used as an unpowered, towed trainer, but it was later fitted with an engine.

Tests proved that pilots could be quickly and easily trained to fly the X-25. Even so, with the air war in Vietnam winding down -- and doubts about its operational feasibility -- the X-25 program ended. The X-25A was delivered to the museum in 1969.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
Crew:
1 or 2
Engine: One McCullough 4318G of 90 hp
Maximum speed: 80 mph
Range: 90 miles
Weight: 547 lbs. maximum

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