Gene Rock

Gene started experiments with free flight helicopters in 1962 and then attempted to build the Skycrane designed by Ken Norris which unfortunately was not a success; at Gene's level of ability it was too advanced however, it indicated a high level of commitment to the subject.  He later attempted to build John Burkam's XH-51A, again a way too ambitious a project and Gene himself attributes the failure to his poor machining ability (at that time).  In 1969 he then met john Burkam (who was to become a good friend) and very quickly improved his knowledge in helicopter mechanics and stability.  A couple more designs followed but these were not completely successful until the S.S.P was developed which finally resulted in a fully functional and proven model.

Gene Rock OD Electric

Gene Rock and tethered garage hovering.

Winter 1970 through to early 1971 and Gene Rock was also continuing his experiments with his electric powered single rotor design helicopter driven by a motor from an electric drill.  Needed the umbilical 'tether' to provide the motor power??

Gene Rock S.S.P

Fixed pitch control had been finding favour with a lot of developers and although it lacked the controllability of collective pitch it's simplicity meant that construction and setting up was much easier.  It also had the benefit of providing a large measure of tail rotor compensation in that the speed of the main rotor was matched by the tail rotor and thus torque was generally balanced.  Additionally, near enough everybody at that time was at the learner stage so that the majority of time would be spent hovering, so, there would be little difference in practical terms between collective or fixed pitch under this condition.

For the SSP, the influence of Dieter Schlüter's Cobra is very evident from the overall look to the control method utilised in Gene's helicopter.  The wide spread landing legs providing very good ground handling and landing stability, the high mounted tail rotor providing protection from contact with the ground, tall main mast to provide pendulum stability and fixed pitch control for ease of set up.  Form follows function and a very good principle is to go with what is known to work first and then innovate.

Gene did have the benefit of John Burkam's experience so on the subject of innovation, the S.S.P. was fitted with a simplified version of john's mechanical tail rotor gyro's.  Therefore, in addition to the natural torque balancing of the fixed pitch control system, the S.S.P. with its mechanical gyro also had a higher level of transient stability.  When correctly set up it provided such a good level of directional stability that control of the tail rotor was to be relatively easy compared to other helicopters.

After the tethered trials of the electric models were completed in Spring 1971, the build of the glow powered SSP commenced with the model succesfully flown in the summer.  In fact, the model flew so well that Gene decided to go for one of the records that had not been claimed; altitude.

 Altitude record 1971 to 650 feet (200 Metre).

2011 photographs of pre-restoration S.S.P. tail  

Build article for the SSP appeared in August 1972 issue of AAM followed by the flying review in Septembers issue; it is of note that it took four months to do the drawings.

Construction plans and S.S.P. build article Hovering and S.S.P. flying review.

Interestingly Gene describes glass coated rotor blades, an idea well ahead of its time and was generally not used for any commercial products.

Gene Rock SSP-4

Whilst the SSP-3 was being published for home builders, gene had already carried out a number of modifications resulting in the SSP-4.  Most visibly the model now used skid undercarriage and protection bars running over the front end of the model.  Whilst the SSP-3 was functional with only a passing resemblance to a helicopter, the SSP-4 was given a better helicopter 'form'.

SSP-4 at the US nationals July 1972.

Gene Rock SSP-5

  S.S.P. build article.  -  Full build review with details of the new parts required over and above the original drawings plus full description of operation.

SSP-DB further updated model by Dario Brisighella based on Gene's recommendations and also covered in the above review.

SSP-5 at the US nationals August 1973.


Gene Rock Bolkow Bo105 (1973)


Gene's S.S.P had been successful but still required some development however, he was already considering his next helicopter and this time it had to be a scale machine.  So whilst he was busy with the S.S.P he was also carrying out research on which one it was going to be; the article below cover the design and development.   

Bolkow Bo105 - Build and flying review from Jun 74 MHN (Model Helicopter News - USA)