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Written by Tom Ryan
Modeler takes interest in helicopters to the next level
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As seen in the December 2011 issue of
Model Aviation.

Transitioning from flying model RC helicopters to full-scale helis is no small feat, but Chuck Bucci from Hales Corners, Wisconsin, took on that challenge. Chuck bought a Rotorway 162 F (kit helicopter) in October of 2010 and began building it in his garage. On January 21, 2011, only four short months later, the kit was 95% complete and only hours of work away from its maiden flight.

After building and flying model helicopters, such as his T-Rex 600, and after seeing a friend’s experimental Rotorway Exec, Chuck decided that he wanted to build and fly his own full-scale helicopter.

Chuck poses with the model helicopters that inspired him to take on this full-scale project.

After many hours of research and networking with others who have built Rotorway helicopters, Chuck found a kit in Florida that had been purchased from Rotorway but never built. The owners of the kit didn’t have the time to build the helicopter and decided to sell it.

An experienced local builder, who also happened to own a Rotorway, offered his help and the two set off for Florida to inspect the kit and make sure that it was what Chuck wanted. The asking price was within Chuck’s budget, but he also had to consider the cost of the upgrades that the helicopter would need.

The Exec 162F is a two-seat helicopter, which is a good thing since Chuck’s wife, Andrea, enjoys flying as well. The heli has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,500 pounds and a rotor diameter of 25 feet.

After a careful inspection of the kit, the deal was made and the Rotorway kit was on its way to Wisconsin in a rented truck. Chuck’s transition into full-scale experimental helicopters had begun.

This wasn’t a quick decision. Before Chuck shelled out the money for the project, he did something that many transition builders don’t do: he took some lessons in a Rotorway. He took lessons for eight hours, making sure that this was what he wanted to do.

The saying “measure twice and cut once” is useful no matter the size of your project. In this case, it’s a full-scale Rotorway Exec 162F helicopter.

After flying the Rotorway 162F, he was ready to go ahead with the project, but first things first! His wife, Andrea, had to buy into the whole idea, too; after all, this was a big commitment of time and resources. Chuck wanted her to be a part of the process, so Andrea took a ride in a Rotorway so she could see where he wanted to go with his building and flying. He wanted her to agree that this was a good idea and that it would be a fun experience for both of them. Andrea agreed and served as is his copilot on the project and spent many hours helping.

Chuck also visited the Rotorway factory in Arizona to talk to the people with whom he would be dealing during his build. He wanted to see where the kits were made and what went into the materials.

Various photos of the Rotorway during its assembly in Chuck’s garage. His goal was to complete the project in eight months.

With his tour complete, Chuck felt confident that the Rotorway was the best helicopter out there for him as a first-time builder. Many like the idea of building, but after they buy a kit and start the work, the reality of the long hours and extra resources needed hit home. Often, the kit doesn’t get started because of lack of time and skills, and in the end, it gets sold.

To ensure that wouldn’t be the case, Chuck joined the Rotorway Owners Group and the EAA to get the best advice. Members of both organizations shared experiences and building techniques and were helpful to Chuck during the build. A local builder also assisted him with advice and checked to make sure the build went as planned.


Building a full-scale helicopter such as the Rotorway takes time, money, and a reasonable amount of mechanical experience. Chuck has been a self-employed electrical contractor for roughly 35 years. He has a basement full of metal-working machine tools that he used to create parts for the helicopter, saving him time and money and eliminating the need for outside contractors.

Chuck had reasonable expectations of what it would take to complete the build, plus the time and cost to earn a pilot’s license. He and Andrea felt that his timetable seemed realistic and acceptable, and he wasn’t worried about losing interest in the overwhelming work needed to complete the build in the eight months he allotted.

Summer 2011 was set as the target completion date. To Chuck, this wasn’t going to be a work in progress, dragging on for years and years; it would be an ongoing push every day until the helicopter was complete.


When asked what he believed it would take to do the build right and complete it in the eight months he forecasted, he replied, “You have to have the time and money to put into this; otherwise you’re just fooling yourself.”

All right, we know the timeline was eight months, but what about the cost?

Chuck believed he would invest $60,000 in the helicopter, and that’s not counting the cost of getting his pilot’s license. Considering what helicopters sell for today, he believes that’s a low price for a quality helicopter. Because he’s both the builder and the mechanic, maintenance costs would be lower compared to paying an A&P aircraft mechanic to do the inspections and needed repairs. Also, the cost per hour in fuel is a fraction of that of a factory-built production helicopter.


All things considered, the Rotorway is a cost-efficient, two-seat personal helicopter that is affordable for the average builder.

At the age of 57, Chuck, who came to love helicopters because of his six-year affiliation with the Southeast Wisconsin Area Rotory Modelers (SWARM) RC helicopter club in Franklin, Wisconsin, took that passion to another level. Because he understood helicopters and how they fly (from his model-building experience), moving to the Rotorway build wasn’t scary. It was more of a challenge—a challenge that he felt he was ready for based on his start in model aviation.

The finished helicopter in flight.

You could say that model aviation was the first step on his journey to full-scale flight; the AMA led him to the EAA, and model flying blossomed into full-scale flying.

The partnership between the AMA and the EAA will no doubt transition more model aircraft pilots into full-scale fliers and vice versa, making this partnership a win-win for everyone who loves general aviation and wants to be involved. Whether it’s model or full-scale flying, it’s the thrill of flying that counts! Chuck’s dreams of building and flying his own helicopter were realized on April 12, well ahead of schedule. Since that time, he continues to enjoy piloting his models and full-scale aircraft.

As I look at Chuck and Andrea’s new adventure in aviation and the pride they feel knowing that the dream of flight is no longer a dream but a reality, I can’t help but notice that it all started with a model—a flying model.

-Tom Ryan


Rotorway International
(480) 961-1001


Awesome Article!!!! If I had the finances, I’d buy a vintage Bell 47G-2, & just buzz around in it on weekends.

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