The Helio did not begin in the prairies of Kansas like so many general aviation airplanes. The Helio was the vision of Dr. Otto C. Koppen, Professor of Aeronautics Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. Lynn Bollinger, Professor of Business Administration of Harvard Business School. Dr. Koppen and Dr. Bollinger set out to design an aircraft that could both land and takeoff on a short landing strip, provide safety features not found in other general aviation aircraft and be quiet enough to operate on airstrips adjacent to residential areas.
Their first aircraft known as the Helio Plane was built in 1948. It was demonstrated by taking off from a tennis court at Harvard. The prototypes included many design features found today on Helio aircraft including full span Handley-Page leading edge slats, single slotted fowler flaps, interceptors (spoilers) for roll control, welded tubular steel cage and a geared engine that allows for a larger, more efficient propeller.
Over eight variants of the Helio Courier were FAA certified between 1954 and 1984. The first Helio Courier FAA certified was the H-391B with the most popular being the H-295. The last two models certified in the 1980’s were the H-700 and H-800 with increased gross weights. The Helio Courier still operates on six continents in some of the harshest environments imaginable. The Helio Courier operates in many different configurations including tail wheel, tricycle gear, floats, amphibious floats and skis.
The Helio Courier’s big brother, the Helio Stallion, was first certified in 1965 as the HST-550. The final version, the HST-550A FAA was certified in 1969 and included several design changes to better meet US Air Force requirements such as a control stick instead of a control wheel, two hard points under each wing and a centerline hard point and a more modern Pratt & Whitney PT6A-27 turbo prop engine.
Both the Helio Courier and Helio Stallion have seen extensive military duty. The Helio Courier saw experience in southeast Asia with Air America and the US Army and US Air Force. The Helio Courier had the military designation of U-10(A,B &D) and the Helio Stallion was designated the AU-24A as it was utilized as an attack aircraft.
The company developed many other aircraft over the years of which some were FAA certified and some were not. The Helio Twin Courier H-500 was a twin engine version of the Helio Courier that was FAA certified in 1960. Only seven of these aircraft were built and all were delivered to the CIA. Other aircraft included the GAC-100 (a 40 passenger light STOL transport aircraft), a crop duster known as the Rat’ler and a twin engine version of the Helio Stallion.
David Maytag and Jon Dwight purchased the Helio assets in late 1992 and have controlled the assets from that time until August 2004 when James Turrell joined them as a principal of the company.. The company is now on a direct path to produce new Helio Courier and Helio Stallion.