Images of various Artifacts of the Month's

September 2020

Artifact of the Month

Airgeep II VZ-8P (B)

In 1957 Piasecki Aircraft was awarded a Transportation Research Command contract for the development of a “flying jeep.” It would be a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) research vehicle capable of operating at low altitudes at speeds up to 70 mph.

Using a pair of three-bladed ducted rotors placed in tandem, and twin 180hp piston engines, the Airgeep had fairly conventional helicopter-type controls that provided good directional stability. The design could accommodate a single passenger in addition to the pilot. The first model Airgeep, designated VZ-8P by the Army and made its initial flight in October, 1958.

The second vehicle built for the Army was called the VZ-8P (B) Airgeep II, and made its first non-tethered flight in the summer of 1962. It was fairly similar to the VZ-8P, save for the bend in the middle, which tilted the rotors more to reduce drag in forward flight. The Airgeep II used twin 400hp engines that were linked, so if one failed the other could drive both rotors. Another significant difference between the two was that the second model had ejection seats for both the pilot and copilot/gunner.

Even though the Airgeeps were intended to operate within a few feet of the ground, both were capable of flying at altitudes of several thousand feet. Both versions were found to be stable and relatively capable aircraft. Despite many positive qualities, the Airgeep was ultimately judged by the Army to be ill-suited to the rigors of field operations. The “flying jeep” concept was eventually abandoned in favor of the development of conventional helicopters.