A Kansan designed and built this early helicopter.
Rex Maneval was a man ahead of his time. Born in Centralia, Kansas, in 1890, Maneval dreamed of becoming a mechanical engineer, but his parents preferred a business career and enrolled him in a banking school. While employed in the banking business, Maneval found an outlet for his mechanical interests by extensive reading on the subject, and by endless tinkering and experimenting with machines. In the early 1920s he developed a highly successful chick hatching machine. He subsequently resigned his bank position and opened his own hatchery in Frankfort, Kansas. Maneval Chickeries became one of the largest hatcheries in the state.
Tragedy struck Maneval in 1935 when his wife and son died of carbon monoxide poisoning. As a means of coping with his grief, he immersed himself in a new-found interest in aviation.
Among Maneval's projects was a helicopter, which he designed in 1939, the same year Sikorsky designed the VS-300 which eventually became the first successful commercial helicopter.
Incorporated into Maneval's design were several innovations. To neutralize torque, he used a pair of counter-rotating blades on a single shaft. The counter-rotating blades rendered unnecessary the single tail rotor, the conventional method of controlling torque. Eliminating the tail rotor results in a reduction in drag. A clever coaxial gearbox designed by Maneval made his counter-rotating blade system possible.
Maneval's helicopter was completed in 1941, but there were a couple of problems (among them excessive vibration) which he could not resolve to his satisfaction. Although he occasionally flew his helicopter tethered to the ground, he never attempted a free flight. The 'copter was stored in one of Maneval's old hatchery buildings until 1974 when he donated it to the Kansas Historical Society just a few months before his death at age 85. It is in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: November 1997
Date Modified: December 2014
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