Its rare, its rotary winged – its a Doman!

When people think of Connecticut and helicopters, there’s only one answer, right? The vast majority of aviation types and native New Englanders would answer, ‘Sikorsky’. However, here we see a helicopter, built in Danbury, Connecticut, by the Doman concern. Gliden S. Doman was a Sikorsky employee who, in 1945, decided to strike out on his own. His major impetus for doing so was a ‘first in the field’ rotor head design, which considerably reduced vibration. He managed to get hold of an early Sikorsky helicopter, an R-6, powered by a 245hp Franklin o-405-9 radial engine, and installed various new rotor head and blade control components which eliminated a great deal of complexity and mechanical drag in the whole system; the aircraft was then designated a LZ-1A. Other Doman designs followed and the company allied itself with Hiller in a complex manufacturing venture which came to naught, but this was as nothing  compared to a scheme to have one Italian company market Doman helicopters in Italy, whilst a second company in Sicily, Aeronautica Sicula, manufactured ‘knock-down’ sets of parts for assembly back in the U.S.A.! None of these hare-brained schemes (including arrangements with Fleet Aircraft in Canada, and a Puerto Rican subsidiary, Caribe Doman) came to fruition, and, despite the soundness of the designs of various mechanical components (Gliden Doman was granted a number of U. S. patents), the whole enterprise finally faded away in the late 1960s.

Perhaps the most successful of the Doman designs was the LZ-5, powered by a Lycoming SO-580 of 400hp. The US Army bought two test examples in 1953  as the YH-31 (Serials 52-5779 and 52-5780), but despite an extensive program of test flying, and their use as VIP transports with the designation VH-31, no further orders were forthcoming. One of these aircraft survived, and was exhibited in the Hiller Aviation Museum and Institute in San Carlos, California until 2009, when it was finally brought home to Connecticut, where it joined an LZ-1A on display at the New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks.

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