XH-20 Little Henry Research Helicopter

XH-20 Little Henry Research Helicopter

Historical Snapshot

Sponsored by the U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Air Force, the McDonnell XH-20 “Little Henry” proved that helicopters could fly using ramjets located in the tips of their rotor blades. The tip-driven rotor eliminated the need for a torque-compensating tail rotor. It did not need a transmission and was controlled with a rudder.

The XH-20 was a low-cost research prototype employing open-frame, steel-tube construction.

Little Henry was not a success because ramjets were too noisy and used too much fuel, so only two test models were built. One of the XH-20s is in the collection of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

In 1950, McDonnell Aircraft Corp. began building its second ramjet-powered utility helicopter, called the Model 79. Nicknamed “Big Henry,” it too never went into production.

Technical Specifications

First flight Aug. 29, 1947
Rotor diameter 20 feet
Length 12 feet 6 inches
Height 6 feet 8 inches
Empty weight 290 pounds
Power plant Two small ramjet engines mounted at the rotor tips
Speed 50 mph