As far as engines went, you could’ve had an 800 horsepower piston-driven model, or a slightly larger 1,525 hp turbine-driven variant. That piston engine burned a lot of fuel and limited its range to around 300 miles, so it wasn’t exactly the “fly deep into the wilderness” experience it might look like unless you hopscotched between airports on your way into the bush.
The real sticky issue with this whole Heli-Home concept is not the engines or range, however. It’s the price. Even a base model would run you around $880,000 in today’s money, and a top of the line version was $1.4 million when adjusted for inflation.
But Winnebago figured this might be the case, so for $10,000 a week it would rent you a Heli-Home, assuming you could provide enough additional cash to hire a pilot, and pay for the fuel, of course. However, this rental scheme was not enough to save the idea. All in all, the company would go on to sell only 8 Heli-Homes to customers, none of which survive today.
Still, it was hardly a failure. That such an audacious plan made it off the drawing board and into the sky at all is pretty incredible, let alone selling a few. More important was its value as a marketing tool for Winnebago as it dealt with a sales slump in the wake of the mid-’70s oil crisis, as Air & Space Magazine points out. The Heli-Home garnered no shortage of attention from magazines like Popular Mechanics and potential customers who reportedly flocked to the few Winnebago dealerships where an example was on display to see a piece of the future of recreation.
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