Flying cars were a futuristic promise that has never materialized. Winnebago leapfrogged that dream in the late 1970s with the Helihome, a flying motorhome it commissioned from Orlando Helicopter Airways. The Florida company bought surplus Sikorsky helicopters from the US military and had pioneered the idea of a flying RV that Winnebago noticed.
Winnebago would design the interiors and pick the build materials, with Orlando Helicopter Airways producing the final product. The Sikorsky S-55 and S-58 helicopters had a unique design that placed the cockpit on top, creating a large cabin space below designed to haul soldiers. However, the space was large enough to fit an RV living space.
The camper’s unconventional package hides a very conventional camping experience. Winnebago was able to design a flying camper that contained everything one would need for a weekend in the wilderness. The Winnebago Helihome featured seating and tables that could convert into beds for up to four people, air conditioning, a color TV, and a water heater.
Winnebago also installed a small galley with a two-burner electric stove and a 4-cubic-foot refrigerator. Winnebago even offered the camper with a chemical toilet and a shower. There wasn’t much missing from the camper, with enough storage for owners to bring along rifles, rafts, extra seating, and even an awning.
Winnebago primarily used the Helihome as a promotional tool, with Orland Helicopter Airways actually selling the models after Winnebago had moved on. The smaller S-55 retailed for $135,000, while the larger S-58 would go for $220,000. Winnebago priced their Helihome at around $300,000, but neither company sold many examples. However, at least one person used the Helihome as designed, allegedly visiting his favorite lake in the mountains.
As you might have noticed, flying motorhomes, like flying cars, haven’t really materialized. The idea of reaching new places that even off-road vehicles couldn’t go is appealing but also expensive. It would also require a pilot’s license, while traditional campers and trailers require a regular driver’s license to operate. It’s a neat idea that could have spawned a mobile office or an on-site laboratory for scientists.