Kiwi building helicopter-powered motorcycle
Despite a lifetime's experience riding motorcycles and servicing helicopters - putting the two together has been a major learning curve for Cambridge man Chris Minnee.
Minnee trained as an aircraft engineer in the mid 1970s and now owns Rotor Craft, a Hamilton Airport-based helicopter maintenance business.
A keen motorcyclist for 45 years he has ridden a variety of makes from Suzuki and Triumphs to Hondas.
However, building the turbine bike is his first effort at a ground-up custom fabrication.
The frame owes its more cultured bits to a late-model Triumph Rocket 3, which was imported from the US by Tauranga enthusiasts who then blew the engine.
Bought by Minnee "as-is", the frame was cut in half and extended by 200mm.
The rear swing arm was raised by 60mm and the tank enlarged to hold about 40 litres - enough for an hour's running.
The power-plant is a Rolls-Royce/Allison C20B type used in the Bell Jet Ranger and Hughes 500 helicopters.
Built up by Oceania Aviation in Ardmore, the turbine is rated at 420hp and delivers 583 Newton metres of torque. Geared one to one the bike has a theoretical top speed for 260kmh.
As with turbine-powered helicopters the power-plant takes a few moments to wind up.
The transmission is adapted from a Toyota 4WD and the noise is expected to be significant.
After three years of work Minnee hopes to have the bike in one running piece later this year.
It's rego is on hold and the biggest hurdle will be getting it certified and warranted. The aim is to get it certified as a "low-volume vehicle" similar to other customised vehicles.
"There is a company in the US that will build turbine-powered bikes.
"They are claimed to be the fastest production bikes in the world and they have about 100hp less.
"There's no engine braking and riding it is going to be a big learning curve," he said.
Interest in the buildup of the bike has been widespread and Minnee displayed the unfinished project at the Manukau Classic Motorcycle Show in February.
Minnee's turbine-powered Triumph is set to be the centrepiece at the Waikato Classic Motorcycle Club's annual swap meet and show ‘n' shine in Frankton this Sunday.