Cessna is well known for building a complete line of airplanes, from two-seat trainers to business jets. However, in the late 50s and early 60s the company also built a helicopter with a two-bladed main rotor and a reciprocating engine. The official model was the CH-1; however, it was also called the Cessna Skyhook.
Designed with a four place cabin the CH-1 was first certified in June, 1955 as a two-seat helicopter. After solving some longitudinal stability problems, Cessna sought and received four-seat certification in February, 1956. The helicopter had a supercharged Continental FSO-470 engine mounted in the nose and a tail boom that looked like the small airplanes they were building at the time. The forward engine design made for easy maintenance, but had other difficulties like where to route the exhaust. Initial designs ran the exhaust under the cabin, however high noise levels created a problem that Cessna was never able to completely fix.
The CH-1 had a fast never-exceed-speed of 122 mph, a maximum gross weight of 3,000 pounds and was considered a good performing helicopter. In fact, just three months after certification the CH-1 landed, hovered and took off from Pike’s Peak, Colorado, at an elevation of over 14,000 feet. The flight was done as a demonstration for the US Army who eventually ordered 10 upgraded CH-1s for evaluations. The upgraded model used a 270 hp Continental FSO-526 engine and was designated the CH-1B by Cessna. A CH-1C model followed with a gross weight increase to 3,100 pounds and the US Government bought 15 for its Military Assistance Program. Cessna competed for additional military helicopter contracts, but ultimately lost.
In October, 1960 Cessna announced that the CH-1C would be put into production for civilian sales at a price of $79,960 with initial deliveries beginning in July 1961. Just three months before deliveries were to begin, a suspected tail rotor malfunction caused a crash in Texas killing Cessna’s marketing pilot. There were rumors of additional crashes including one in the Gulf of Mexico that resulted in four fatalities.
In January, 1962 Cessna announced they were terminating the helicopter program entirely citing poor sales and lost military opportunities. Cessna bought back all existing civil CH-1s in the field. It is estimated that a total of about 50 helicopters were built. Finally, 1989 Cessna cancelled the CH-1 FAA Type Certificate.