Remember the Jaycopter?

Story by Bob Petite.

How many Albertans remember the Jaycopter that used to be on display near the Municipal Airport on Kingsway Avenue in Edmonton during the 1960s and early 1970s?

Edmontonian Peter Jacobs came up with the unique design and construction of a two-place electric motor-powered flying helicopter simulator calling the prototype the Jaycopter. The private company was first incorporated on June 1,1959. Working with his brother Leopold, they formed Jaycopters Ltd. and constructed the first helicopter attached to a boom with a weight on the other end in the mid-1950s. The helicopter was attached to a swivel joint and was able to fly in any direction similar to an actual rotary-wing aircraft. The helicopter could take off and land with little lift. It was able to reach a height of seventy-six feet. Jacobs patented his aircraft in Canada during 1958 and in the USA in 1959.

Leo Jacobs was the first person to fly the Jaycopter in only 15 hours of self-training and found it very easy to control and fly. Pete Jacobs eventually demonstrated his invention to the RCAF in Ottawa, Ontario. Soon there was interest in the Jaycopter in the USA, Toronto, Vancouver, and overseas in England. Jacobs formed a subsidiary company in 1959 called Jaycopters Recreation Ltd. to build amusement park 8 to 16 passenger carrying models.

Jacobs looked at the possibility for training new helicopter pilots and approached Associated Helicopters at the airport with his novel idea for the Jaycopter. He felt that his invention would help in reducing helicopter training costs as it duplicated the movements of a real helicopter with its sensitive controls and aerodynamic features.

Chief Pilot Telleff Vassjo took Leo Jacobs up in a Bell 47G-2 helicopter in April 1959. During the introduction training flight Vassjo found that he did not have to take over control of the helicopter from Jacobs during the whole flight.

By 1962 a recreational Jaycopter was on display at the Edmonton Exhibition, and later at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, BC. Soon additional 8-passenger carrying Jaycopters were being manufactured by Jacobs. This new ride had terrific potential in both comfort and safety. Cost was about $62,000 for a partially completed recreational Jaycopter.

In August 1963, an agreement was signed to place a 16-passenger Jaycopter at the New York World’s Fair in the USA during 1964 and 1965 along with Baby Jay coin operated amusement games. Jaycopters Recreation Ltd. was registered as public company in 1963.

By 1964 interest in Jaycopters was coming from France, Japan, and Italy. The coin-operated Minicopter smaller than the Baby Jay went into operation in 1964.The US military received a Jaycopter Demonstrator Trainer classroom helicopter device at Fort Wolters, Texas in 1965.

The 16-place Jaycopter operated for the second year at the New York World’s Fair during 1965 to limited financial success. The military in Bogota, Columbia were interested in using Jaycopter training aids at their helicopter training school. The company changed from Jaycopters Recreation Ltd. to Jaycopter Corporation Ltd. in December 1966. It was taking much longer to achieve profitability than planned. The company had developed five different models of the Jaycopter.

Sales were slow over the next few years with a Jaycopter trainer going to Argentina and the US Navy by 1969. One recreational 8-passenger Jaycopter was sold. There was hope for new increased sales of the Jaycopter but that was not to be.

Company sales remained flat into the early 1970s. Jaycopter Corporation Ltd. sales for the Captive Helicopter Training Devices, the Amusement Rides, and Coin Operated Copters were bleak. The company was not in good financial shape.

On September 27, 1973 the company informed shareholders that the financial position of the Company was very poor and it was not able to meet trade accounts and loans owing. They could not justify incurring further expenses. Jaycopter Corporation Ltd. was now dormant with no employees. The assets of Jaycopters were put up for sale. The company had been in business for 15 plus years. Jaycopter Corporation Ltd., due to circumstances beyond their control, had a good run for their money and should be proud of their achievements.

Most of the remaining Jaycopters ended up stored on the property of Stan Reynolds in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. There are numerous Baby Jay and Minicopter coin-operated amusement games still in existence. Check out the one still in the Alberta Aviation Museum. There are plans to restore a Jaycopter for the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in the future. The company may be gone but the Jaycopter will never be forgotten.

The coin-operated Jaycopter game was a good seller for Peter Jacobs. Photo: B Petite Collection.