BYU junior gets opportunity to fly with Japanese internship



    Japanese businessman Gen Yanagisawa dreamed of flying and always wanted to invent something unique. Nine years ago, he combined the two dreams and created the concept that eventually became the GEN H-4.

    “The 155-pound, one-man helicopter is a counter-rotating design done as simply as the imagination allows. With four tiny engines and an overhead-style joystick, the machine actually looks plausible and flyable by mortal humans,” said Dan Johnson in an article in the November 1999 issue of Kitplanes magazine.

    This past summer, Jon Plummer, a junior, majoring in electronic engineering technology, had the opportunity to be the second person ever to operate the Gen H-4 when he completed an internship with Yanagisawa’s company, Engineering System Co.

    Plummer, from Boise, Idaho, had served a mission in the Japan, Tokyo South mission, and is working on a Japanese minor at BYU. Last year, he was looking for a unique internship to expand his professional knowledge and further his experience with the Japanese people. The Japanese Internship Program helped him arrange his three-month internship with Engineering System Co. located in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan.

    “It was really neat to work in Japan and to experience the Japanese work ethic. I was able to live with a Japanese family and become a part of a Japanese company. I gained a very different perspective compared to my mission. It was an awesome experience,” Plummer said.

    However, when he accepted the internship, Plummer had no idea what he was really in for. His job was to fly the Gen H-4 as much as possible and test it under different kinds of conditions.

    “My trainer, Yokoyama san, explained to me all of the controls, warned me about a few things, and had me try to imagine myself flying in the little contraption. He said that when he was teaching himself to fly, he went through four sets of blades before he learned to control it without tipping over. He told me he was planning for me to go through or destroy two sets of blades during my training.”

    Plummer was given about half an hour of training on the Gen H-4 before he got to try it out and said that it took about 2 hours of practice before he could get it up and moving around.

    “When I first got off the ground, it was an awesome feeling to know that I was flying and it was powered by my own control. It is kind of like the power of driving a car for the first time, but it is all in 3-D instead of 2-D,” Plummer said.

    For those who have never flown, it is almost impossible to imagine what that hovering sensation would feel like. Plummer said although it was a little frightening at first, it was an incredible feeling that almost came instinctively.

    “It feels like I am sitting at the kitchen table, riding my bicycle and floating in the air at the same time. It was awesome,” Plummer said.

    Unlike most helicopters and planes, the Gen H-4 is an ultra-lite helicopter, which means that by law, a pilot’s license is not required as long as it meets a certain criteria. It must weigh less than 250 lbs. without the pilot, it cannot go any faster than 55 mph, it must have a fuel tank no bigger than five gallons and must not carry any passengers, Plummer said.

    The Engineering System Co. had a goal to have the first Gen H-4 out in kit form by January 2000. The kits will cost approximately $25,000 and will take approximately 30 hours to 40 hours to assemble. However, Plummer said that it may take a little more than a year to get all of the kinks out and make it safe enough to sell to the public.

    “Eventually, the company hopes that this contraption could be used for commuting short distances, and would like to design it so that it will fold up small enough to fit inside a mini-van. In the mean time, it is mostly for recreational use,” Plummer said.

    For more information about the Gen H-4, visit the web site for Engineering System Co. at

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