Early helicopter developed here

Published 1:46 am Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The late Jess Dixon was a man continuously investigating mechanical or experimental fields. Jess lived on Baisden Street and was a brother to the late Charles and Solon Dixon. He and his wife had two children, Julian and daughter Marie. Jess was often seen about the hangar at the Dixon airport on the Florala Highway.

Many of you may remember the airport at that time. The O’Brien salvage yard is on the old Dixon airport grounds. The hangar was located just to the right of the O’Brien entrance, very near the present Florala Highway.

Jess tinkered with almost anything mechanical and his heart was in developing a helicopter. He did make a considerable contribution to the development and sought a patent on some of the apparatus that controlled the pitch of the blades. Jess built a framework to hold a motor and provide a seat for the pilot.

As you can see from the above photo, Jess is at the controls of the developing flying machine. It appears that the machine is actually flying, but it was never developed by Dixon to the point that it could actually fly. At times, he would take ropes and tie it to the ground and the overhead blades would actually lift the machine. Initially, he had a big tail that was not enough to handle that torque, and that eventually brought about the tail fin motor.

Jess was not an impatient person, but he did want people to believe he could fly the “flying ginny,” as he often called it. This photo is actually retouched, as you can easily tell by the plain smooth background area. If you look closely, you can see the bricks supporting the axel on the copter.

Jess is also credited with building an early glider that was flown successfully from Dixon airport.

When World War II began, one of the helicopter companies in Ohio, I believe, hired Jess and his machine. He moved the family there for about a year where he worked and continued development of the copter for the company.

Jess spent a lot of his spare time at the airport with some of the early pilots and worked on gliders as well as his helicopter project. Jess was fully absorbed by his copter project and yet very little recognition has been given to this early “inventor.” He was a pioneer in the field of helicopter development.