When we first heard that retired US Coast Guardsman and GIjOE “newbie,” Tom McMurray, had converted a beat-up, 1:6 scale 21stC Littlebird into a working, (fully electrified) USCG helicopter CEILING FAN, we knew immediately that fans around the world would want to hear all about it. After contacting McMurray, he graciously agreed to the following exclusive interview and also (very generously) provided us with these exclusive photos and video clips. Enjoy!
TJR: Congratulations on your superb 1:6 scale custom helicopter, Tom. Could you tell us first—what inspired you to take on such a challenging undertaking?
TM: “I was medically retired out of the U.S. Coast Guard (just shy of 40 years) as a Petty Officer 1st Class Port Security and Small Arms Instructor and wanted a project that would take time and represent my career. I wandered across a Littlebird over on e-bay. It was blue and not in very good condition. But over the following months, I picked up various parts one at a time and pieced it all together.”
TJR: How long did this project take you to complete?
TM: “I started in December of 2013 and finished it in July of this year (2014). I have close to 400 hours altogether put into this project. The hardest part was getting the stripes on the Littlebird to be exactly 67 degrees (as required by the Coast Guard). The painting pattern is correct and was used on an experimental chopper by HITRON for fast attack on “Go-Fast “ (drug-smuggling) boats down in Florida.”
TJR: After completing the helo’s tricky (and beautiful) paint-job, what did you work on next?
TM: “Well, as you can see, the exterior utilizes a waterslide USCG decal set (found HERE) that I picked up from Patches of Pride (PoP), and the cockpit uses one of their “Complete Cockpit Conversion Kits” (found HERE). I then further modified the instrument cluster and all of the gauges by drilling small holes behind the decals and then giving each gauge its own colored led light, sealed in behind it.”
TJR: That clearly elevated your Littlebird to a higher level. What else did you add?
TM: “If you look closely at the photo below, you’ll see that the pilot has a small laptop mounted on the console, and both of the interior spaces are lit by a red LED for night-vision. I also added all of the required exterior lights, a working high power spotlight and a working FLIR lamp underneath. The ‘float’ is required on any USCG chopper that works off the coasts, so I hand-fabricated that. Also, the .50 cal Barrett on the port side is mounted on a stanchion built into the deck. Finally, I cut all of the windows down halfway except the main hatch, which I mounted in the opened, rescue position.”
TJR: You’ve impressed us enough already, but here’s where your story gets REALLY interesting. Tell us about converting your 1:6 scale USCG Littlebird helicopter—into a ceiling fan.
TM: “To mount it to the ceiling fan, I filled the upper engine compartment with a 2-part epoxy and let it dry around the threaded accessory lamp-post. Then, I took the lamp section off of the bottom of the fan, filled the extra cover with epoxy, attached it to the main fan motor with screws and let the finished project sit supported on top of a 10-ft ladder overnight to cure. My wife, the electrician, the contractor (that had just finished the room) and myself, all had our fingers crossed when I lit-‘er-up. Voila! SHE FLIES!!!! And not a shudder or vibration.”
TJR: Tell us about your interest in GIjOEs and 1:6 scale vehicles. What else have you created?
TM: “Believe it or not, these are the first GIjOEs I have ever owned. Honestly! As you can see, I made a lot of changes, but after 37 years in the Coast Guard, I didn’t need much help. And now, I’m looking for my NEXT project. Thanks for all the parts, decals and help Mark.” —Tom McMurray
Bottom Line: McMurray’s 1:6 scale custom Littlebird helicopter is one of the most impressive we’ve ever seen. His attention to detail and accuracy reflect his many years of experience and service in the Coast Guard, and his inspired conversion of a typically static-display model into a working ceiling fan is truly remarkable. Our sincerest thanks to Tom for his service to our country and for his generous contributions to this article. Enjoy a video of Tom’s helicopter in action:
UPDATE 12/17: Here’s a new video on YouTube from Joe Burlas showing how to connect the 21stC Littlebird helicopter to a ceiling fan. Thanks so much for your help, Joe!