Single-Seat Autogyros Do Really Work

by Wing Commander Ken Wallis.MBE. Deng(hc) / Ceng / FRAeS / FSETP/ FlnstTA(hc)/ RAF Ret’d

Single-seat autogyros have been proved to work and to have unique attributes in the ‘Family of Aircraft’.

I designed my prototype,G-ARRT,with possible military roles in view and to meet the requirements of a Civil Certificate of Airworthiness – not just a Permit to Fly. The Certificate of Airworthiness was achieved in August 1962.I include a copy of a leaflet distributed at the 1962 Farnborough SBCA show at which I demonstrated the military version,XR-942.The leaflet duley quotes the Certificate Performance figures then applicable,but the World records for Autogyro speeds subsequently achieved show the ‘vne’ of 65 knots to be very conservative indeed!. The CAA Mandatory Permit Directive 2005-008 imposes severe performance restrictions on single seat autogyros – but an experience with G-ARRT in Brazil in 1966 would bring such as the MPD’s wind speed limitations into question….

G-ARRT was under contract with FilmStudio Roma,to fly in Brazil,to make what was undoubtedly intended to be a ‘Spaghetti James Bond’ film.It was entitled ‘DICK SMART,agent 2.007’!!. On the morning of the 23rd of July 1966,I took off from Flamengo beach,at Rio de Janeiro for a coastal flight to Barra da Tijuca for filming there. As I flew along the mountainous coastline with such as the ‘Sugarloaf’ mountain,a very strong wind came from the land,soon becoming a very intense storm.One moment I would be forced down into the seat by ‘G’ forces and the next I would be floating above it,restrained by a harness I just could not tighten sufficiently. I decided it may be a bit smoother if a flew a little further over the sea,but I soon changed my mind.A large ‘hump’ formed in the sea about a 100 yards ahead and to port and it then joined the sky in a huge ‘waterspout’; the first and only time I have ever seen one!. Accordingly,I crabbed along the coast and eventually found my landing ground at Barra da Tijuca,although it was almost completely covered in sand from the storm. The intense storm subsided as quickly as it has started and after the filming,I was pleased to fly back for a landing on Flamengo Beach,adjacent to the hotel where G-ARRT was ‘hangared’. I then took a taxi to Santos Dumont Airport at Rio to discover the gust velocities involved in the windstorm.I knew this would be of interest in the next report I would submit to the then Ministry of Aviation& Registration Board under arrangements established at the start of my autogyro experiments.

At the ‘Met office’ at the airport,they said that they did not know the velocities of the storm but that day,they were expecting the ‘Ventana’ – the official name of the storm.They said that all Airline flights in and out of Rio that day had been duly cancelled because,and I quote; ” No aircraft can survive the Ventana”. When I told them that I HAD,they completely refused to believe me……!. It was indeed an horrific experience but it showed that the Certificated maximum wind speed for operations of 43knots,was indeed a very conservative figure. I had flown the military version,then in open-frame form,at the 1962 SBAC show,in her markings as XR-943.It so happens that a ‘triplet’ sister of hers,XR-943 would soon become better known as James Bond’s “Little Nellie”,in the film,’You Only Live Twice’.

The ‘spaghetti 007’ had led to the real 007 being shot in Japan,over the volcanic island of Kyushu and with the weapons firing part being filmed over the Sierra Nevada in Spain.That was real flying with the pilots of the chasing helicopters ‘in-combat’ frequently asking for ‘Little Nellie’ to be slowed down,in level flight and in the climb – they couldn’t keep up with her… Some of the take off and landing sites were gravely cliff edges.81 flights were made during the shooting of the film,with some 44 hours airborne.The little single-seater behaved very well,even carrying a fixed ‘Arriflex’ film camera for some of the combat sequence shots.

I have also used my single seaters for Documentary filming,such as the ‘Thames Barge Race’,the ‘Harwich to Hook of Holland Ferry’,etc. When the television series,’The Pathfinders’ of Bomber Command was being filmed,they were using 12foot wingspan radio-controlled model ‘Lancasters’. The camera helicopter crews were not prepared to fly in company with a radio-controlled model for the the required air-to-air filming for feat that it might fly into the helicopter tail rotor!. So,guess what and who did all the air-to-air filming for that series ?!.

It was my first two-seater of 1969,flown solo,carrying a fixed Cine camera.I would formate on the model Lancaster from it’s take off until it reached 2000ft.I would then break away from it and then climb another 1000ft,then diving at it,giving the Me-109 German fighter pilot’s view as he attacked. At just the right moment,the controllers of the radio-controlled ‘Lancaster’ would pres a button and flames would pour from the stricken model.I would then film it as it descended to crash,pouring black smoke.

Operated as a single-seater,I used it for the first landings and takeoffs from vessels at sea – which were too small to accommodate a helicopter.It weighs 240 LLBs but has bee flown around the(former) REA Bedford airbase on a hot summer evening,then put on scales to record 753LLBs.It would have lifted more,but we ran out of more bags of lead-shot!!.The Rotorcraft Division of R>E>A> Bedford considered that to be a record lift to empty weight ratio,though there is no such official F>A>I record.

The most positive proof of the efficiency of the single-seater autogyro must surely be in the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment report,following the ‘Airfield Damage and Repair Reconnaissance Trails at North Luffenham Airfield in 1987. This involved Day and Night,All-Weather flying of my single seat Rolls-Royce powered WA-117,G-AVOV and some single seat WA-118’s which were Limbach and Rotax powered.The WA-117 was equipped with Infra-Red Linescan with ‘real-time’ imagery transmission to a ground viewing and recording station(the kit was valued at £90.000!) Also taking part in the trials were a ‘Puma’ helicopter,with six men maintaining and flying it + a ‘Gazelle’ helicopter with four crew and engineers and finally a remote piloted helicopter that didn’t work – in fact we all had to take cover if they tried to fly it!.

The WA-116’s had such as VideoCameras,with a light in parallel with their view,so that they could record colour views of the ground when flying at night.The imagery was then being recorded with equipment aboard the autogyro – whereas today it would be transmitted to the ground,real time,as was the Infra Red Linescan during the exercise.

One Old Man of seventy looked after and flew these single seat autogyros throughout the exercise!.All that was required on the ground for the night flying was was a battery-powered lantern at an appropriate place on the perimeter track. The subsequent official RARDE report is of course ‘UK Restricted’.However it can be said that the autogyro was the only aircraft that adhered exactly to the Trial Conditions specified and came closest of all aircraft taking part in meeting the requirements of the tests. The report recommended that if there were to be a need at this time of the ‘Cold War’,’……a number of autogyros would be purchased and crews trained to fly them “in order that the knowledge gained over the years is not lost……” This must be surely the most convincing proofs that single-seat autogyros really do work.. Sadly,our CAA seem for some unexplained reason,to be favouring two-seaters,such as the much bigger German MT03. Their MPD 2005-008 certainly seems to be directed against single-seaters even though such as my WA-116 design has probably achieved a higher standard of Airworthiness than any other light autogyro,following formal testing,electrical strain gauging of critical areas etc.

I have now had a pilot’s licence for over 73 years and I have flown piston and Jet-powered aeroplanes – though none with more than ten engines! I have been flying light autogyros(I prefer the generic term ‘Autogyro’ because it implies ‘self-turning’,whereas ‘gyroplane’ means ‘turning eng’ – so I suppose it could apply;by to a helicopter as well.

I have been flying light autogyros for over 51 years and I enjoy them much the most.There so no doubt in my mind that they can have some unique features that render them particularly effiecient in some roles. However,in spite of long-standing eveidence to that effect and of which UK CAA seem unaware – or simply do not want to know.There certainly seems to be favouritism by the CAA for the factory-built two seater.

It is worth noting that my Type WA-122/R-R two seater,G-BGGW gained a potential West German Military contract for over 100 aircraft,after flights at the NATO ILRRPS school at Altenstadt in the Bavarian Alps in December 1983 and at Lake Konstanz in 1984. Sadly,W Vinten Ltd, my then Licencees completely failed to copy that aircraft that had gained the contract…Germany now produces two-seaters but they would yet have to compete with my smaller Rolls-Royce powered WA-122….

Wing Commander Kenneth Wallis,
Reymerston Hall,

The WA-116/F/5,powered by an FAA certified Franklin Engine of only 60hp.She set the 100km closed circuit speed record for autogyros in 1985,at 118mph.She does 120mph and was the first autogyro to undertake the 1000km closed circuit flight.For range she carries a 20gallon fuel tank under the keel..

WA117/RR fitted with Hawker Siddley Infra-Red Linescan,used in night flying trials over Military targets.Real-Time imagery could be transmitted to a ground base and Ken is seen aboard this aircraft at RAE Farnborough prior to participating in the day and night,all weather,post attack airfield attack reconnaissance Exercise ‘Keswick’,at RAF North Luffenham.This autogyro came out best of all aircraft participating in the exercise!!). Note the Saudi Arabian Ports Authority logo in front of the Police markings.The WA117 has taken part in many special tasks.

Ken ,doing what he does best – showing just how stable his fleet of autogyros are – hands off the controls and ‘riding side-saddle’.This is G-AXAS Zeus111.He says that even in rough air,flying hands off is no problem.Picture taken in 2005.

Ken flying Zeus 111 in 2005,to a local fly-in ,near his Norfolk home.This aircraft featured in the sci-fi film’The Martian Chronicles’ in which she ‘explored the surface of Mars’.The film was shot in the Volcanic Canary Islands.

WA-122/RR,G-BGGW,the second of Ken’s two seaters,using a 130hp Rolls Royce engine. This autogyro has taken part in a number of Military Trials and Exercises both in the UK and at NATO bases in Germany.It has also been used in specialised search work,flown solo. It has also carried an F52 aerial camera in ‘beam shallow oblique mode’,capable of taking photos 10km across the border into East Germany – during the Cold War period.

Ken flying onto the back of a moving truck.He did 25 take offs and 8 landings by this method of testing,before flying from small ships at sea – too small to accommodate a helicopter on deck. I remember Ken telling me during one conversation we had that many of the actual deck landing tests were done on small shops out in the North Sea during winter and he well remembers when flying to one such ship,thinking that the only thing keeping him from going into the very cold sea,was a very narrow magneto spark-gap!!

Hugely dramatic view from Ken’s autogyro during filming of the ‘Spaghetti James Bond film ‘Dick Smart,agent 2.007,filmed around Rio. Picture shows the Corcovado mountain with the iconic stature of Christ and the ridge-back road to the Donna Martin mountain in the background. Ken says the road had high fences on either side but nevertheless served as a ‘runway’ for several cross-wind landings and take-offs!!
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