November 2014

2014 NovemberFairey/Westland Rotodyne

The Rotodyne was a large compound helicopter, developed in the 1950s to provide a fast heli-airliner service between city centers. The proposed 40 seat aircraft had a single four blade rotor powered by tip-jets for take-off and landing. In cruise flight, the tip-jets were extinguished, transforming the Rotodyne into a large gyroplane. Driven by two 3500hp, Napier Eland Propeller turbines the aircraft could achieve cruising speeds above 200mph.

The rotor drive system was based on techniques developed by Doblhoff in Germany during World War 2. Rotodyne flew for the first time in November 1957. During the subsequent four years, the flight regime was proven and most development issues resolved, although its noise level remained unacceptably high. When Fairey was acquired by Westland in 1960, a number of overseas orders had been placed, and Kaman had secured a license agreement to build Rotodyne in the USA.

The proposed production aircraft (Type ‘Z’) was even larger, with a total weight of 58,500lb, capable of carrying up to 70 passengers and a military version was planned with a gross weight of 68,300lb. Both aircraft were powered by Rolls-Royce Tyne turboprops 6,330hp. When the UK government placed a limit on future spending, the Royal Air Force and British European Airways withdrew. Westland would not continue as a private venture and the project was abandoned.

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2014 History Calendar Index