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Catastrophe at Farnborough: How the Death of John W. C. "Pee Wee" Judge on 11 September 1970 at the SBAC Air Show in a Wallis WA-117 Autogyro Changed British Popular Rotorcraft History

Dr. Bruce H. Charnov, Hofstra University

May 13, 2019

https://doi.org/10.4050/F-0075-2019-14618

Abstract:
At 1414 hours on 11 September 1970 John W. C. "Pee Wee" Judge lost control of a Wallis WA-117 autogyro and plunged to his death in front of the viewing stand at the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) air show at Farnborough. From loss of control until the fatal impact was less than 7 seconds, and as the aircraft was the center of attention (including HRH Queen Elizabeth II), it was photographed from different angles by high quality cine film cameras which enabled extensive analysis. The official accident report would not be issued for 3 and half years, essentially confirming Wing Commander Ken Wallis' own conclusions based on a frame-by-frame viewing of the films - the end result was that Wallis, the most famous autogyro pilot and popularizer since his stellar performance with his WA-116 autogyro "Little Nellie" in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, exited from public life and pursued "the autogyro as a working aircraft" for the next 42 years. Although he would later assume the ceremonial role as "Patron of the British Rotorcraft Society" and of The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, he steadfastly refused to facilitate construction of his autogyros by amateur builders. (Two unsuccessful models, the Wombat and the Dingbat, would eventually be built by others, the result of what Wallis would label "eyeball engineering"). His sui generis status as a 'developer' had allowed him to develop the most advanced autogyro models (and begin dominating world records for the next three decades), but the British popular rotorcraft movement would not see any benefits, and never recover from the impact in public perception and governmental skepticism as to the safety of the small autorotational aircraft.


Catastrophe at Farnborough: How the Death of John W. C. "Pee Wee" Judge on 11 September 1970 at the SBAC Air Show in a Wallis WA-117 Autogyro Changed British Popular Rotorcraft History

  • Presented at Forum 75
  • 22 pages
  • SKU # : F-0075-2019-14618
  • History

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Catastrophe at Farnborough: How the Death of John W. C. "Pee Wee" Judge on 11 September 1970 at the SBAC Air Show in a Wallis WA-117 Autogyro Changed British Popular Rotorcraft History

Authors / Details:
Dr. Bruce H. Charnov, Hofstra University