Autogyro history correction
I fear that a significant error in autogyro history was published in the June Pilot which you may wish to correct. It was in the box entitled ‘A bit of history’ on page 43. There it is stated that Igor Bensen’s gyrocopters were developed from the Focke Achgelis SA 330 — the gyro kite towed by German submarines in WWII. That was untrue. Igor Bensen, an American serviceman based in the UK, obtained a Hafner Rotochute from British Army Surplus Stores at the termination of the war and took it back with him to the USA. It was the Rotochute which was the origin of the Bensen Gyrocopters.
The Rotochute was developed at the Airborne Forces Research Establishment at Sherburn in Elmet by a team led by Raoul Hafner (see attached). I was fortunate to meet all but two of the team and was especially privileged in being a member of the enthusiastic and innovative team at Bristol Helicopters during the late 1940s and ’50s before it was subsumed into Westland in 1960 and closed down.
Two SA 330 gyro kites were held at Cranfield in the 1950s and I became familiar with them and had plans to attempt to fly one. Fortunately, that plan was stopped by the College authorities and so I am still here to tell the tale today!
Attached are pictures of the SA330 and the Rotochute. Note that the former had a three-bladed rotor, whilst the Rotochute used a two-bladed teetering rotor and which was used in all of Bensen’s machines and subsequent developments by Ken Wallis.