Au­t­o­gyro his­tory cor­rec­tion

Pilot - - FLIGHT TEST - Reg Austin, Brack­nell

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.

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