Au­t­o­gyro mem­o­ries

Pilot - - Airmail - Barry Tem­pest FRAES

I thor­oughly en­joyed David Hast­ings’ story on fly­ing the Wal­lis au­t­o­gy­ros at the Nor­folk and Nor­wich Aero Club in the mid-1960s. I still have a woollen bob­ble hat knit­ted for me by Jill Votier with the club’s name.

In 1965 Bar­rie Shaw and I went over to Swan­ton from the Mcaully Fly­ing Group at Lit­tle Snor­ing to sam­ple the WA-116. Peter Mal­len­der was the au­t­o­gyro CFI, hav­ing been con­verted to the type by Ken Wal­lis, and he briefed us both on the tech­niques to be fol­lowed. This was be­fore the days of weight­shift mi­cro­lights so the re­versed nose­wheel steer­ing ar­range­ments caused a bit of con­fu­sion. I found the best thing was to leave the steer­ing alone un­til stopped and then to use the nose­wheel steer­ing bar in the op­po­site man­ner to that which one was used to while taxy­ing very slowly. Peter likened it to a bi­cy­cle han­dle­bar steer­ing and this was true but one does not taxi a bike. Old habits die hard. In the air there was no prob­lem as the rud­der ped­als worked in the usual sense.

An­other quirk of the type was the enor­mous torque re­ac­tion from the 90 horse­power Mc­cul­loch drone en­gine. The throt­tle was high geared so all the power came in quickly. The re­sult was that, de­spite point­ing the nose at, say, 12 o’clock, the ma­chine tracked at thirty-odd de­grees to the right at about 1 o’clock – de­spite full left rud­der ap­pli­ca­tion. Even­tu­ally came a new pilot, who weighed around six­teen stones, and the de­vi­a­tion in track cou­pled to slower ac­cel­er­a­tion and a longer take­off run caused the ma­chine to tip over side­ways be­fore lift off. The pilot was, like Bond’s mar­tini, shaken but not stirred, but the au­t­o­gyro was se­verely dam­aged.

The Mc­cul­loch en­gine was de­signed for pi­lot­less drone tar­get ve­hi­cles that were shot at by AAA bat­ter­ies at ack ack prac­tice camps, our near­est be­ing at Wey­bourne on the North Nor­folk coast. The life ex­pectancy of the drone de­pended on the pro­fi­ciency of the gun­ners but en­gine re­li­a­bil­ity was not its strong point. The sec­ond au­t­o­gyro at the club was de­stroyed when the en­gine failed above a soft ploughed field. The PFL was to­tally suc­cess­ful up to touch­down when the air­craft tipped head over heels. I think Ken re­alised then that or­di­nary club pi­lots were not re­ally suited to his sin­gle-seat and drone-pow­ered air­craft. Two-seaters and more re­li­able en­gines even­tu­ally came onto the scene but Ken never re­peated his aero club ex­per­i­ment.

In the air it han­dled like a fixed wing aero­plane pro­vid­ing one re­mem­bered to main­tain a pos­i­tive g load­ing. Any nega­tive g meant in­stant dis­as­ter. Strapped on and sit­ting on a bi­cy­cle seat, one’s legs over the void with noth­ing be­tween them and the ground be­neath, took a bit of get­ting used to. But with one’s trouser legs tucked into your socks, min­imis­ing any ten­dency for the fam­ily crown jew­els to freeze on a cool day, it was quite an ex­pe­ri­ence. It was a short chap­ter in my long fly­ing ca­reer and one that gave me and oth­ers a lot of fun.

David Hast­ings, writer of the ‘Au­t­o­gyro mem­o­ries’ let­ter, re­sponds: I knew Barry from the Swan­ton Mor­ley days and the B-24 flight in 1992. Nice to read his com­ments on the Wal­lis.

I can­not re­mem­ber we no­ticed the torque too much; our prob­lem was that the rud­der was so sen­si­tive. Both the au­t­o­gy­ros we bent were re­paired by Ken.

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