Friends of The Helicopter Museum

Fairey Rotodyne - The Book

The Rotodyne was a large compound helicopter, designed and built by the Fairey Aviation Company in the late 1950s.
It was a bold concept, taking the form of a 53,000lb, 65 seat, VTOL airliner, capable of operating from city centre heliports, which could also be constructed as an even heavier military transport. Both would combine helicopter and gyroplane technology to achieve forward speeds in excess of 200 mph.
 
Fairey Rotodyne   One very successful 33,000lb, 40 seat demonstrator prototype was produced, which first flew in 1957. In the course of a four year concept proving programme it claimed a world record speed of 190.9 mph over a 100 km closed circuit.

In June 1959 it flew from London to Paris, via Brussels, halving the time taken by any other rotary wing aircraft of the day.

The Rotodyne was never allowed to fulfil its promise and the sole prototype was destroyed in 1962, before any steps could be taken to preserve what had been so painstakingly gained.
Photo: J Thinesen, SSF photo archive.
In 1981 The Helicopter Museum was able to acquire a few remaining major Rotodyne components including a 2m section of the fuselage, one Napier Eland 504 turboprop engine, the rotor head with pylon internal structure, a complete test rotor blade and several tip jets. Most of the items were refurbished, by the Museum, in 1995/96, and are now on public display. Pictures at the bottom of this page.

Fairey Rotodyne

By David Gibbings, published by History Press

April 1st 2009 saw the publication of the first book ever written about the Rotodyne.

On Saturday 25th April 2009, a celebration and book launch was held at The Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare, to mark the publication of "Fairey Rotodyne" and to organise a gathering of some of the people who were involved in the development of the Rotodyne. An "invitation only" presentation, "Requiem for the Rotodyne", by the author, David Gibbings, took place during the morning with a book signing session, open to the general public, in the afternoon.

David Gibbings joined the Royal Air Force, in 1949, as an apprentice and subsequently trained as a navigator. He joined Fairey Aviation, in 1955, to work on guided weapons. In 1959 he transferred to the Fairey Aircraft Division, in Hayes, to work on Rotodyne tip jets and to fly in the Rotodyne as Flight Engineer.
After Westland acquired Fairey in 1960 and on conclusion of the Rotodyne programme in 1962, he worked on the new Wasp and Scout helicopters before moving to Yeovil in 1964.

"Fairey Rotodyne" by David Gibbings
After three years in the Westland Flight Test Department at Yeovil, Gibbings was appointed Project Flight Test Engineer for the new Lynx programme, in 1967, and flew in the first prototype, XW835, on its maiden flight on 21st March 1971. After periods as Helicopter Icing Trials Manager from 1977 and Deputy Chief Flight Test engineer from 1980, he was appointed Chief Flight Test Engineer in 1989. He remained in that post until retirement in 1993. Since then he has continued to work, in the UK and overseas, as an engineering author, consultant, lecturer and aviation artist. He presented 'The Cierva Lecture' to the Royal Aeronautical Society in 2003. 

David Gibbings makes no secret of the fact that he has Parkinson's disease and offers his own full life as evidence that the human spirit can prevail over most difficulties. It is appropriate that the book launch took place during Parkinson's Awareness Week, 20th - 26th April 2009

In 2010 David Gibbings was honoured as a Fellow of the Society of Flight Test Engineers and, a few weeks later, he received one of the Hampshire Libraries Collection Awards, for the best books in Aviation subjects published in 2009, for his "Fairey Rotodyne". In 2014 he was awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours.

Rotodyne components on Display Rotodyne fuselage section Napier Eland engine from the Rotodyne
Pictures above show many of the Rotodyne components which are on show at The Helicopter Museum. The rotor head with pylon and tip jet (left), the 2m fuselage section (centre) and the Napier Eland engine (right).
 
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