THE SOLE ROTODYNE AT FARNBOROUGH, 1958.
Unsurprisingly for such a radical new concept, the prototype Rotodyne underwent extensive ground testing before its first flight, accruing some 50hr of rotor trials and 100hr of engine-runs, as seen here with both of its Napier Elands running at high power. Still in its bare-metal finish, the prototype first flew on November 6, 1957.
The sole Rotodyne prototype, designated as the “Type Y” by Fairey (the production version was to be the “Type Z”) made an appearance at every annual SBAC show at Farnborough during 1958-61, and is seen here peeling away from the camera aircraft during a photographic flight over the Hampshire countryside in 1959.
In January 1959 the Rotodyne set a new helicopter world speed record over a 100km (62-mile) closed circuit of 191 m.p.h. (307km/h). The Rotodyne was fast, with a great deal of potential for development - but neither industry nor government was prepared to risk so much on such a new commercial and military concept.
Fairey Rotodyne, holder of the record for speed in a 100 km closed circuit by a convertipiane.
By this time wearing its blue, white and bare-metal colour scheme and bearing “Fairey Rotodyne” titles and its military serial, XE521, the prototype undergoes a flight in June 1959 in preparation for its appearance at the Paris Air Salon. Important orders from New York Airways and Canada’s Okanagan had been placed by this point.
During its June 1959 trip to the Paris Air Salon, the Rotodyne also dropped in to the Allee Verte (Groendreef) heliport in Brussels, home to Sabena’s helicopter operations since 1953. The visit played well for the type when BEA opened negotiations with Sabena in 1961 to operate a helicopter pooling arrangement for inter-city services. It ultimately came to nothing.
With the takeover of Fairey by Westland in early 1960, the Rotodyne’s markings were changed to reflect the transfer of the project to the new company, and RAF roundels and fin-flashes were applied to signify military interest.
This promotional Fairey item shows an artist’s impression of an early incarnation of the Rotodyne superimposed on a photograph of the Dome of Discovery on London’s South Bank during the Festival of Britain, suggesting this is probably a 1951-vintage proposal. The original design, to be powered by Armstrong Siddeley Mambas, was put forward in 1948.
The production “Type Z”, also known as the FA-1, was to be larger overall, with a capacity for up to 70 passengers and powered by Rolls-Royce Tyne turboprops with an RB.176 compressor unit in the rear of each nacelle to power the rotor tipjets. The wing was to be of greater area than that of the “Y”, with tapered leading edges on the outer sections.