Why The Idea Of Half Plane Half Helicopter Never Took Off ?


Why The Idea Of Half Plane Half Helicopter Never Took Off ?


The first helicopter flew some 80 years ago, but never became a means of mass transportation. .

Was it a helicopter? or was it a plane?

Fairey Rotodyne appearance was indeed strange.

It was developed during the 50s and early 60s -in the UK, government hoped it would become a means of mass transportation.

Taking off vertically, using helicopter rotors with jet on her toes, but traveling forward turboprops in the wings.

The idea was to allow rapid movement between towns and villages in the UK and across Europe.

But the project was killed by a combination of lack of funds and concerns about noise.

“It was an idea that was ahead of its time,” says Michael Oakey, editor of the magazine “aviation historian.”

“But It never really got underway properly, It was difficult to find buyers and much interest.”
Why the idea of half-plane half-helicopter Never took off5
A delegation from the Swedish Parliament observes Rotodyne at the aviation fair in 1959.

The project began in 1953, when the British European Airways (BEA) asked by the Fairey Aviation to design a helicopter type aircraft for commercial passengers.

That was just 17 years after the German engineer Heinrich Focke created the Focke-Wulf Fw61, considered by many as the first practical helicopter in the world.

BEA, which began helicopter passenger services on a small scale in 1950, wanted something that could take off with ease in an urban area and was big enough to carry more than 50 people quickly to another city.

If you could land in a small space within the city, you could capitalize on the growing market for European business travel.

Fairey came up with the Rotodyne, classified as a compound helicopter: essentially a semiavión-semihelicópter.

The Ministry  supported the project with funding for technical development.

The Rotodyne had a rotor spanning 27 meters.
Why the idea of half-plane half-helicopter Never took off4
The crew of the prototype Fairey Rotodyne in 1958

A prototype 40-seater made its first flight on November 6, 1957. After some modifications, had its first public demonstration on January 5, 1959.

During the trip a new speed record for rotor craft of 307 kilometers per hour was reached.

The Rotodyne had a range of 700 km, enough to reach from London to Glasgow, Paris or even Amsterdam.

On 16 June 1959 she flew abroad for the first time to Paris from London via Dover and Brussels. It took an hour and 36 minutes to get to Brussels and 58 minutes to get from Brussels to Paris, much faster than by ferry and train or plane and even car.

The following month, the Rotodyne demonstrated its potential outside of the passenger market, carrying a 31-meter section of a bridge 5km to the River Thames.
Why the idea of half-plane half-helicopter Never took off3
The prototype for its first flight to the press in 1958.

BEA published a series of newspaper ads in 1958. One Rotodyne described as “neither plane or helicopter, but a bit of both, and is the first airliner in the world with vertical takeoff”.

Another proclaimed: “This service will take families on vacation, business entrepreneurs and increase the self-sufficiency of each provincial center, providing quick and direct communication is now so essential to the development of trade”.

However there was a problem with the noise of the jet head in the rotor blades, making it less convenient to operate in urbanized areas.

Government officials estimated that noise levels during takeoff and landing were “intolerable” and that those 305 meters Rotodyne in flight were “unpleasantly noisy.”

Why the idea of half-plane half-helicopter Never took off2Nursing Corps members of the Royal Navy demonstrate the capacity of the Rotodyne.

In 1958, the Canadian company bought a Rotodyne Okanagan, but the noise was too high for travel between Vancouver and the City of Victoria, and the service was never used.

Heli Air Monaco, one of the few services passenger helicopter in the world.

In the UK, the heliport could not be close to business centers “for reasons of noise,” stated a  magazine New Scientist in 1961.

In February 1962, the Minister of British Aviation announced the end of the project Rotodyne noting that the development cost had reached US $ 16 million.

“It was a good idea, and if modern materials such as carbon fiber, had been available to make it lighter and less noisy, could have had a great success,” said Oakey.

Will Revive in the XXI century?
Why the idea of half-plane half-helicopter Never took off
An idea that was gone.

The Rotodyne was scrapped in late 1962.

The exnavegante British Air Force (RAF) David Gibbings, in his book “Fairey Rotodyne”, criticized the government of the time for “discarding it without consideration” .

The Rotodyne was not the first attempt to launch a scheduled helicopter service, but the projected scale was unprecedented at the time.

British Helicopter Association believes that the helicopter “can help solve the transport problems of the century”, without the need for major infrastructure spending.

However, more than half a century later, would there be any possibility of something similar in scale and ambition of Rotodyne be turned into reality?

“The helicopter has become a sort of equivalent of executive aircraft for short trips,” said Oakey. “Maybe it will remain so, as a matter of simple economics.”





One Response to Why The Idea Of Half Plane Half Helicopter Never Took Off ?

  1. Gernot Trolf says:

    With our 21st century technology we are not able to reduce the noise/ Come on you guys. Put some whiz kidd engineers from Google to work and we’ll have a working model in no time.

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