The Rotodyne Fails To Take Off

Bacon and eggs, chocolate and peanut butter, salt and pepper; some things just go together. You’d think that a mashup of an airplane and a helicopter would be great, right? The Fairey Rotodyne was just such a thing from the late 1950s and while it looked to be the wave of the future, it never took off — at least, not in the business sense at least. [Mustard] has an excellent video about the machine including some flight footage and explains why it failed to take over the aviation market. You can watch the video below.

While it does look like a helicopter mated with an airplane, it’s actually a bit different. The rotor isn’t normally powered at all. However, it does turn in forward flight and generates about half the lift the plane needs. That explains the stubby wings. The topside rotor has small jets at the tips that can be used during vertical take off, landing, and hovering modes.

One of the craft’s four tip jets.

For its time, it was fast and efficient, especially compared to contemporary helicopters. This type of plane was known as an autogyro and actually appeared in the 1930s as a safety mechanism since an autogyro can land in an autorotation mode.

According to the video, the noisy tip jets and production delays killed the beast. There was only one prototype built, but there was something we found very attractive about it. There have been, of course, other autogyros. British, German, Japanese, and Russian military have used autogyros at one time or another. The United States Postal Service was known to employ at least one.

Even today, there are about a thousand autogyros used by different military and police organizations. They are cheaper than a helicopter to buy and fly. Sadly, though, it doesn’t look like autogyros will ever become a common sight. Like an airship, they seem like a callback to an earlier time when you have a chance to spot one.

We are always surprised we don’t see more model autogyros. We wonder how they’d be at cutting down trees.

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RC Plane Converted To Autogyro

Out in the RC Airplane world, there is a great airframe called the Slow Stick. There is not much going on with this plane as it only has the bare necessities, a motor, wing, tail and a fiberglass tube (hence the ‘stick’ part of Slow Stick) as the fuselage. Yes, and as the name suggests it is slow. Although it’s intent is to be a starter plane for beginners, even experienced pilots like it because it is cheap, easy to repair and fun to modify. [StephanB] is the type of guy who likes to modify things so he set out to convert his Slow Stick to an Autogyro.

An Autogyro can be described as a cross between a plane and a helicopter. Like a plane it has a propeller that provides forward thrust. Unlike a plane, it does not have a wing. To provide lift, there is a large helicopter-like rotor on top of the craft but this rotor is not powered. It only spins when the craft is moving forward. Lift is created when the rotor is spinning, allowing the Autogyro to take off.

[StephanB] started by removing his Slow Stick’s wing. This takes all of 2 seconds and consists of only removing 2 rubber bands. Next he built a frame for the rotor. It was made to fit the wing mounts of the Slow Stick so that it could be quickly converted back to a plane. With a spinning Autogyro rotor, the side that the rotor is traveling in the forward direction creates more lift than the side of the rotor traveling rearward. To compensate for this unequal lift, [StephanB] added a sideways tilting rotor mount. An RC servo is connected to the mount and allows remote control of the rotor to balance out the lift.

Slow Stick Auto Gyro