back to article James Bond's autogyro revived by Brit spec-ops pilots

Former British Army pilots, drawing on military experience carrying out covert surveillance with secret special-forces units, have decided to revive the autogyro - a long-lost aircraft design of the 1930s, probably most famous for its use in the James Bond movies. The Little Nellie autogyro as used by James Bond, with designer …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward

    Tsk tsk

    You show one of the most famous autogyros but overlook the designer and pilot.

    (former Wing Commander) Kenneth Wallis MBE,

    I don't know if he is still flying (hes 94?) but he was until recently.

    1. Chris Holford

      Ken Wallis

      Yes; still flying. and aiming for a speed record!!


  2. Al 6

    Named after more Bond-featured tech?

    The Gyrojet pistol featured in the same film.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks useful

    How's the cost (and TCO and so on) compare to the fully unmanned stuff?

    And, well, how hard is it to keep such a thing flyworthy? Is it usable as an air-taxi? The short take off and landing are definately features, but a glorified moped is maybe not the thing the over-monied executive has in mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Who easy to maintain?

      well bearing in mind a couple of engineers at my old factory knocked one up in the back shed, not hard at all.

  4. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I thought a GyroJet was a rocket gun

    as used by Bond in 'You Only Live Twice'

    but I'd also quite like a go in any civil version, it looks a lot cooler than the RAF2000 which is the only other (partially) enclosed autogyro I've seen. If it's got a reasonable cruising speed and range then even better.

  5. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    ps: Don't Rotorway make a Scorpion Executive kit helicopter

    I see potential confusion on both Gyrojet and Scorpion brand names. Oh well, at least they didn't call it an iPad.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Come on now, it can't be expensive to make one of those, it looks like a glorified moped!

    I'll have ten.

  7. /\/\j17

    Autogyros - The True Winners of The Battle of Britain!

    Ahh, the so often over-looked autogyro - the aircraft that won the Battle of Britain that no-one has ever heard of.

    In 1940 it wasn't the number or quality of aircraft/pilots that won the BoB (as we didn't have many of either) but the fact we had radar and so knew where the Germans were before they got there.

    Of course a 1940 radar system wasn't something you just switched on but something that needed daily calibration. You regularly needed to point it at something sat, stationary at a known point in the sky - a job perfect for an autogyro...

    1. Brutus
      Black Helicopters

      Not wanting to be picky, but ...

      How did the autogyro sit stationary in the sky? As noted in the article, without a strong headwind, the things can't hover.

      1. /\/\j17

        OK, loose language

        OK, they didn't sit in a stationary position but they can fly in a very tight figure of eight that is more than good-enough for calibrating the radar.

        Not as good as a helicopter but orders of magnitude better than a fixed wing (and using less fuel than a chopper).

        1. Brutus

          fair enough

          and thanks for the clarification.

          have a pint.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Low stall speed

        Autogyros can go down as low as 15 mph. Can't recall the stall speed for the Avro Rota (licence built Cierva C.30) but if it could do 30 mph into a 10 mph headwind, it wouldn't be moving fast on a radar display.

  8. Dirk Koopman
    Thumb Up

    Did you talk to Ken?

    As he would have told you that he went a long way down this track, only have the MOD remind him that one of his autogyros crashed spectacularly - at Farnborough - in front of everyone when he and Vintons nearly went into production. They carefully gloss over the fact that the *helicopter* pilot had very few hours on type and did a manoeuvre that Ken had specifically (and repeatedly) told him not to do. Coupled with this, the various (non Ken) homebuilts, and even some of the upcoming commercial examples, have a frankly bad safety record. A lot of pilot error and some technical problems seeming to be the cause. Even the chap that taught me to fly one (in Cornwall) died because some idiot "borrowed" the single nut that held the rotor on and he didn't notice until the rotor came off when the autogyro glider was several feet in the air, with a student on board. Yes, that was the machine that I learned on, and not many months afterwards...

    Autogyros have always suffered since.

    Doesn't stop me wanting one though.

    Maybe now that we have CAA Part G, a lot more "official" research and generally better understanding how these amazing machines work things will change. I do hope so.

    1. Dave Bell

      Some people don't deserve to be aviators.

      What I get from all that is that doing the wrong thing gets you killed.

      Just like every other 'plane that ever left the ground.

      And "borrowing" the nut that holds the rotor on? Whisky Tango Foxtrot?

    2. Steve the Cynic

      Re: Did you talk to Ken?

      The manoeuvre in question (at Farnborough) was a sharp transition from nose-up to nose-down. The rotor is a gyroscope, and tried to continue rotating in the same direction as before (axis toward the rear). The body of the craft wanted it to be axis toward the front. The rotor flexed (as they do) and collided with the propeller and/or tail with predictable effects on the continued flight-worthiness of the craft.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        @Dave Bell

        "And "borrowing" the nut that holds the rotor on? "

        I think the equivalent in helicopter terms this is called the "Jesus bolt"

        However even the professionals have there FUBAR's.

        IIRC had a piece on composites and reported the perception of composite weakness when an F117 took off and it's composite wing parted company from the fuselage (can't trust that dang carbon fibre and glue, pah). The article went on to explain the *real* reason.

        Wing secured with 8 (large, specialised) bolts

        7 left on the workbench when it took off.

        Presumably 8 will handle maximum wing loading in high g maneuvers. Being this is a stealth aircraft I cannot imagine *anyone* being allowed near it who was not USAF. Likewise I don't think an abject apology was really going to cut it either.

  9. DaveB


    There are lots of these flying, they fall into the microlight category we have one at our local club

  10. chr0m4t1c
    Black Helicopters

    I thought

    The reason why the police use helicopters is because they can hover over an area where a suspect has gone to ground and/or chase after speeding vehicles. In both cases they are used to direct ground forces as well as collect video surveillance.

    I can see how these would be of use in addition to 'copters, but if they can't hover or fly at suitably high speeds, then they're not likely to be good replacements.

    Wasn't there a problem with flying auto-giro with too-high a wind speed causing them to fail in some catastrophic way? Or am I thinking of something else like microlights?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The police do indeed need a stable platform for things like their thermal cameras when doing suspect searches. They are also quite keen on the VTOL capabilities of helicopters. They can set down at the site of an emergency if required. More importantly perhaps they do not need to be based at an airfield, but can be based at the most convenient location for the area they operate in. They can also have multiple bases.

  11. Graham Bartlett

    "You only live twice" war story

    Not long back they had the director of "You only live twice" on Desert Island Discs (UK radio programme, for non-Brits). Apparently they asked the pilot to get closer to the pool of boiling mud at the bottom of the volcano, so he did. Then he flew round and round inside the rim of the volcano. Director says, "OK, we've got enough film, he can come back now." "You don't understand", say the support crew, "the wind's dropped and he can't get out". So the pilot flew round and round, and fuel got lower and lower, and the director was thinking that he was going to have basically killed a war-hero test pilot for the film. Then at the last minute the wind got up enough that the pilot could get enough altitude to get over the volcano rim and get out. *Way* lucky!

    1. VoodooForce
      Black Helicopters

      Dunno about that

      last year I walked into the crater north of Kagoshima to confirm that Bond's mission had been successful and tasted the water. Heaps of sulphur vents but it wasn't hot. It may have cooled down since then though.

      Auto Gyros were also used in Mad Max2 or Road Warrior movie. The guy that built the 2 used in Max2, and I think 3, lived around the block from me. he built them in his garage. I used to cut through his yard as a short cut till his neighbour got a large and very angry dog.

  12. TedF
    Thumb Up

    Other autogyros are available. .

    Other Companies have been developing Autogyros (Gyroplanes?) for some time -

    Celier have Rotax powered Gyros that are being assessed by Police forces.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wouldn't pointing a FLIR camera at the sky show one of these up as a bright spec amongst the cold sky.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters


      Yes. But a much smaller speck than a helicopter. Less power required to keep it in the air = smaller engine = less heat.

  14. Gareth Jones 2
    Black Helicopters

    Whirly-wing 1930s protocopter ??

    They were first invented in the 1930's but are also in current production. The CAA G-INFO site lists quite a few examples on the UK register (about a dozen by Ken Wallis and 9 Mangi M16s), and there is a M16 up for sale on the AFORS site at the moment for a mere £56k. They are classed as Gyroplanes, not microlights, so to fly one you need a PPL(G), not a microlight licence. Had a fly in one last year, well cool but out of my price range. Have a look at gyrocopterexperience if you want more info. Black (Gyrocopters) - obviously.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Reimnds me of the market the "Optica" was aimed at

    Pity someone burnt down the factory.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oooh yes!

      I'd forgotten the Optica it was going to totally revolutionise the world of light aircraft wasn't it?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Look at the movie poster!

    You'll see that James is wearing his dinner jacket while having his arms crossed.

    So I guess another great thing about autogyros is that you can fly them with your knees while 2-3 other aircraft are shooting at you!!!

    Mine's the dinner jacket with the keys to the Aston-Martin in the pocket :)

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Marketing Hack

      "So I guess another great thing about autogyros is that you can fly them with your knees while 2-3 other aircraft are shooting at you!!!"


    2. Dirk Koopman
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Look at the movie poster! → #

      You can fly them completely hands and feet off.

      This is one of Ken Wallis's favourite party tricks when he does demos. And it he does it at 100' at 40mph close to the crowd line, just so all the pilots amongst the spectators get the point.

  17. Eduard Coli

    Cheaper at any price

    How much cheaper will they be than a RPG or LMG?

    Don't get us wrong, we like gyroplanes, autogyros, gyrocopters.

    Who can forget the gyro captain out of MM2/RW?

    Though shed a tear for the poor hapless pilot in a slow moving, low flying vehicle.

  18. paulc
    Thumb Up

    Germans towed them behind submarines

    so they could spot convoys from far away...

  19. Mips
    Jobs Halo

    I hope they are not serious..

    With the cantilever from the engine through to the rotor mount Gyrojet has some serious structural engineering to sort out. This will affect cost and weight. Kenneth Wallis knew the problem and the answer: keep the load and lift close together. That is how you dare go for speed records, the Girojet will fold up at half the speed. And why? Just for a bit of style.

    One thing I have always wondered. There are advantages to having a two blade rotor, mainly it is easy to park and garage and even drive about. However with higher loads, would a four blade rotor be more efficient and a lot smaller?

    They say comparisons are odorous. True. However if you remember the task is as a flying camera mount; the fact that it is not as fast and cannot hover has to be weighed against low vibration and duration on site. With an autopilot and auto stabilised camera mount an autogiro looks ideal. Ok so so you cannot do motorway chases, so use a fixed wing aircraft. The bottom line is that it will cost about as much to operate as the average police mobile speed trap.

    Do more for less. Remember.

    1. Dirk Koopman

      Re: I hope they are not serious..

      The rotor "teeters" or wobbles, if you will, as it goes round. This is how it manages to deal with the advancing/retreating blade asymmetric lift issues that helicopters have, that are dealt with by swash plates and linkages and such that change that angle of attack of each blade depending on its position as it goes around the circle.

      See: at about 04:10 to see the mechanism. It isn't offset from the control pivot, so it won't be as stable as he would like, but that's a different problem.

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up


    "One thing I have always wondered. There are advantages to having a two blade rotor, mainly it is easy to park and garage and even drive about. However with higher loads, would a four blade rotor be more efficient and a lot smaller?"

    Another option would be contra-rotating main rotors. Not sure how you ensure they spin in opposite directions but I think there is an aerodynamic tweak that would ensure it.

    A trickier issue would be if you can divert power to the rotors for a near vertical take off (some autogyros have had this option)

    Compact storage retained but potentially shorter blades and higher lift.

  21. Dirk Koopman

    Ken Wallis demonstrating

    Note the length of the takeoff run :-) Just as well, 'cos his field is not *that* big.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cracking stuff.

      Bearing in mind he's 85 in that documentary he seems to have steady hand still.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Long lost?

    Can you clarify that comment please? I was unaware the autogyro was a long lost design, there are still plenty of them flying around the world.

  23. John F***ing Stepp

    Wow, you British types and your Black Autogyros.

    Well Dirk a helicopter pilot like to get killed in one of these; the controls are all wonky.

    (This is important and the test will have this at about 200 feet actual.)

    You do not! want that rotor to stop and that can happen if you treat it as if it is a helicopter; it kind of spins over on its back and you die.*

    A few 'true gyro-copters' were made; they could take off from a standing start by spinning up the top rotor. In fiction The Shadow used one. (William Gibson, AKA Maxwell Grant.)

    *The control confusion is my main problem with these things; a good helicopter pilot has the wrong reflexes to fly one and will end up getting hurt and not even know why.

    You have to learn the craft.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021