Fairey FB-1 Gyrodyne - Design and Development

Design and Development

In April 1946, Fairey announced a private-venture project for a rotary-wing aircraft, to be built to a design originated by Dr. J.A.J. Bennett when he was Chief Technical Officer of the Cierva Autogiro Company, during the period 1936-1939. The Gyrodyne, designated C.41 by the Cierva Autogiro Company, was in 1938 successfully tendered to the Royal Navy in response to Specification S.22/38 for a naval helicopter. Though preliminary work started on the project, it was abandoned with the outbreak of the Second World War, and G & J Weir, Ltd., the financiers of the Cierva Autogiro Company, declined to undertake further development in addition to their successful experiments with the W.5 and W.6 lateral twin-rotor helicopters. After the Second World War, the Cierva Autogiro Company was engaged with the development of the Cierva W.9 "Drainpipe" and the W.11 Air Horse helicopters under the direction of Cyril Pullin, and Bennett joined Fairey in late 1945 as head of the newly established rotary wing aircraft division.

The Gyrodyne was a compact, streamlined rotorcraft weighing just over 4,410 lb (2,000 kg) and powered by a 525 hp (390 kW) Alvis Leonides radial engine, the power from which could be transmitted in variable ratios to the fixed-shaft/swashplate-actuated tilting hub-controlled rotor and the wing tip mounted propeller. The Gyrodyne possessed the hovering capability of a helicopter, while its propeller provided the necessary thrust for forward flight to enable its rotor, driven at low torque in cruise flight, to operate at low collective pitch with the tip-path plane parallel to the flight path to minimise vibration at high airspeed.

A government contract to Specification E.4/46 was awarded for two prototypes with the first Fairey Gyrodyne exhibited as an almost complete airframe at White Waltham on 7 December 1946.

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