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Ken Wallis Autogyro Pioneer Dies At 97

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the fare-thee-well dept.

Technology 49

First time accepted submitter gb7djk writes "Wing Commander Ken Wallis the developer and promoter of small autogyros died peacefully today 4th September, aged 97, at his home in Norfolk. Ken is mainly remembered for 'Little Nellie', the tooled up autogyro that took on some helicopters in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. He made the breakthrough discovery of the offset rotor head that made autogyros stable as well as many other aviation inventions. More info here and a video of him flying one of his creations (at the age of 95)."

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49 comments

Why Did He Die? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762037)

What was the cause of death?

Re:Why Did He Die? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762095)

Old age?

Oblig (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#44762195)

Yes, I'd like to send this letter to the Prussian Consulate in Siam by aero mail. Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro?

Re:Why Did He Die? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year ago | (#44762317)

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

Redd Foxx

o'care (0)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about a year ago | (#44762721)

Don't worry, Soylent Green has that covered. aka O'care 2.1

Re:Why Did He Die? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762727)

The cause of death was due to a terminal genetic illness that's inherited in the same manner as, for an example, diabetes. Although there's no known cure, it's debilitating side effects of physical deterioration before death can be suppressed by using good health practices that could extend one's life for several additional decades.

Unfortunately, there's no known cure and it's epidemic; anyone reaching adulthood will eventually succumb to the disease if they live long enough.

And this was before safety (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | about a year ago | (#44762047)

I love the video of a 95 year old man hand cranking a prop with no safety guard. Rash behavior like that will kill you before you reach 100, I bet!

Re:And this was before safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762207)

There's old pilots and there's bold pilots. And there are no old and bold pilots now it seems.

Re:And this was before safety (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762313)

I bet the real story is that he died peacefully in his sleep -- behind the stick of his autogyro, as it crashed into his house at 80kph.

Re:And this was before safety (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year ago | (#44762363)

Well said V.I.N.CENT.

Re:And this was before safety (3, Interesting)

milkmage (795746) | about a year ago | (#44762581)

Yeager, Chuck

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Yeager [wikipedia.org]

On October 14, 2012 on the 65th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier, Yeager did it again in a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, out of Nellis Air Force Base at the age of 89

he's old and bold. how many 89 year olds break Mach? and he was a test pilot for 30 years after he retired officially.

"The Right Stuff" is right.

Re:And this was before safety (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762637)

I've got a great-great-grandfather who founded a pharmaceutical company. And there are stories of how he would brew up the growth media for the pathogens to make his vaccines at home on the kitchen stove. Fast forward to the present and I've been spending the last few months trying to sort through all kinds of bureacracy and regulations to get some exome sequencing for a newphew with a genetic condition. One one hand, even just the fact that I can send a DNA saliva sample halfway around the world overnight would be mindblowing in my great-great-grandfather's day. But on the other hand, I doubt he had to spend days and days figuring out the relevant rules and regulations and forms and bureaucracy to actually be allowed to do something as simple as sending a a few mL of saliva through the mail.

I have the sense that we are increasingly living in a society where the limitations and obstacles we face are bureaucratic rather than technical.

mod up previous; not so much in Asia (0)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about a year ago | (#44762745)

That's N Amerika and Europe. In Asia they still get tired by such expensive and burdensome rules.

Re:And this was before safety (3, Funny)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44762713)

No helmet, no goggles - just undiluted awesome. He's like a character out of a Miyazaki film.

Re:And this was before safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762959)

Only unsafe if you don't know how to do it right. I flew gyroplanes for years at El Mirage and I can tell you that's a fun way to fly.

Re:And this was before safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44766779)

I love the video of a 95 year old man hand cranking a prop with no safety guard. Rash behavior like that will kill you before you reach 100, I bet!

I was enjoying it until, I thought, "Let's see how he handles this landing." *edit* Oh, he landed so poorly someone edited it out of the video. Too bad.

More autogyros being used (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about a year ago | (#44762101)

In the 1982 version of Annie, [wikipedia.org] Annie and Daddy Warbucks land an autogyro on the White House lawn. And, Doc Savage and his friends often used them, especially at night because they were so quiet, and could land on roofs and take off again.

Re:More autogyros being used (2)

Misagon (1135) | about a year ago | (#44764065)

... and in Bob Kane's original Batman comics, first printed in Detective Comics #31 in 1939, Batman did not use a "batplate" or a "batcopter". He used a "batgyro" [wikipedia.org] . The first "batarang" was introduced in the same panel.

Autogyros (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about a year ago | (#44762133)

While they are nice and work, this is not much of a story.
It is old-school tech and not that impressive. While it is sad someone died, this is a bit of information that does not warrant a news story. I am sorry to say that, but ho hum.

Re:Autogyros (4, Insightful)

mmell (832646) | about a year ago | (#44762299)

"...old-school tech..."

Yeah - because all of the new tech just sprang into existence via parthenogenesis, right? None of it has its roots in old school tech, after all. Then again, I can see where you wouldn't be impressed with a heavier-than-air flying machine that can transport a person significant distances at reasonably high speeds, or the kind of man who could invent one. I think, however, you will be in something of a minority around here.

Luddite.

Re:Autogyros (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762379)

Sad? The guy was 97 years old. We should all be so lucky to die at that age.

Re:Autogyros (2)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | about a year ago | (#44763035)

Modern Gyros are are anything but "old-school tech"...

Arrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5qhOsCUNX0 [youtube.com]
Calidus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AptB9l-ajSA [youtube.com]
Cavalon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS2ibF-eWTo [youtube.com]
Magni M24: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlaumLGZk50#t=1m30 [youtube.com]
...list goes on...

Re:Autogyros (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44763069)

I can't find it, but I once saw a graph showing efficiency for autogyros, planes, and helicopters. Planes are tremendously more efficient than autogyros for distance. I can't remember exactly how helicopters faired--based on speed, distance, etc--but in any event autogyros can't hover so they're not replacements for helicopters.

Basically, autogyros don't really fit into modern commercial needs. All the super sophisticated models are hybrids, but that makes them complex, and thus their utility is debatable.

There are niches where autogyros make sense, but they're not commercially viable niches. Anybody working on a commercial autogyro is burning money.

Re:Autogyros (2)

Skywings (943119) | about a year ago | (#44763439)

but in any event autogyros can't hover so they're not replacements for helicopters.

While it can't hover like a helicopter you can get it to fly really slowly into a really strong headwind (as with all other planes). It's almost like as if you're hovering.

RE: Autogyros (1)

n3r0.m4dski11z (447312) | about a year ago | (#44763043)

While the grammar and spelling are correct, this is not much of a comment.
It is old-school UID but not that impressive. While it is sad that you are lame, learning this bit of information does not warrant a slashdot post. I am sorry to say this, but ho hum.

Re:Autogyros (1)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | about a year ago | (#44763907)

I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than myself will come along and correct you about autogyros being obsolete.

I'll get them started: they're simpler/cheaper and are arguably more reliable than helicopters in case of mechanical failure. Any lingering safety concerns are largely a result of pilots used to other craft not understanding the handling characteristics of autogyros. The only major disadvantages vs. helicopters are they can't hover (though they can fly much slower than airplanes) and they can't do a vertical takeoff without tip jets or some other sort of specialized launcher. Important features, sure, but not always worth the attendant disadvantages.

Yummm... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#44762177)

I do love the sandwich, but I still prefer the handmade ones.

A great man... (4, Interesting)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | about a year ago | (#44762187)

...without which we would not have the Bruce Spence character in The Road Warrior!

Re:A great man... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762629)

That is the first thing I thought of too!

One odd bit of trivia: at the start of Mad Max III, Max is attacked from the air by a pilot played by... Bruce Spence. The character is listed in the credits as Jedediah the Pilot, so apparently not the same character as The Gyro Captain, though he does have a son (Jedediah Jr.) who would be about the right age to be The Feral Kid a few years on.

Re:A great man... (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#44762773)

I'm certain they're the same guy. Too much of a coincidence for a pilot to be the same actor in consecutive movies. And, your chronology doesn't work since the order is reversed.

Wait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762217)

What does this have to do with the plight of African Americans, Gay Americans, or the brutal rape, and molestation of Women Americans under the brutal hands of white Americans. The fact that this is even talked about on /. shows the inherant white privelege and racial intollerance that exists here on /.

More to the point this guy is old. Old white people have no place being discussed here on /..

As a supporter of NPR, and a member in good standing of the Liberal East Coast Elite, and a whole lot smarter than anyone who lives in the state of Texas or Oklahoma, I demand that this story be redacted and replaced with one about how members of the Replican Tea Party are engineering global warming in an effort buy up beach front property in Antarctica and bring back dinosaurs in order to eat off the proud young inner city black youth of America (tm)

That's what's wrong with /. these days... (1)

mmell (832646) | about a year ago | (#44762311)

Trolls just aren't what they used to be. Sad, really...

Re:That's what's wrong with /. these days... (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#44763173)

And when was the last time you saw a good flame war? The Internet is get awfully pedestrian nowadays.

Re:That's what's wrong with /. these days... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#44764145)

Ahh, that would indeed hit the ole spot. I'd love to grab some popcorn and follow a nice crispy flamewar.

Re:That's what's wrong with /. these days... (1)

Jade_Wayfarer (1741180) | about a year ago | (#44764627)

Indeed. Couple of years ago any news about Microsoft, Linux, Apple, Gnome, KDE, or even GPL/BSD would start a truly epic flamewar in the comments. Nowadays it's all "Insightful" and "Informative" with the rare cases of "Funny". Even religions and politics are not as... enkindling as they were. Looks like soon I'll need to by a house with a big nice lawn, dammit.

Re:That's what's wrong with /. these days... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#44769067)

The Internet is get awfully pedestrian nowadays.

No it isn't.

Re:Wait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762399)

As a supporter of FOX news and Rush, African Gay Women need to get off their useless asses and make some thing of their selves

Re:Wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44762447)

Hey, Professor Penn, fuck off.

Good Memories (5, Informative)

TrueSatan (1709878) | about a year ago | (#44762269)

I knew Ken when I worked at Weslake Developments in Rye, East Sussex, an engineering R&D company that designed and tested engines for the UK automotive and aviation industries (I was the firm's Costing Engineer at the time); he was one of the directors of the firm. He was always a calm and reasonable voice in often head debates over the future of the company. His accomplishments gave him a platform that got people to listen but it was his warmth and understanding, both of technical issues and the people involved, that made him so respected and such an asset to the company. His flair for the dramatic was never far away...he'd journey from Lydd Airport (principally owned by Richard Branson who knew Ken well) piloting a skeletal Autogyro, of his own design and that he had built, landing it in a field behind the business park where Weslake Developments was housed. I've many happy memories from that time and value them greatly...I'll surely miss him.

Ummmm....gyro (1)

lexlthr (2038974) | about a year ago | (#44762873)

Is it pronounced - auto-jeer-oh, like the sandwich?

Re:Ummmm....gyro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44763303)

the food is pronounced "yeros" not "jiros" as it is commonly mistaken for . .

Little Nellie! (2)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year ago | (#44763155)


Tanaka: I have much curiosity, Bond-san. What is Little Nellie?
OO7: Oh, she's a wonderful girl. Very small, quite fast. Can do anything. Just your type.
Tanaka: A toy helicopter?
Q: No, it's certainly not a toy! You'll see. We've made one or two improvements since you used her last. I'll give you the drill.
Tanaka: This can only be for children! Don't use it, Bond-san. Take my helicopter instead!
Q: Right. Now pay attention, OO7. Two machine guns, fixed.
OO7: Synchronized to what?
Q: 100 yards. We're using incendiaraies and high explosives. Two rocket launchers, forward-firing on either side.
OO7: Fine.
Q: Now, these fire heat-seeking air-to-air missiles. 60 a minute.
OO7: Good.
Q: Flame guns. Two of 'em. Firing astern.
OO7: What range?
Q: 80 yards. Two smoke ejectors next door to them. Aerial mines. Now remember, use them only when directly above target. That's about the lot, I think. You know the rest, don't you?
OO7: Yes.
Q: Cine camera.
OO7: Tanaka, listen in on 410 megacycles.
Tanaka: Good luck, Bond-san.
OO7: I'll contact you when I get over the island.
Tanaka: Okay.
Aki: Be careful, Bond-san!

Re:Little Nellie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44763893)

Next time you watch that film notice how the USSR spacecraft has the same shape as the US one, where in real life they were totally different designs (Gemini Vs Soyuz).

This is because at the time they were making it nobody knew what the russian spacecraft looked like in orbit.

Discovered? (2, Interesting)

Forthan Red (820542) | about a year ago | (#44763267)

The article says he made the "discovery of the offset rotor head". Was it lying in a field somewhere, and he tripped over it? Perhaps it was discovered growing on a tree in the Amazon Jungle? Or maybe the author is shortchanging Mr. Wallis by failing to use the correct word, "invented". Sadly, his invention not only made him no money, since he could not profit from patenting it (as he was in the RAF at the time, and any patent would belong to the crown), it doesn't even bare his name.

Re:Discovered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44767361)

Or bear his name either....

Re:Discovered? (1)

Forthan Red (820542) | about a year ago | (#44767669)

Oddly enough, I do know how to spell pedantic.

Born to fly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44763523)

Spin on you crazy diamond.

Pioneers... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44764015)

This was the pioneer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_de_la_Cierva

Rip, Ken. Gyrocopters are awesome! (1)

Romwell (873455) | about a year ago | (#44766531)

Having flown one of these machines [imgur.com] this year, I think these machines give you the best powered flying experience ever. Thank you, Ken Wallis, for contributing to the development of the awsome technology that combines the best of the airplane and the helicopter in one amazing machine.
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