This unusual aircraft is an Autogiro, the forerunner of the helicopter, which for a time during the 1920s and 1930s enjoyed a limited success as a sporting machine and in military service as the Avro Rota. Unlike the helicopter, the Autogiro could not hover in flight, but required a very short runway for takeoff and could land at a speed of 10 mph with almost no ground run. It was designed by a young Spanish aeronautical engineer, Don Juan de la Cierva (1895-1936), in the 1920s. Cierva had previously designed and built a large, three-engined bi-plane bomber and it was the crash of this aircraft in 1919, caused by loss of flying speed near the ground, which led Cierva to strive to make aviation a safer and more practical activity. He established the Cierva Autogiro Company in 1926 and developed a practical rotary wing aircraft that could land safely and not stall by adding a rotor to a conventional aircraft. This improved take off and landing performance however, it could not hover like a contemporary helicopter. The outbreak of the Second World War curtailed any further research in England but Cierva's work was embodied in the single-rotor Sikorsky helicopters, developed from 1940.
This Autogiro is a model C30A of which 148 were made under licence from Autogiro in England, Germany and France. It was built in 1934 by A.V. Roe & Co., (Avro), at Newton Heath, Manchester, England, and imported into Australia and used as a private aircraft by Andrew Thyne Reid. The autogiro was used to transport Thyne Reid and his wife between Sydney and their family's NSW country property near Yass. During the Second World War this Autogiro is believed to have been used by the Navy to check the tracking of torpedoes and was involved in a military experiment at Laverton Aerodrome, Melbourne, to develop a 'flying jeep' called a 'fleep' to provide transport for the army in Kokoda, New Guinea. The project was cancelled before the Autogiro was tested behind an aircraft.
Of the four Autogiros imported into Australia in the 1930s, the Museum's C30A is the only one to survive. Only eight are known to remain around the world.
Australian Archives, Victorian Office, file 8/101/1327 on 'Project Skyward' from accession series MP 115/1, 169 pages.
'Autogiro Developments' in "The Aeroplane", 1 August 1934, pp.141-3.
Brooks, Peter, 'Rotary Wing Pioneer' in "The Aeroplane", 9 December, 1955, pp.910-13.
Brooks, Peter, 'Rotary Wing Pioneer' in "The Aeroplane", 16 December, 1955, pp.940-3.
Capon, P.T., 'Cierva's First Autogiros' in "Aeroplane Monthly", April, 1979, pp.200-5.
Capon, P.T., 'Cierva's First Autogiros' in "Aeroplane Monthly", May 1979. pp.234-40.
"Jane's Aircraft", 1934, Great Britain section, p.17c.