NotesThe Museum's Autogiro was purchased new as a private aircraft by an Australian engineer, Mr Andrew Thyne Reid (known as Thyne Reid). Thyne Reid learnt to fly Autogiros at the Cierva Flying School at Hanworth in England in 1934. He was impressed with the safe, stall-proof characteristics of the Autogiro and the following year shipped his own Autogiro to Sydney on board SS "Anchises". The aircraft was used to transport Thyne Reid and his wife, Katharine, between Sydney and his family's country property 'Narrangullen', near Yass, NSW and other locations. His pilot's log refers to other destinations including Goulburn, Dunedoo, Rotherwood, Moree, Boolaroo, and Brisbane during 1936 and 1937. It was based at Mascot but was frequently flown from bushland behind the Reid's home at 'Madingley', Church Street (now Marsden Road), Carlingford, a Sydney suburb. Reid was the Managing Director of James Hardie & Co. of York and Barrack Sts, Sydney. On a personal level he was a keen aviator, owning a number of aeroplanes including a De Havilland Dragon and a De Havilland Drover as well as the Autogiro. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Thredbo ski resort.
The Autogiro was first registered in Australia, under Thyne Reid's, name on 14 June, 1935, renewed on 13 June, 1936, 13 June, 1937 and 13 June, 1939. During World War II Thyne Reid made the Autogiro available for military use. Although no records have so far been able to confirm it, the Autogiro was said to have been used by the Navy to check the tracking of torpedoes. A large camera port cut in the floor of the front cockpit seems to confirm this use. The Autogiro was chosen because it was the only aircraft slow enough above the ground. The torpedoes were made at Neutral Bay (Sydney) and the tests undertaken at Pittwater Range at Clareville. The pilot, Syd Marshall, had never flown an Autogiro before.
The Autogiro was then impressed by the RAAF and assigned to the Army Inventions Directorate for another military project between about 1942-4 at Laverton Aerodrome, Melbourne, called "Project Skyward". This involved the development of a 'flying jeep' called a 'fleep' constructed from two other cannibalised Autogiros. The purpose of this aircraft was to provide transport for the army in Kokoda, New Guinea, as it was impossible to drive from Port Moresby to Kokoda and parachute-dropping the jeeps was considered too risky. The Museum's Autogiro, VH-USR, was the only serviceable Autogiro of the four that had come to Australia and it was to be used to test its ability to be towed behind a Douglas Dakota aircraft. Because its towing speed would have been 120 knots, it was decided that the original rotor blades were not efficient enough at this speed and a new set of laminar flow blades constructed. The initial tow-tests were carried out behind a large Buick car to allow the pilot, Ken Frewin, to become accustomed to being towed without the problems of propeller backwash from the Dakota. The project was cancelled before the Autogiro was tested behind an aircraft. A piece cut out of the rotor-head shroud, to allow the attachment of the towing frame, is a reminder of these tests. The airframe incorporates a large rudder fitted to replace the small trim tab to allow greater control in cross winds. This rudder was fitted as a result of a capsize after the first towed run. At the point of touchdown a cross gust upset the aircraft and the pilot had no means of control against such problems.
Repairs to the Autogiro in 1943 were undertaken by Marshall Airways, the engineer who worked on the motor was Rex Mitchell-Hill, the fabric covering was done by Lil Fletcher while the woodworker who repaired the broken rotor blades was Oscar Peter Vergison.
The Autogiro was re-registered under Thyne Reid's name on 25 September 1948 and 23 September 1950. Apparently, it was last flown by Thyne Reid on 9 August, 1949. Thyne Reid's pilot's logbook records only 72 hours personal use of the aircraft. It was subsequently withdrawn from service on 28 June, 1950, and the registration was suspended and cancelled on 6 August, 1951. The Autogiro has never flown since. After Thyne Reid's death in the 1964, his widow donated the Autogiro to the Royal Aero Club at Bankstown Airport who used it as a static exhibit on air-fair days.
In 1980 the Autogiro was purchased by the Powerhouse Museum with funds supplied by the Andrew Thyne Reid Charitable Trust which specified the Autogiro had to go on immediate display. As this was not possible at the Museum at that time, it was placed on loan to Drage's Airworld, at Wodonga, Victoria, between 1979 to 1984. In the early 1990s the Autogiro was restored with a grant from the Thyne Reid Education Trust No.1 to its appearance when it came out of service in August 1951.