Fairey Ultra-Light


Registration: G-AOUJ / XJ928
Country of origin: UK
Built: Hayes, UK, 1956
Manufacturer: Fairey Aviation
Constructor's Number: F.9429
Engines: One 256shp Turbomeca Palouste turbine
Type: Two seat observation helicopter

Note: This experimental desgn was powered by tip-jets using a mixture of compressed air from the engine air and fuel ignited at the rotor tips. Currently under restoration.

Details: The Fairey Ultra-light helicopter was one of several projects submitted in the mid-fifties to meet a British Army specification, HR.144T, for reconnaissance and general purpose duties on the battlefield. The design was based on the tip-jet principle, whereby compressed air from the Palouste engine was directed to the rotorblade tips where it was mixed with fuel and ignited to provide propulsion.

The pilot's controls included a collective-pitch lever with a twist-grip engine throttle, a stick for roll and pitch, and a foot pedal to control a steel skinned rudder positioned in the jet efflux. The simple fuselage construction was based on a large light-alloy box, containing the bag-type fuel tank, and with the rotor pylon rising from the centre. A box-girder boom ran aft, having the engine attached below the front section and terminating in the tail unit.

The first of six Ultra-Lights first flew at White Waltham on 14th August 1955, piloted by Ron Gellatley, and appeared at the Farnborough Air Show two weeks later. The machine now with The Helicopter Museum was the second prototype, originally serial number XJ928, but registered G-AOUJ when the Ministry of Supply withdrew Army support in early 1956. When G-AOUJ made its first flight on 20th March 1956 the development programme had become wholly a Fairey private venture.

In 1957 G-AOUJ was modified with hydraulic controls, reflown on 1st September and then flown out over the English Channel to HMS 'Grenville', aboard which more than 70 landings and take-offs were made in heavy sea conditions and winds gusting to 62 knots. Further Naval evaluation was carried out in early 1958, before the nose was modified to take a stretcher for promotion as a casualty evacuation helicopter. In this form it was evaluated by the Royal Army Medical Corps in October 1958, before being shipped to Canada for cold weather trails.

Despite the basic success of the design Fairey did not succeed in their efforts to market the Ultra-Light and the project was finally abandoned in 1959. After standing at White Waltham for some time G-AOUJ was sold off for scrap, but was rescued at by Peter Swettenham, who took the remains to his home in Essex.

In 1977 The Helicopter Museum decided to make a determined effort to trace G-AOUJ and it was eventually rediscovered on a farm near Harlow, albeit less its engine, tail unit, rotors and other parts, and suffering seriously from corrosion. G-AOUJ officially joined The Helicopter Museum on loan in May 1979. Soon afterwards two original rotor blades were acquired and, in September 1979, an almost complete tail unit was discovered at the Royal Aeronautical Establishment at Bedford. Since that time the instrument panel and other parts of the helicopter have been restored and a Palouste engine acquired to advance the restoration still further