In 1940 the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment, (AFEE) was the body of the British army in charge of testing and developing new vehicles and weapons and based at Ringway, Manchester. In 1942 a prototype of a Special Rotating Glider was designed by Austrian born Raoul Hafner and built by R. Malcolm ltd. based on an American Willys MB Jeep.
To test the ability of shock the Willys, was loaded with concrete and using a crane, dropped from 2.35m height. They gradually elevated it and prove that it held up well to over 3 metres, showing that the standard vehicle could survive without impact damage up to 11G’s of force.
Two men were required to pilot the aircraft; one to drive it as an car, and one to pilot it in the air using a control column. Initially it was named the “Blitz Buggy”, but that was soon dropped for the “Rotabuggy”
The vehicle had two rotor blades of 12.3 metres in length and as an attempt to lighten the machine, veneer doors are added and flexi glass, then a fairing and tail were added but no rudders.
Inside, the rotor controls and navigation instruments were added.
On November 16, 1943 it was the day of his first flight. plans were to tow it behind a truck for take off but it failed due to lack of speed. On the morning of the 27th a Bently turbo was used to finally get the machine into the air and obtain gliding speeds of 45mph.
Later it was towed by a Whitley bomber for better takeoffs, but although airborne, the initial tests showed that the Rotabuggy was prone to severe vibration at speeds greater than 45 miles per hour (72 km/h), with improvements the Rotabuggy achieved a flight speed of 70 mph (113 km/h) on 1 February 1944. The last test flight occurred in September 1944, where the unit flew for 10 minutes at an altitude of 400 feet (121.9 m) and a speed of 65 mph (105 km/h), after being released by a Whitley bomber, and was described as “highly satisfactory”.
However upon landing the pilot passed out at the foot of the device. Apparently he was exhausted from trying to control the joystick, which had whipped in circles throughout the flight.
In the town near the airbase used for testing, some locals claimed they saw a Jeep had snagged on a plane and had taken flight.
Within a short time the military had perfected the design of larger gliders to ship men an equipment en-mass so the further development of he rotabuggy was cancelled.
A replica of the Rotabuggy can be seen today at the Museum of Army Flying.
ROTOR SPAN: 12.4 m.
GROSS WEIGHT: 1,411 kg
Max Design. SPEED: 150 mph (241 km / h)
EST. decent Rate: 4.9 to 10 m / sec