1/72 QANTAS Westland Rotodyne Mark
1 'Town of Bunbury'
Review by Michael Johnson
Inspiration - "Once Upon a Time..."
“The journey from
leafy suburban Inglewood out to Perth Airport only took 30 minutes
in the big white taxi, but 10 year old John was fairly bursting with
excitement and anticipation. Even Mum was excited and Dad just kept
Every year during
the August school holidays, Mum and Dad would take him and his little
sister down to Bunbury to stay with Aunty Joan and Uncle Reg. They
would stay down there for two weeks and then dad would drive everybody
home the day before school started. John loved fishing off the beach
and catching rock crabs on the rocky areas between the white beaches,
oh yes, he enjoyed school holidays!
too, they would see the large QANTAS Rotodyne’s travelling between
Perth and Bunbury, carrying passengers lucky enough to be travelling
on them. They were noisy when taking off and landing too and he was
told by Dad that the big rotor blades had tip-jets that assisted take
off, once in flight the rotor tip-jets were turned off and the twin
engines driving big four bladed propellers would make it go forward.
He was not quite sure how it all worked but dad knew! Dad also said
that it was too expensive to buy tickets and even though John kept
asking every year, Dad just said no.
This year, 1967,
was going to be different. Dad inherited some money from a family member’s
estate and to every one’s surprise picked up return tickets for
a return flight on one of the QANTAS Rotodyne’s, doing the flight
between Perth and Bunbury.
Booking in to
the departure area seemed to take ages and ages but at last they were
escorted by a stewardess with a little cap perched on her long hair
out across the tarmac. There it was; A big white, silver and red shiny
Rotodyne, its big passenger door open and the big clam shell cargo
doors open for the busy ground crew loading the passengers luggage.
At the entry
they were met by another stewardess and escorted to their seats which
were blue and grey and very comfortable. John then realised he was
getting a window seat and he looked at Dad, who gave him a big wink…
This was just
going to be the start of the best holiday ever!!”
Introduction (The aircraft)
The Fairey Rotodyne was a
compound helicopter of unprecedented size at the time of it's first
flight on 6 Nov. 1957, having originally been ordered by the then
British Ministry of Supply, later the ministry of Aviation, in August
A development of the earlier
Fairey Gyrodyne prototypes, which had established a number of British
helicopter records, the Rotodyne featured a large rotor powered by
air bled from two wingtip mounted Napier Eland turboprops, using
the rotor for vertical take-offs, landings and hovering, while full
power was applied to the tractor propellers of the turbo props for
The first flight using the
tractor propellers was on 10 April 1958, while on January 5th 1959,
the Rotodyne established a helicopter speed record over a closed
circuit of 307 km/h. The prototype Rotodyne was a three-crew, forty-passenger
machine, itself a remarkable achievement for it's day but on the
acquisition of Fairey, Westland Aircraft proposed to develop the
Rotodyne into a production aircraft capable of carrying between 57
and 75 passengers and using two of the new 5,250 shp Rolls-Royce
Tyne turboprops to give a cruising speed of 370 km/h, and the ability
to carry up to 6.700 Kgs of freight including standard-width British
However, an initial order
for twelve production Rotodynes for the Royal Air Force did not materialize,
and after initial interest from British European Airways, the state
owned domestic service and European international airline, did not
develop into a firm order, the project was abandoned in February
|COUNTRY of ORIGIN
||two 2088-kW (2,800shp) Napier Eland NE1.7
diam.: 27.43 m (90 ft 0
length: 17.88 m (58 ft 8 in)
• Height: 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in)
• Rotor disc area: 591.0 m. sq (6,361.7 sq
• Wing span: 14.17 m (46 ft 6 in)
Take Off Weight: 14969 kg (33,000 lb)
||55 civilians, 60 laden troops - 12 tonnes cargo
•Max. cruise: 298
km/h (185 mph)
•Normal range: 724 km (450 miles)
After building my
first Rotodyne last year and developing a keen interest on Convertiplanes
generally, I purchased another kit with the intention of building a “what
QANTAS version. I figured that knowing the problem areas of the kit I
would have an essentially trouble free build which would give me the
chance to do a little detailing.
The kit was originally
issued in 1959, back when Airfix produced several new kits a year for
the keen modelling fraternity of the day and when the Rotodyne was
touring the Farnborough and Paris air shows. There are over 100 parts
in the kit, including 21 transparent parts. The kit parts are moulded
in light grey and are festooned with oversize rivet detail. Parts such
as the undercarriage bay doors are thickly moulded and would require
thinning and clean up.
One decal option
is provided, along with an instruction sheet. However I intended to
use selected decals from 1:100 and 1:72 Roo Decals QANTAS B707 sheets.
With a scheme in mind I did some research on the QANTAS Super Constellation
colour scheme, which was in service with the company during the early
1960’s. I envisioned that the Rotodyne would have entered service
around 1963, being used on the domestic “shuttle” runs
between regional centres.
Assembly started with
the cockpit. Airfix provides a simplistic instrument panel and centre
console with instrument panel decals giving the required details. I
boxed in the centre console with some plasticard and fashioned detail
out of stretched sprue and card to busy up the instrument panel and
flight panels. I then made harnesses for the pilot and co-pilot seats
out of thin strips of Tamiya masking tape painted light grey. The instrument
panel was bulked out at the back and some wiring added with fuse wire
painted black to simulate the electrical bundles for the dials. These
were bundled into a thick strand and inserted through a hole in the
console at the base of the instrument panel. Some white glue sealed
over the hole.
painted the instrument panel and console Citadel Codex Grey with the
cockpit floor, rear bulkhead and seats Humbrol Hu27 Dark Grey.
the fuselage halves were joined together I added the rotor hub, cementing
that into place as I wanted to be able to remove the rotor assembly
whilst transporting the finished model. I sprayed the interior with
flat black and added the 20 oval windows. As I had issues with windows
falling in on my first Rotodyne, I reinforced each window with 2 part
epoxy glue and super glue. I did not want the same problem to occur
again! The final item to be sandwiched between the fuselage halves
was the cockpit bulkhead. Behind that I added some lead fishing sinkers
to prevent the dreaded tail sit problem.
shell rear doors were cemented shut. Gaps caused by the non-installation
of the provided door mechanism and the adjustment of each door half
were filled with some plasticard.
Michael Johnson 2004
I then spent considerable amounts of time and half
a tube of Tamiya putty making good all the joints and sink marks
marring the fuselage. A lot more work was also required to clean
up each wing engine assembly before an acceptable result could be
readied for Tamiya AS12 Natural Metal. I opted to pre-assemble and
prime each wing so they would attach to the fuselage as one unit.
Michael Johnson 2004
and tail assembly attached to the fuselage with more filler needed
to cover over adjustments to each wing and tail root so to ensure correct
positioning. To give the tail assembly extra strength, I used some
brass rod, to replace the plastic tail support struts. This was inserted
into drilled holes and adjusted to keep the tail assembly square and
of assembly proceeded smoothly and rather quickly, with only small
amounts of filler required to smooth out remaining ill fitting joints.
I gave the entire assembly a coat of Tamiya Primer so as to reveal
any missed or messy areas and these were dealt with quickly. As the
lower half was going to be natural metal, seam line removal and silky
smooth plastic are mandatory. At this point I cleaned up, polished
and masked the canopy. The cockpit was cemented into place, the front
wheel well painted in flat black and the canopy offered up to the fuselage.
Once I was happy with the fit it was cemented into place with clear
parts cement, reinforced with a careful application of liquid cement.
A small amount of reshaping, filling and sanding had to be done to
smooth out the join of the canopy windshield to the fuselage.
minor parts such as the undercarriage legs needed cleaning up to remove
flash and seam lines. I also thinned out the over thick undercarriage
bay doors. Once all this was done, the doors, undercarriage and wheels
were treated with an application of AS-12.
Michael Johnson 2004
Now that construction was finished I
could settle down to masking fun and painting.
Michael Johnson 2004
with a Tamiya AS-12 overall and then masked the lower demarcation line
for the red stripe running along (above and below) the side window
line. I then masked of the wings and silver undersides and sprayed
the white. For white schemes generally I use Citadel “Skull White” spray
cans. Once the white had dried I masked the top demarcation line of
the red stripe and masked the white areas off. The only portion of
the model now showing was the area to be sprayed red. This was then
painted with my Modelmaster 1000S single action airbrush using Tamiya
Flat Red acrylic. I then removed the bare metal area masking and gave
the exposed areas a polish with SnJ polishing powder.
Michael Johnson 2004
away the remainder of the masking revealed the previously painted white
areas and the glazing. I was quite nervous when peeling the
Maskol away from the side windows as the Maskol had been on for some
weeks and was stubbornly resisting removal. But the overzealousness
of my attachments of the windows worked and all was well with only
a small amount of red required to touch up each window edge. I then
painted the nose Vallejo flat black in keeping with the QANTAS company
all that extra paint work was drying, I spent some time cleaning and
then painting the four exhausts. Painting the exhausts was straight
forward, spray a base of flat black and dry brush Model Master metallic
paints to give the exhausts a weathered, heat stressed appearance.
The Model Master metallics are very thin and dry brush really nicely.
the rotor assembly with Citadel metallics, washed with sludge wash
of RLM66, then flattened with Aeromaster Flat Coat to give a used look.
Wheels were carefully painted Aeromaster Tyre Grey and the propeller
blades carefully painted flat black and tipped in yellow.
Michael Johnson 2004
white paint was then painted over with several thin coats of Johnsons
“Future” in preparation for decaling.
my QANTAS “what if” scheme in mind; I began to apply selected
decals from the two Roo Decal sheets I purchased earlier. Then to my
horror, the black markings shattered on removal from the water. Luckily
I managed to get hold of another sheet. This and the remainder of my
first two sheets were treated with a coat of Microscale Decal Film
and decaling proceeded again with no more mishaps.
stage I realised I needed some custom decals. My QANTAS Rotodyne needed
a name (All QANTAS planes are named after cities and Towns) and some
tail codes to match the wing codes from the Roo-Decals sheet. A quick
question to a fellow modeller produced a custom sheet with the required
decals. I was the guinea pig with these custom decals produced by the
Testors Decal System and I only just managed to get two useable codes
out of the sheet. However another sheet was made with extra coats of
decal fixative applied that solved the ink running issues and all was
well. Thanks Nenad!
Michael Johnson 2004
the decals had dried, I applied several more thin coats of “Future”
with a clean wide flat brush, kept specifically for the task, to seal
in the decals and to impart a gloss finish overall.
added the painted wheels to the undercarriage legs and the thinned
out undercarriage doors were cemented into place. The final task was
to add finished rotor and the two propeller assemblies and my Rotodyne
Michael Johnson 2004
I have two Rotodyne’s built now, with plans for 3 more over
the next couple of years. The QANTAS Rotodyne was a fun build and
represents what the Rotodyne may well have achieved if the production
problems had been overcome and it had entered service. This
kit embodies all the things that make modelling such a fun and rewarding
hobby. Not a shake and bake Tamigawa offering certainly, but once
all was done the QANTAS Rotodyne gave me a feeling of satisfaction
and pride. It looks great next to the demonstrator version! Airfix
have deleted the kit from their current catalogue, so if you are
keen, try to grab one before they disappear for another 10 years.
A special mention must be made to the guys at ARC and my club who
encouraged me during construction and to John Baxter, whose RAAF/RN
alternative history has been a real inspiration!
will be a RAAF Rotodyne with 5 bladed propellers, disruptive camouflage
and some other goodies.
different outcome, the Westland
if development of the Rotodyne continued? Perhaps political interference
by a cost cutting British government was averted and firm orders had
been placed. Here is how it might all go…
acquisition of Fairey, Westland proposed two versions of the Rotodyne.
A civil 55 passenger (5.6 tonne cargo capacity) Mark 1 version suitable
for domestic short run routes and a larger bodied military transport
Mark 2 version capable of carrying up to 60 fully equipped troops and
12 tonnes of cargo. Concepts for purely cargo versions of the Rotodyne
based on the larger variant were also produced. The production Rotodyne’s
were powered by the Rolls Royce Tyne.
1959 the US Army, US Marine Corps and the British Army had placed orders
for the larger bodied military transport Rotodyne Mark 2 proposed by
Westland in early 1959. Orders were also placed for the Mark 1 version
by several European and American domestic airlines, excited by the
potential of the Rotodyne and the apparent confidence in the type by
such numbers of orders had been placed, production started in mid 1959,
with the first of the ordered machines delivered to their respective
owners during May of 1960. Along with the US military and British Army
orders was an order in 1962 for 4 Westland Rotodyne’s by an enthusiastic
RAAF who had an evaluation team present at the twenty-third Aeronautical
Salon in Paris during 1959. Eventually the option for 5 more was taken
up in 1964. Keen to see if the Rotodyne suited carrier operations,
the RAN successfully trialled a “borrowed” RAAF machine
and purchased 6 more in 1964. These were the larger bodied Mark 2 versions
re-fitted with the same Rolls Royce Dart power plants used on the Fokker
F-27 Friendships operating in Australian domestic airline services.
Australian fashion, the crews of the RAAF Rotodyne’s nicknamed
their machines “The Flying Fruitbox”, owing to the large
boxy fuselage shape.
QANTAS expressed an interest and after a tour of the Westland production
plant and a number of demonstrator flights, purchased 20 of the smaller
Mark 1 version to be used in the domestic shuttle service between capital
cities and larger regional centres. Deliveries commenced in mid 1963.
placed 4 Rotodyne’s into service within Western Australia in
1964; two on the Perth – Bunbury shuttle service and two on the
– Kalgoorlie shuttle service. In keeping with QANTAS tradition,
the 4 Rotodyne’s were named Town of Bunbury, Town of Kalgoorlie,
Town of Geraldton and Town of York.
Photographs & text kindly
submitted by © Michael Johnson