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Cierva

 

Juan de la Cierva was born in Murcia, Spain on September 21, 1895, and by 1908-9, had decided to make aviation his career. In 1911 he enrolled at the Civil Engineering College of Madrid (Caminos, Canales y Puertos) and in 1912 with his friends "Pepe" Barcala and Pablo Diaz constructed the first Spanish airplane, the BCD-I, known as "EI Cangrejo" - the "Red Crab", becoming the "Father of Spanish Aviation."

By the mid-1920s Cierva's success became known worldwide, and he was invited to Britain to demonstrate his machines to the Air Ministry.

Transferring operations to England in 1925 and forming Cierva Autogiro Ltd. on March 24,1926 with prominent Scottish industrialist James G. Weir, his brother Viscount William Weir of Eastwood and Sir Robert M. Kindersley, Cierva continued to improve the Autogiro and in early 1929 licensed the technology and rights to his patents to Harold Frederick Pitcairn of Bryn Athyn, P A. Early models of which were based on surplus Avro 504Ks. British, French, German, American, Japanese and Russian companies built Cierva-type autogiros.

Two best known craft were C.8L, first rotorcraft to fly the English Channel, and C.30A, built by A. V. Roe as Rota for RAF. Production of other Autogiros licensed by Cierva to Airwork (C.30, C. 30P); Avro (C.6, C.8, C.9, C.12, C.17, C.19, C.30A, C.30P); British Aircraft Manufacturing Co (C.40); Comper (C.25); de Havilland (C.24, C.26); George Parnall & Co. (C.10, C.11); and Westland (CL.20).

Weir formed a separate company (G. & J. Weir Ltd.) in 1933, and reestablished Cierva Company in 1944.

In 1936, Cierva was killed in the Croydon KLM airliner accident when the aircraft in which he was a passenger crashed after taking off in fog. From 1936 to 1939 James Allan Jamieson Bennett was Chief Technical Officer of the company. Dr. Bennett carried through with Cierva's intention to offer the Royal Navy a gyrodyne, which Cierva had argued would be simpler, more reliable and efficient than the proposed helicopter. Bennett's design, the C.41, was tendered to the Air Ministry (Specification S.22/38) but preliminary work was abandoned with the outbreak of World War II. Bennett joined Fairey Aviation in 1945, where he led the development of the Fairey FB-1 Gyrodyne.

After Second World War evolved (jointly with above company), the W.9, a two-seat helicopter using jet thrust to counteract torque. The W.11 Air Horse three-rotor design was built for Cierva by Cunliffe-Owen; designed specifically for crop-spraying, it was first flown December 8,1948. The first prototype of the Air Horse crashed killing Alan Marsh, Cierva's manager and Chief Test Pilot John "Jeep" Cable, Ministry of Supply Chief Helicopter Test Pilot, and J. K. Unsworth the Flight Engineer. This led Weir to cease further investment in the company and its development contracts were transferred to Saunders-Roe.750

The W.14 Skeeter, small two-seat helicopter, first flown October 8,1948. Both designs taken over in 1951 by Saunders-Roe, together with other Cierva projects. Company then concentrated on research; eventually reemerged as Cierva Rotorcraft Ltd, and bought up Rotorcraft Ltd. in April 1966 and Servotec Ltd. in 1968.The prototype CR.LTH-1 flew October 18,1969, but was not produced due to lack of funds.

J.Weir maintained a working association with J.S.Shapiro, and in 1961-63 Servotec built a man-carrying helicopter model to embody Weir's ideas of a non-stalling rotor, which emerged from many years of model tests. In the course of this collaboration, Weir became aware of the CR Twin development and in 1965 decided to give this development financial support. This combination of interests was cemented in a take-over of Rotorcraft Ltd by the Cierva Autogiro Co, which was thereupon renamed the Cierva Rotorcraft Co. The largest shareholders were Weir and Shapiro.

 

 

 


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