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The Farley Frigatebird

The Rat

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What do you do when you have leftover bits from an Airfix Lysander? 


50762786543_8997f110f4_z.jpg1 by Dave Bailey, on Flickr


"Well, Jenkins, what does the irrepressible Mr. Farley have for us this time?" "An autogyro, Sir." "Really? I thought they were rather an antiquated idea. Do you think we should pursue it?" "Yes, Sir, it does have unique capabilities that could be of use in a number of areas. As a naval spotter it could take off from a small pad on a ship and land back on it. It would give them an ability to immediately check on possible threats instead of calling for patrol aircraft that might take a while getting there."

Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, digested this information for a few moments, then gave his aide a nod. "Right, then, grab your coat and off you go!"

'Here we go again', thought Jenkins when he arrived at the Farley testing grounds. As with the previously viewed Flutterbug, here was another rip-off of the Westland Lysander. Hmmm...', he thought to himself, ''rip-off', that's a rather nice phrase, but it'll never catch on. May as well forget it.'


50763634522_c9c410f6fe_z.jpg2 by Dave Bailey, on Flickr


"Mr. Jenkins again!", said the Farley representative, one Egbert Blodge, "A pleasure to see you!" His enthusiasm seemed a little forced, but that's often the job of a salesman. "This" he said with a verbal flourish "Is the Frigatebird. I thought of the name while watching the real ones soaring over the sea in the Antilles. Excellent command of the air, able to catch every tiny breeze and use it to their advantage, just like this beauty will!" "If I recall," said Jenkins, with his nose in the air and a superior tone in his voice, "They do it without their wings revolving in a circle."

Before the red left Blodge's cheeks, the engine coughed to life, and the machine lurched forward. The rotors spun up, and after a very brief run it was airborne, and began a slow lazy circle of the airfield. "Why the open cockpit for the pilot?" "Well, the position of the rotor support made it impossible to have a sliding canopy, and we moved the windscreen forward to give the pilot easier entrance and egress. Clever, eh?" "Yes, inconsiderate of Westland to design things that way." There was an embarrassed silence from Blodge for the rest of the demonstration, which proved that it could at least take-off and land.


50763635707_bf9cf92d54_z.jpg3 by Dave Bailey, on Flickr


The Frigatebird was not the success of it's stablemate, the Flutterbug, and nowhere near the legendary Fruitbat. But the Admiralty did procure some for spotting, using a pad at the rear of battleships and cruisers. Predictable landing difficulties were encountered with turbulence from superstructure of the vessels as air passed by, resulting in all of the Frigatebirds being lost within the space of a year, fortunately without the loss of any crew. No intact airframes survived the war.

50763636392_36c6d8edca_z.jpg4 by Dave Bailey, on Flickr


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