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Rolls Royce hovering jet lift tests

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Rolls Royce hovering jet lift tests

Old 30th Jul 2012, 15:58
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Rolls Royce hovering jet lift tests

Quick question. Been reading about the above and read that the throttles were arranged to resemble the collective pitch lever of a helicopter. Did any helicopter pilots get involved with the testing, and if not why not?
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 16:21
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Flying Bedstead?

Can you clarify which aircraft you mean? I assume you mean 'The Flying Bedstead'?

As far as I can see, the pilots were:

Wg Cdr Harvey Heyworth
50th anniverary of death of Notts pilot John Harvey Heyworth | This is Nottingham

Captain Ron Shepheard
Did the first untethered flight

Flying Bedstead


Wg Cdr Henry Larsen (elsewhere Air Cdre)
The Glasgow Herald - Google News Archive Search

There is no mention of any being helicopter pilots. I thought Eric 'Winkle' Brown, who lists helicopters amongst types flown, had flown the flying bedstead, but can't find this on t'internet.

Last edited by Mechta; 31st Jul 2012 at 16:25.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 16:32
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I've been reading this:-

Not exactly light reading but still. Yes to use the colloquialism flying bedstead.

I'm not entirely sure of the testing format if I'm honest in that the chief test pilots are well documented but wondered if any others got involved. Just curious in that the controls were laid out helicopter like and wondered if that was due to any input from helicopter pilots.

I believe other pilots involved in this and later VTOL programs did do some helicopter training but I can't find specific helicopter pilots involved.

I see the EPTS didn't kick off the RW course until the early 60's so maybe there was no formal pool to resource?
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 16:47
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Not sure about the test program but during my time at RAF Shawbury, instructing on the Gazelle, one of our squadron tasks was teaching future Harrier pilots to hover.

I wasn't too keen on doing this because the hover height (50 feet agl, iirc), put us in the avoid curve for the aircraft.

Having been lucky enough to fly the RAFG twin seat Harrier (just the once, unfortunately), I found how easy it was to hover, very stable.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 16:56
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I can see the 'inherited logic' in aligning the throttle handling with a collective type lever since no 'fixed-wing' pilot would have any experience in handling a jet in the hover, but I would suspect the 'fixed-wing' testers soon changed that! JF will probably have chapter and verse.
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 19:10
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Several issues here. In no particular order:

The first rotary wing tp course was run in 1963 - No1 RW

It ran alongside No 22 Fixed Wing and shared some groundschool lectures.

Before the first RW course all pilots destined to test helicopters did the FW course and were then given a helicopter checkout by a QHI at ETPS and learned their helicopter testing techniques on the job with existing helicopter tp guys.

I did No22 FW course but after being posted to AeroFlight because they had helicopters used for model dropping and other helicopter tasks (as opposed to helicopter testing) I was given a helicopter check out by the ETPS QHI.

Because of this when I flew the P1127 and SC1 later on I needed no prior helicopter famil.

To my knowledge nobody was ever checked out in the SC1 or any of the Harrier family without a few hours in a chopper to LEARN THE VISUAL CUES OF THE HOVER. (Not to turn them into chopper pilots). This may have changed when the RAF got 2-seater Harriers - I can't remember.

The Bedstead which was conceived and specified by the RAE for research and R-R got the contract to make it. After the R-R CTP Capt R T Shepherd RN showed it met the untethered spec in 1954 it was handed over to RAE AeroFlight for the research programme to be carried out. RAE tp Sqn Ldr R A Harvey became the project pilot - probably late 1954 or early 1955. Later after AeroFlight moved to Bedford Sqn Ldr Stan Hubbard took it over. The only fatal (Wg Cdr Larsen - OC Flying at Bedford) happened in the tethered gantry and was the result of circumstances I would not like to go into here.

As to why the throttles were rotated up for more thrust why not? Only helicopters hovered in those days and so the RAE specified that type of control (lift your left hand).

Later when Hawkers got in the act trying to do a military aircraft NOT a research vehicle (see Camm letter) then the Harrier type throttle box seemed a better way to go.

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Old 31st Jul 2012, 19:50
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Thanks John - never known to let us down!
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Old 31st Jul 2012, 21:42
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Thanks for the reply Mr Farley, amazing to get the first hand picture!

What elements prompted the change vis the throttles?

Touching on the move from technology demo to operational was there ever a thought that VTOL aircraft might be used by those flying helicopters at the time?
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Old 12th Aug 2012, 01:27
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I have a vague recollection that the official designation was TMR or Thrust Measuring Rig, a ploy which eased authorisation and funding issues.

Last edited by mike-wsm; 12th Aug 2012 at 14:43. Reason: add pic
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Old 13th Aug 2012, 20:36
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What a wonderful contraption!

More photos here:

Stock photo and image search by Science & Society Picture Library
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Old 14th Aug 2012, 01:22
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That contraption must have been lotsa fun to fly...
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Old 14th Aug 2012, 10:03
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Sqn Ldr R A Harvey was the RAE test pilot who flew most of the early RAE flights. This is what he wrote about his first two sorties:

Climbing up to the Bedstead's cockpit (for want of a better name) I felt a long way off the ground on a machine that appeared to be top heavy. After switching on the autostabiliser I moved the stick and heard the valves go "zeet" as the motors moved them, showing that they responded to the stick. I pushed the autostabiliser, which was spring mounted, to simulate pitch and roll and again heard the motors move the valves. Everything was working fine.

With both engines idling I raised the throttle levers until the Bedstead began to dither on its undercarriage, indicating that the thrust equaled the weight. The noise from the engines was dreadful. A little extra throttle was applied, and we came off the ground. I landed some seconds later, having climbed to about two feet at the most.

The next few minutes were spent getting it off the ground and learning to control the rate of ascent, reaching about 20 feet and descending again. I used the stick a little to maintain position roughly in the centre of the area. When the fuel warning light came on, to notify that we had only 60 seconds of fuel remaining, I concentrated on descending, slowly, as there was not enough thrust to stop suddenly when near the ground.

On the second flight we were airborne for the whole time. The Bedstead was remarkably stable, in that it remained firmly horizontal except when the stick was moved. It was difficult to believe that this top heavy machine weighing over 3 tons, poised on the jet thrust, was being balanced by the four air nozzles. I had expected that it would wallow about somewhat, in the sense that it would have to move appreciably before the autostabiliser could sense the movement and take corrective action. In fact, no movement could be detected in pitch or roll. It was rock steady. The autostabiliser was a wonderful achievement.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 23:08
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I thought Eric 'Winkle' Brown, who lists helicopters amongst types flown, had flown the flying bedstead, but can't find this on t'internet.
I've just had a look at Appendix I of 'Wings on my Sleeve', which lists the 487(!) types that Winkle Brown flew and I don't see an entry under Flying Bedstead, Rolls Royce or Thrust Measuring Rig.
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Old 28th Sep 2012, 03:44
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I am delighted to discover this forum. "The Flying Bedstead" seemed to become part of my childhood. My first name was chosen because of one of the test pilots. I am not clear what my father's exact role was but he worked for Rolls Royce and I believe he was in charge of Hucknall when The Flying Bedstead was being developed. Would love to know more about those times. My father passed away in February 1984.
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Old 9th Sep 2018, 10:58
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Interesting read

Thanks for the interesting read, my Grandfather was the pilot that died when testing.
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