Photo Funday — not a helicopter? — not an autogiro? … a rotary kite?
Photo Funday — photos and informative caption for the weekend
Although at first look this may appear to be an autogiro is correctly called a “rotary kite” or “rotokite”. In my mind I think of it as an autogiro*, but an autogiro has its own power whereas a kite is either held aloft by the wind on a tether or towed aloft while tied to a vehicle. Since lift was accomplished by the Fa 330A-1 with a tow and a set of rotor blades the word combination term rotary kite was derived. This unique aircraft was towed aloft by a WW II German U-Boat (submarine), to an altitude of about 730 feet (220m) where an observer had a theoretical view to the horizon of around 33 miles (53 kilometers). The observer kept in communication with the submarine crew via a telephone. There was no hope to retract the kite and recover the observer in order to crash dive the vessel — instead the aircraft would have been cut loose and the pilot would have parachuted to the surface of the sea. The craft was designed at Focke-Achgelis but manufactured by Weser-Flugzeugbau during WW II and known as either the Water Wagtail or the Sandpiper (I’ve see both names in museums). The example pictured above is located in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Complex and the example pictured below is on display in the National Museum of the US Air Force — however, there are many other examples in museums in the USA as well as in the UK and Europe.