The SCl - Britain's first jet VTO aircraft - has now reached the final stage of its flight development programme.
L.V. PLANE TAKING OFF VERTICALLY.
L.V. CRUISING AND TURNING IN FLIGHT.
S.L.V. LANDING, AND THE PILOT, MR. TOM BROOK-SMITH GETS OUT.
Initials S-D/CW M.R./P.B.
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Background: The SCl - Britain's first jet VTO aircraft - has now reached the final stage of its flight development programme.
Since its maiden flight as a conventional aircraft in April 1958, the SCl, in the hands of Tom Brooke-Smith, Shorts chief test pilot, has proceeded stage by ??? through a series of rigorous tests which culminated when the aircraft carried out free hovering flights at Sydenham Airfield, Belfast, during November.
Next, after a few minor modifications, the SCl will beflown to higher altitudes by Brooke-Smith where he will make the most critical tests demanded by the programmed - the aircraft's performance in transition from vertical hovering to normal forward flight.
The SCl is a unique aircraft because although it is capable of taking off and landing vertically, it is a normal aircraft in forward flight, and has flown this way many times, using runways in the usual way.
It is powered by five Rolls-Royce RB108 jet engines. Four of these are mounted vertically in the fuselage and the fifth is fitted horizontally in the tail and provides propulsion for forward flight. Four air nozzles - called 'puff-pipes' - are fitted to the nose and tail and underneath each wing-tip. These control the air-craft when it is hovering and they are supplied with compressed air from the compressor of the five engines.
Hovering can be completely automatic. A "magic black box" - technically, an electrohydraulic auto-stabiliser - help the pilot during vertical and hovering flight.
Tom Brooke-Smith said today that flying the SCl is "too easy". He thinks that vertical take-off; "is far more sensible than tearing about on miles of expensive concrete, and a good deal easier."
Final tests in the November trials were experiments to see if it could land safely on grass. Brooke-Smith landed the aircraft vertically on a football pitch close to the airfield in Belfast without causing any damage to the ground, apart from slight scorching. Mr. H.G. Conway, Shorts' chief engineer, said; "this proves that the aircraft can be landed with complete safety on almost any surface and the tests confirm our belief that VTOL will ultimately completely eliminate all risk associated with emergency landings by civil aircraft.
"We now know not only that a runway is unnecessary but also that a VTOL airliner of the future can put down almost anywhere."
The SCl itself is a research aircraft and will not go into service in its present form. It is, however, probing the mysteries of vertical flight, and future designs based on the scientific results of the test flying programme will effect both military and civil aircraft.
Probably the first effect will be on military VTO strike aircraft. These could operate from improvised and easily camouflaged bases concealed in forests or similar country. These bases, because they dispense with runways could be sited in frontal areas and thus increase the strikes range of the aircraft. All the equipment needed for such bases could easily be transported on a few trucks.
From the civil point of view, there are obvious attractions for aircraft which can take-off vertically from city centres. The noise of the jets is a problem in civil operation, but this like many other difficulties will be solved in time.