Skip to main content

Helicopters (Research Expenditure And Development)

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Minister of Supply how much money his Department has spent on rotary wing research in each year since 1945.

It is a well-established practice not to publish detailed figures showing how the total sum voted for research and development is subdivided among various projects.However, I recognise that there is considerable public interest in helicopters at this time and, since I am satisfied that security in other fields would not be prejudiced thereby, I propose to make an exception on this occasion.

The sums paid by the Ministry of Supply to industry for research and development work on helicopters are as follow:

Financial year


In the year 1954–55 expenditure is likely to increase to more than £2½ million.

From these figures it will be seen that the amount spent by the Government on helicopter development was doubled in 1952, doubled again in 1953 and is being doubled once again this year.

In addition, substantial research work is being undertaken in Ministry of Supply establishments.


asked the Minister of Supply what progress is being made with the development of a helicopter for regular United Kingdom passenger services.

Two prototypes of the Bristol 173 helicopter, which has twin piston engines are undergoing development trials. Further prototypes are in course of construction. A production order has been placed for about 100 of the military version of this aircraft.The Bristol Aeroplane Company is planning a larger type with gas turbine engines, capable of carrying up to 27 passengers.In addition, the Fairey Company are developing a 40-seater helicopter of entirely novel design. The forward propulsion is to be provided by propellers, while the vertical lift is provided by rotors powered by jet units at the tips. A small research helicopter incorporating these principles has been flying successfully for several months. A large-scale prototype is under construction.A third type of research helicopter is under construction by the Percival Aircraft Company. This embodies another form of torqueless drive which might be applicable for civil passenger aircraft.

Work on helicopters at all three firms is being extensively supported by development contracts from the Ministry of Supply.