1/72 QANTAS Westland Rotodyne Mark 1 'Town of Bunbury'

Review by Michael Johnson


The Inspiration - "Once Upon a Time..."

“The journey from leafy suburban Inglewood out to Perth Airport only took 30 minutes in the big white taxi, but 10 year old John was fairly bursting with excitement and anticipation. Even Mum was excited and Dad just kept smiling.

Every year during the August school holidays, Mum and Dad would take him and his little sister down to Bunbury to stay with Aunty Joan and Uncle Reg. They would stay down there for two weeks and then dad would drive everybody home the day before school started. John loved fishing off the beach and catching rock crabs on the rocky areas between the white beaches, oh yes, he enjoyed school holidays!

Every year too, they would see the large QANTAS Rotodyne’s travelling between Perth and Bunbury, carrying passengers lucky enough to be travelling on them. They were noisy when taking off and landing too and he was told by Dad that the big rotor blades had tip-jets that assisted take off, once in flight the rotor tip-jets were turned off and the twin engines driving big four bladed propellers would make it go forward. He was not quite sure how it all worked but dad knew! Dad also said that it was too expensive to buy tickets and even though John kept asking every year, Dad just said no.

This year, 1967, was going to be different. Dad inherited some money from a family member’s estate and to every one’s surprise picked up return tickets for a return flight on one of the QANTAS Rotodyne’s, doing the flight between Perth and Bunbury. 

Booking in to the departure area seemed to take ages and ages but at last they were escorted by a stewardess with a little cap perched on her long hair out across the tarmac. There it was; A big white, silver and red shiny Rotodyne, its big passenger door open and the big clam shell cargo doors open for the busy ground crew loading the passengers luggage.

At the entry they were met by another stewardess and escorted to their seats which were blue and grey and very comfortable. John then realised he was getting a window seat and he looked at Dad, who gave him a big wink…

This was just going to be the start of the best holiday ever!!

Introduction (The aircraft)

The Fairey Rotodyne was a compound helicopter of unprecedented size at the time of it's first flight on 6 Nov. 1957, having originally been ordered by the then British Ministry of Supply, later the ministry of Aviation, in August of 1953.

A development of the earlier Fairey Gyrodyne prototypes, which had established a number of British helicopter records, the Rotodyne featured a large rotor powered by air bled from two wingtip mounted Napier Eland turboprops, using the rotor for vertical take-offs, landings and hovering, while full power was applied to the tractor propellers of the turbo props for forward flight. 

The first flight using the tractor propellers was on 10 April 1958, while on January 5th 1959, the Rotodyne established a helicopter speed record over a closed circuit of 307 km/h. The prototype Rotodyne was a three-crew, forty-passenger machine, itself a remarkable achievement for it's day but on the acquisition of Fairey, Westland Aircraft proposed to develop the Rotodyne into a production aircraft capable of carrying between 57 and 75 passengers and using two of the new 5,250 shp Rolls-Royce Tyne turboprops to give a cruising speed of 370 km/h, and the ability to carry up to 6.700 Kgs of freight including standard-width British Army vehicles. 

However, an initial order for twelve production Rotodynes for the Royal Air Force did not materialize, and after initial interest from British European Airways, the state owned domestic service and European international airline, did not develop into a firm order, the project was abandoned in February 1962 

Photo Credit : Unknown

The kit


TYPE: experimental compound helicopter 
ENGINE two 2088-kW (2,800shp) Napier Eland NE1.7 turboprops 
DIMENSIONS Rotor diam.: 27.43 m (90 ft 0 in)
Fuselage length: 17.88 m (58 ft 8 in)
• Height: 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in)
• Rotor disc area: 591.0 m. sq (6,361.7 sq ft)
• Wing span: 14.17 m (46 ft 6 in)
WEIGHTS Max Take Off Weight: 14969 kg (33,000 lb) 
CAPACITY 55 civilians, 60 laden troops - 12 tonnes cargo

•Max. cruise: 298 km/h (185 mph)
•Normal range: 724 km (450 miles)


After building my first Rotodyne last year and developing a keen interest on Convertiplanes generally, I purchased another kit with the intention of building a “what if” QANTAS version. I figured that knowing the problem areas of the kit I would have an essentially trouble free build which would give me the chance to do a little detailing.

The Kit

The kit was originally issued in 1959, back when Airfix produced several new kits a year for the keen modelling fraternity of the day and when the Rotodyne was touring the Farnborough and Paris air shows. There are over 100 parts in the kit, including 21 transparent parts. The kit parts are moulded in light grey and are festooned with oversize rivet detail. Parts such as the undercarriage bay doors are thickly moulded and would require thinning and clean up.

One decal option is provided, along with an instruction sheet. However I intended to use selected decals from 1:100 and 1:72 Roo Decals QANTAS B707 sheets. With a scheme in mind I did some research on the QANTAS Super Constellation colour scheme, which was in service with the company during the early 1960’s. I envisioned that the Rotodyne would have entered service around 1963, being used on the domestic “shuttle” runs between regional centres.


Assembly started with the cockpit. Airfix provides a simplistic instrument panel and centre console with instrument panel decals giving the required details.  I boxed in the centre console with some plasticard and fashioned detail out of stretched sprue and card to busy up the instrument panel and flight panels. I then made harnesses for the pilot and co-pilot seats out of thin strips of Tamiya masking tape painted light grey. The instrument panel was bulked out at the back and some wiring added with fuse wire painted black to simulate the electrical bundles for the dials. These were bundled into a thick strand and inserted through a hole in the console at the base of the instrument panel. Some white glue sealed over the hole. 

I painted the instrument panel and console Citadel Codex Grey with the cockpit floor, rear bulkhead and seats Humbrol Hu27 Dark Grey.


© Michael Johnson 2004

Before the fuselage halves were joined together I added the rotor hub, cementing that into place as I wanted to be able to remove the rotor assembly whilst transporting the finished model. I sprayed the interior with flat black and added the 20 oval windows. As I had issues with windows falling in on my first Rotodyne, I reinforced each window with 2 part epoxy glue and super glue. I did not want the same problem to occur again! The final item to be sandwiched between the fuselage halves was the cockpit bulkhead. Behind that I added some lead fishing sinkers to prevent the dreaded tail sit problem.

The clam shell rear doors were cemented shut. Gaps caused by the non-installation of the provided door mechanism and the adjustment of each door half were filled with some plasticard.

© Michael Johnson 2004

I then spent considerable amounts of time and half a tube of Tamiya putty making good all the joints and sink marks marring the fuselage. A lot more work was also required to clean up each wing engine assembly before an acceptable result could be readied for Tamiya AS12 Natural Metal. I opted to pre-assemble and prime each wing so they would attach to the fuselage as one unit.

© Michael Johnson 2004

The wings and tail assembly attached to the fuselage with more filler needed to cover over adjustments to each wing and tail root so to ensure correct positioning. To give the tail assembly extra strength, I used some brass rod, to replace the plastic tail support struts. This was inserted into drilled holes and adjusted to keep the tail assembly square and true.

The remainder of assembly proceeded smoothly and rather quickly, with only small amounts of filler required to smooth out remaining ill fitting joints. I gave the entire assembly a coat of Tamiya Primer so as to reveal any missed or messy areas and these were dealt with quickly. As the lower half was going to be natural metal, seam line removal and silky smooth plastic are mandatory. At this point I cleaned up, polished and masked the canopy. The cockpit was cemented into place, the front wheel well painted in flat black and the canopy offered up to the fuselage. Once I was happy with the fit it was cemented into place with clear parts cement, reinforced with a careful application of liquid cement. A small amount of reshaping, filling and sanding had to be done to smooth out the join of the canopy windshield to the fuselage.

All the minor parts such as the undercarriage legs needed cleaning up to remove flash and seam lines. I also thinned out the over thick undercarriage bay doors. Once all this was done, the doors, undercarriage and wheels were treated with an application of AS-12. 

© Michael Johnson 2004

Painting and Decaling

Now that construction was finished I could settle down to masking fun and painting. 

© Michael Johnson 2004

I started with a Tamiya AS-12 overall and then masked the lower demarcation line for the red stripe running along (above and below) the side window line. I then masked of the wings and silver undersides and sprayed the white. For white schemes generally I use Citadel “Skull White” spray cans. Once the white had dried I masked the top demarcation line of the red stripe and masked the white areas off. The only portion of the model now showing was the area to be sprayed red. This was then painted with my Modelmaster 1000S single action airbrush using Tamiya Flat Red acrylic. I then removed the bare metal area masking and gave the exposed areas a polish with SnJ polishing powder.

© Michael Johnson 2004

Peeling away the remainder of the masking revealed the previously painted white areas and the glazing.  I was quite nervous when peeling the Maskol away from the side windows as the Maskol had been on for some weeks and was stubbornly resisting removal. But the overzealousness of my attachments of the windows worked and all was well with only a small amount of red required to touch up each window edge. I then painted the nose Vallejo flat black in keeping with the QANTAS company scheme.

Whilst all that extra paint work was drying, I spent some time cleaning and then painting the four exhausts. Painting the exhausts was straight forward, spray a base of flat black and dry brush Model Master metallic paints to give the exhausts a weathered, heat stressed appearance. The Model Master metallics are very thin and dry brush really nicely.

I painted the rotor assembly with Citadel metallics, washed with sludge wash of RLM66, then flattened with Aeromaster Flat Coat to give a used look. Wheels were carefully painted Aeromaster Tyre Grey and the propeller blades carefully painted flat black and tipped in yellow.

© Michael Johnson 2004

The flat white paint was then painted over with several thin coats of Johnsons “Future” in preparation for decaling.

With my QANTAS “what if” scheme in mind; I began to apply selected decals from the two Roo Decal sheets I purchased earlier. Then to my horror, the black markings shattered on removal from the water. Luckily I managed to get hold of another sheet. This and the remainder of my first two sheets were treated with a coat of Microscale Decal Film and decaling proceeded again with no more mishaps.

At this stage I realised I needed some custom decals. My QANTAS Rotodyne needed a name (All QANTAS planes are named after cities and Towns) and some tail codes to match the wing codes from the Roo-Decals sheet. A quick question to a fellow modeller produced a custom sheet with the required decals. I was the guinea pig with these custom decals produced by the Testors Decal System and I only just managed to get two useable codes out of the sheet. However another sheet was made with extra coats of decal fixative applied that solved the ink running issues and all was well. Thanks Nenad!


© Michael Johnson 2004

Once the decals had dried, I applied several more thin coats of “Future” with a clean wide flat brush, kept specifically for the task, to seal in the decals and to impart a gloss finish overall.

I then added the painted wheels to the undercarriage legs and the thinned out undercarriage doors were cemented into place. The final task was to add finished rotor and the two propeller assemblies and my Rotodyne was finished!

© Michael Johnson 2004


Well I have two Rotodyne’s built now, with plans for 3 more over the next couple of years. The QANTAS Rotodyne was a fun build and represents what the Rotodyne may well have achieved if the production problems had been overcome and it had entered service. This kit embodies all the things that make modelling such a fun and rewarding hobby. Not a shake and bake Tamigawa offering certainly, but once all was done the QANTAS Rotodyne gave me a feeling of satisfaction and pride. It looks great next to the demonstrator version! Airfix have deleted the kit from their current catalogue, so if you are keen, try to grab one before they disappear for another 10 years. A special mention must be made to the guys at ARC and my club who encouraged me during construction and to John Baxter, whose RAAF/RN alternative history has been a real inspiration!

Next up will be a RAAF Rotodyne with 5 bladed propellers, disruptive camouflage and some other goodies. 

Good fun!

© Michael Johnson 2004


The Kit

  • World Aircraft Files




A different outcome, the Westland Rotodyne

What if development of the Rotodyne continued? Perhaps political interference by a cost cutting British government was averted and firm orders had been placed. Here is how it might all go…

Upon acquisition of Fairey, Westland proposed two versions of the Rotodyne. A civil 55 passenger (5.6 tonne cargo capacity) Mark 1 version suitable for domestic short run routes and a larger bodied military transport Mark 2 version capable of carrying up to 60 fully equipped troops and 12 tonnes of cargo. Concepts for purely cargo versions of the Rotodyne based on the larger variant were also produced. The production Rotodyne’s were powered by the Rolls Royce Tyne.

By late 1959 the US Army, US Marine Corps and the British Army had placed orders for the larger bodied military transport Rotodyne Mark 2 proposed by Westland in early 1959. Orders were also placed for the Mark 1 version by several European and American domestic airlines, excited by the potential of the Rotodyne and the apparent confidence in the type by the military.

Once such numbers of orders had been placed, production started in mid 1959, with the first of the ordered machines delivered to their respective owners during May of 1960. Along with the US military and British Army orders was an order in 1962 for 4 Westland Rotodyne’s by an enthusiastic RAAF who had an evaluation team present at the twenty-third Aeronautical Salon in Paris during 1959. Eventually the option for 5 more was taken up in 1964. Keen to see if the Rotodyne suited carrier operations, the RAN successfully trialled a “borrowed” RAAF machine and purchased 6 more in 1964. These were the larger bodied Mark 2 versions re-fitted with the same Rolls Royce Dart power plants used on the Fokker F-27 Friendships operating in Australian domestic airline services.

In typical Australian fashion, the crews of the RAAF Rotodyne’s nicknamed their machines “The Flying Fruitbox”, owing to the large boxy fuselage shape.

In 1962 QANTAS expressed an interest and after a tour of the Westland production plant and a number of demonstrator flights, purchased 20 of the smaller Mark 1 version to be used in the domestic shuttle service between capital cities and larger regional centres. Deliveries commenced in mid 1963.

QANTAS placed 4 Rotodyne’s into service within Western Australia in 1964; two on the Perth – Bunbury shuttle service and two on the Perth – Kalgoorlie shuttle service. In keeping with QANTAS tradition, the 4 Rotodyne’s were named Town of Bunbury, Town of Kalgoorlie, Town of Geraldton and Town of York. 

Photographs & text kindly submitted by © Michael Johnson

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