Rare gyroplane comes to Weston
THE Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare has taken delivery of one of the few surviving Campbell Cricket gyroplanes.
It was built at Membury in Wiltshire in the late 1960s as a single-seat development of the original US designed Bensen B.8M gyrocopter.
Established by Don Campbell and partner Geoffrey Whatley, the Campbell factory originated in a garage in Reading but relocated to Membury in 1967.
Here, designer Peter Lovegrove modified a Bensen with a partially enclosed cockpit and replaced the original unreliable two-stroke power plant with a modified Volkswagen engine, hand-built for the purpose by Royal Berks Motors in Reading.
Final assembly was carried out at Membury airfield, close to where the Membury motorway services on the M4 stand today.
Only about 30 Crickets were eventually produced, with examples exported to France, Denmark, Norway, Malaysia and Morocco, and six to Kuwait, each selling for around £1,645 ex-factory. Production ended in 1971 although some kit-builds were revived for a time in 2001.
The example donated to the Helicopter Museum was the third Cricket built (G-AXRA), which was completed in February 1970 and initially sold to a US citizen living in Harlow, Essex. It later changed owners before finally ending up in Cardiff, complete but in poor condition.
Originally the new owner intended to restore the gyroplane to flying condition but eventually abandoned the idea and offered G-AXRA to the Museum, along with a second incomplete example.
Led by Collection Officer John Clews, The Museum Volunteers Chris May and Jack Kilmuray collected the cricket on 4th October and it is now planned to refurbish it for static display alongside an original Bensen B.8M for comparison and next to another Campbell gyroplane, the one-off Cougar which was built next door to the Museum in 1973.
The addition brings the Helicopter Museum collection to over 90 aircraft, including 10 different autogyros and gyrocopters dating from 1935 to the present day, as well as a secondary collection of over 100 engines.