The Skeeter was a light observation and training helicopter produced by Saunders-Roe of Cowes and Southampton. An overly long period of development and lack of engagement with end-users plagued this essentially simple helicopter. It was designed from 1947 at Cierva, initally as the W.14 (with a Jameson 106hp FF-1 engine) then named the Skeeter 1, which first flew on 8 Oct 1948 with a triangular section tail boom. The Skeeter 2 was powered by a de Havilland 145hp Gipsy Major 10 and had a more conventional, circular tail cross-section. It first flew on 15 Oct 1949 but suffered so badly from ground resonance, the single model eventually disintegrated. Enough promise was shown for the UK Ministry of Supply (which procured British Army aircraft at the time) to order two Skeeter 3 airframes - further improved by the 180hp Blackburn Bombardier engine, as a development batch. SARO took over Cierva in Jan 1951 and the type was redesignated the SARO P.501 but even this injection of talent (and capital) could not prevent the British Army rejecting the Skeeter 3B, nor the Royal Navy rejecting the Skeeter 4. Less resonance and more power was required, apparently being met by the Skeeter 5 and then by 1956, the Skeeter 6 (with the 200hp Gipsy Major 201) was available.
The first production unit was the Skeeter 6A for the British Army (as the AOP.10) and the 6B for the RAF (as the dual T.11 trainer). Both had all metal, stressed skins with wooden main blades. The Skeeter finally entered Army Air Corps service in Oct 1958 for reconnaissance and Air OP duties. Westland took over SARO in 1960 and the development of a turbine powered Skeeter with the Blackburn Turmo 603 was abandoned, although the experience was carried forward into the Wasp / Scout programme. After this rationalisation, a project was abandoned in March 1960 to boost its performance with a de Havilland supercharger, in hot and high environments. There were also lift enhancement trials of the Napier Rocket Booster, (a hydrogen peroxide tank mounted in a small tank above the rotor head and nozzles at the rotor tips for the expanding gases, without increasing rotor speed) for tropical operations.
The final variant was the Skeeter 8, which was basically a civilianisation of the Skeeter 7 (essentially the Army Air Corps AOP.12 version) for commercial operations. 3 were built for UK Certificate of Airworthiness tests, but no civil orders were placed and Skeeter production came to an end in 1960.
In Jul 1961, West Germany sold 10 non-airworthy Skeeters to the Portuguese Air Force but Westland subsequently abandoned a project to restore them to flying state.
Derivatives & Versions
|Cierva W.14 Skeeter 1||1948|| The Skeeter 1 was the Cierva Autogiro Company attempt at a producing a small, single engined helicopter and design work began in 1947. The progr ... |
|Skeeter 2||1949|| From flight testing, it was clear that the Skeeter 1 was underpowered and that its cylinder heads became alarmingly hot after only 20 minutes or ... |
|Skeeter 3||1951|| Two Skeeter 3 were in build as Cierva was being taken over by Saunders Roe during Jan 1951 and both (including a single Skeeter 4) were funded by ... |
|Skeeter 4||1952|| A single Skeeter 4 was built as the third of three development airframes funded by the Ministry of Supply (MoS) - the other two being the Skeeter ... |
|Skeeter 5||1953|| The Skeeter 5 was the result of intensive effort by SARO between late 1952 and Mar 1954 to solve the ground resonance issues which had plagued th ... |
|Skeeter 6B||1956|| The Skeeter 6B was a dual control variant of the Skeeter 6A. Known as Skeeter T.11 in RAF service. Only 1 built in 1956 as part of an evaluation ... |
|Skeeter 7||1957|| The Skeeter 7 was the culmination of SAROs efforts to improve the original Skeeter design and became the basis for the British Army AOP.12 and th ... |
|Saro P.531||1958|| Development of the Westland Wasp / Scout family was the first general purpose light helicopter project that was completely British. Initiated by ... |
The P.531 O/N version was also known by SARO as the H.AS/194D during its shipboard trials, which included suction-cup fittings to undercarriage l ...
|Skeeter Mk.50||1958|| Based on the Skeeter 7, for the West German Army. |
|Skeeter Mk.51||1958|| Based on the Skeeter 7, for the West German Navy. |
|Westland Scout||1960|| Developed from the SARO P.531, Westland built two more P.531/2 prototypes at Eastleigh with double the engine power (one with a 1050shp Bristol S ... |
List of Operators of Saunders Roe Skeeter
|From||Organisation with model Skeeter|
|Construction Numbers on database of Skeeter or its versions|