Pitcairn OP

Infobox Aircraft
name=Pitcairn OP/YG-2

first flight=
primary user=United States
more users=Great Britain
number built=
unit cost=
variants with their own articles=

The Pitcairn OP/YG-2 was the first rotary-wing aircraft to be seriously evaluated by any of the world's major air forces. The machine was not a helicopter, nor an airplane, but an autogyro. Pitcairn's model was never put into production for any military.


The Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company, established by Harold Frederick Pitcairn, designed the Pitcairn OP/YG-2 based on the autogiros of Juan de la Cierva. The resulting design had a standard aircraft fuselage and powerplant, with a standard tail. However, it sported short, stubby wings, angled up at the wingtips. Above the cockpit was the rotor, consisting of three blades. The engine usually drove a standard propellor, on a vertical plane, in front of the aircraft. However, the engine could be geared to the horizontal rotor during takeoff or landing. The horizontal rotor, while in flight, did not draw energy from the engine but rather generated lift from airspeed. A minimum speed of 30 mph was needed to keep the aircraft in flight. Thus, in moderate winds, the aircraft could behave like a helicopter, except that it could not hover.

The Pitcairn autogyro was first evaluated by the US military in the 1930s. In 1931, the Navy tested three prototypes, labelled XOP-1. One was tested with the aircraft carrier "Langley", on September 23, 1931. The only Pitcairn to see operational service did so in Nicaragua with the US Marines, starting in June 1932. This stint led to the Pitcairn OP-1 being rejected.

In 1935, the wings were removed from one Pitcairn autogyro, and the resulting helicopter was redesignated OP-2. This machine was a forerunner of the helicopter. In 1936, the US Army began testing an autogyro labelled YG-2, alongside a similar autogyro from Kellett. After testing for capabilities in observation and artillery spotting, the Kellett craft won out.

During World War II, Great Britain tested seven of the autogyros. Three were lost at sea in 1942 enroute. While the Pitcairn was limited to the United States and Great Britain, other autogyros served for many other nations, most notably Italy.

Operational service

Only the Pitcairn OP-1 saw operational service. One autogyro, assigned to Marine Observation Squadron Six (VO-6M) was sent to Nicarague in June, 1932. The autogyro would be tested through policing the rebel-infested mountains and jungles. While the aircraft performed well, it's range significantly impaired it. In addition, after the crew only 50 pounds could be carried. Marine historian Robert Debs Heinl, Jr. recounted the autogyro as being an "exasperating contraption".



pecifications ( )

aircraft specifications
plane or copter?=copter
jet or prop?=prop
ref={name of first source}
crew=2 (pilot and passenger)
length main=23 ft 1 in
length alt=7 m
span main=30 ft 3 in
span alt=9.1 m
loaded weight main=3,057 lb
loaded weight alt=1,386 kg
engine (prop)=Wright R-975-E
type of prop=radial piston
number of props=1
power main=420 hp
power alt=313 kW
max speed main=100 knots
max speed alt=115 mph, 185 km/h


* Polmar, Norman and Dana Bell. "One Hundred Years of World Military Aircraft.". Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2004. ISBN 1-59114-686-0.

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