Westland-Hill Pterodactyl

Captain G.T.R. Hill developed the Pterodactyl series in an attempt to develop a safer aircraft: many pilots lost their lives when their aircraft stalled, went into a spin and flew into the ground, and Hill wanted to develop a design which was resistant to stalling and spinning.

The pioneer J. W. Dunne had previously developed stable aircraft in the form of tailless swept wings and Hill took Dunne’s ideas as his starting point.

Helped by his wife, he constructed a prototype which was flown as a glider in 1924.

The design gained official interest and in 1925 it was fitted with a 35 h.p. Bristol Cherub engine and taken to Farnborough.

It was later demonstrated to the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Samuel Hoare.

All subsequent examples were funded under Air Ministry contract and built by Westland Aircraft, who took on Hill for this purpose.

The first Westland-built type, the Pterodactyl I, was built to Air Ministry Specification 23/26.

It took the form of a braced shoulder-wing monoplane with fully moving wingtips and a single pusher propeller.

If both tips were moved in the same way they functioned as elevators, in opposite ways then as ailerons.

It was designated the Mk. IA or IB according to which engine was fitted.

It and subsequent models flew initially from RAF Andover, the Mk. IA flying in 1928.

The Mks II and III failed to gain Ministry acceptance.

The next model to be built was a three-seat cabin monoplane to Ministry Specification 16/29, in which the all-moving tips were replaced by conventional ailerons.

An unusual feature was the use of variable wing sweep to provide longitudinal trim.

Designated the Mk. IV, it first flew in 1931.

The final Westland-built variant, the Mk. V, flew the next year, in 1932.

Built to Ministry specification F.3/32, it was a two-seat fighter powered by a 600 h.p. Rolls-Royce Goshawk engine and differing noticeably from the previous versions in having a sesquiplane lower wing and tractor propeller.

The lower wing was unswept and of short span and braced to the upper wing.

The forward propeller position, together with the tailless wing configuration, gave the rear gun turret an outstanding field of fire.

Despite its performance and flyability in other respects rivalling its conventional competitor the Hawker Hart it was not accepted for production.

Associated with the Mk. V was a complementary Mk. VI design for a pusher variant with front-mounted gun turret, and the intention was to fly a mixed squadron with front-firing machines leading and rear-firing machines behind, but the Pterodactyl programme was cancelled before any order for the Mk, VI had been received.

At the time of cancellation, wind tunnel models of a Mk. VII four-engined reconnaissance seaplane had been tested, and a proposal for a Mk. VIII transatlantic airliner was being worked on.


Pterodactyl Glider

Built by G T R Hill and his wife in 1924, later fitted with Bristol Cherub engine in 1925 with cooperation with the Air Ministry and test-flown at Farnborough.

Pterodactyl I

First Westland-built example, a braced monoplane.

Initially fitted with a Bristol Cherub engine as the Mk. IA, later fitted with an Armstrong Siddeley Genet engine and smaller rudders as the Mk.IB.

Air Ministry Specification 23/26 was issued to Westland for a Tailless aircraft for Research Purposes which allowed the ministry to subsidize the design and manufacture of the Pterodactyl IA.

The aircraft was given serial J9251 and first flew in June 1928 from Andover.

Pterodactyl II and III

Design projects for variants with gull wings.

Pterodactyl IV

Three-seat cabin monoplane of 44 ft 4 in span and 19 ft 6 in length, produced in 1931.

Pitch and roll control by elevons.

Also, a braced monoplane, the wings had variable sweep through a small range of angles, to allow longitudinal trim in flight in the absence of any horizontal stabilizer.

Air Ministry Specification 16/29 was issued to Westlands for an Experimental Tailless Aircraft with a contract to design and build one aircraft.

The aircraft was given serial K1947 and first flew in March 1931 with a 120hp de Havilland Gipsy III engine in a pusher configuration.

Pterodactyl V

Fighter design in the form of a sesquiplane with straight lower wing.

Fitted with a 600 hp Rolls-Royce Goshawk engine and two Vickers machine guns, it demonstrated equal capability to conventional fighters of the day, but other issues prevented it from going into production.

Air Ministry Specification F.3/32 for a Two-Seater Fighter Aircraft was issued to Westlands and serial K2770 was issued, although it was first flown from Andover in May 1934 by Harold Penrose with the test serial P-8.

Pterodactyl VI

Proposal contemporary with the Mk V, having a reversed layout with a pusher engine and front-mounted gun turret.

The variant of the Mark V was submitted for Specification F.5/33 for a two-seater fighter aircraft with front-mounted turret.

The specification was withdrawn as the designs submitted did not give any advance of current fighters.

Pterodactyl VII

Proposal to meet Specification 1/33 for a Tailless Boat Seaplane.

It was a flying boat with two tractor and two pusher engines.

The Pterodactyl was to be produced in cooperation with Saunders-Roe and models were successfully tested in a water tank by the NPL.

A novel design feature was the use of a retractable outboard engine at the stern to act as a water rudder.

Pterodactyl VIII

Proposed Flying wing transatlantic passenger aircraft with five pusher Rolls-Royce Griffon engines, this design may have had a delta wing.

Pterodactyl fighter

A design for a Pterodactyl-type twin-engine fighter was submitted against Specification F.22/33 for a Twin-Engine Fighter Aircraft; the specification and proposals were not proceeded with.


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