99 Saunders-Roe Skeeter AOP.12

The original development of the Saunders-Roe Skeeter was started during the 1940s when the Cierva Autogiro Company were developing a two seater piston engine helicopter, the Cierva Weir14, as an aerial observation platform. When Saunders-Roe took over Cierva’s helicopter contracts they decided to continue with it’s development called the aircraft the Skeeter. The Cierva prototype first flew in 1948.

The Army Air Corps Skeeter has a de Havilland Gypsy Major 150 4-cylinder 414 cu inch engine delivering 215 bhp. It cruises at 75 knots and has a maximum speed of 95 knots with an endurance of 2 hours 20 mins and a range of 175 nautical miles.

The first Army Skeeter was collected from Eastleigh and flown to Middle Wallop on 18 January 1957 and was the first helicopter used by the Army Air Corps. In service, it was deployed in reconnaissance, AOP, liaison, training and photographic roles. However, despite being a delight to fly, the aircraft’s service life was relatively short-lived owing to its limited engine performance and the lack of external load capability. The aircraft left Army Air Corps service in 1967, after considerable operational service in the UK and Germany. The Skeeter was also used in limited numbers by the German Army and the German Navy.

The Historic Army Aircraft Flight Skeeter XL812 is currently a non-flying aircraft having last flown in 2006. The Flight hopes that one day it will be able to restore the Skeeter to flying condition.

You can support our Skeeter by making a Donation …..

Our Skeeter XL812 (G-SARO)

Our aircraft is serial number S2/5097 and was built in 1959 and is a Skeeter AOP.12 model.


XL812 was registered as G-SARO but was taken off the UK civil register in 2010 because it was non-flying.

Technical Information and Development

Main Rotor Diameter9.75 metre (32 feet 0 inches)
Length9.25 metres (26 feet 8 inches)
Height2.90 metres (9 feet 6 inches)
Weight, Empty751 kg (1,656 lb)
Weight, Max Take Off1,043 kg (2,300 lb)
Cruising Speed171 km/h (106 mph)
Max Speed175 km/h (109 mph)
Rate of Climb5.8 metres/second (1,150 feet/minute)
Service Ceiling3,900 metres (12,800 feet)
Range420 km (260 miles)
Power Plantde Havilland Gipsy Major 215 4-cylinder air-cooled inverted engine, 215 hp (160 kW)
Technical Information: Saunders-Roe Skeeter AOP.12

The Saunders-Roe Skeeter is a light all-metal, two-seat single-rotor helicopter. It was intended to perform as an all-purpose rotorcraft, primarily being used for light civil work as well as aerial observation and training missions in military service. The handling characteristics were broadly similar to comparably-sized rotorcraft of the era, while possessing the necessary simplicity, robustness, and reliability that was commonly seen in trainer aircraft

The Skeeter was powered by a single piston engine located behind the cockpit and uner the main rotor. The engine drove a 29-foot (8.84 metre) three-bladed main rotor and a three-bladed anti torque rotor which was mounted at the end of a triangular-section tailboom. The aircraft had a fixed tricycle undercarriage.

The development of the aircaft was started by the Cierva Autogiro Company during 1947. It was designed as a relatively compact two-seater helicopter intended for use as both a civil aircraft and for milititary aerial observation duties. The first prototype aircraft with a 110 hp Jameson FF-1 air cooled horizontally opposed piston engine proved to be under powered. The company developed the improved Mark 2 Skeeter which was a significantly bigger aircraft, with different appearance and a de Havilland Gipsy Major engine producing 145 hp.

Futher testing of the Skeeter showed that it was still underpowered and suffered from major ground resonance problems. The government lost interest in the aircraft but Saunders-Roe continued with a lengthy series of tests at its own expense. Eventually they were able to show that the problems had been resolved when the Skeeter Mark 5 was tested by the A&AEE in March 1954 with a more powerful Gipsy Major engine.

In 1956 Saunders-Roe received a production order for 64 Skeeter aircraft powered by a 215 hp version of the Gipsey Major engine. Deliveries of the Skeeter started in May 1958. The majority of the 64 aircraft were AOP.12s for the British Army although several T.12s were used by the RAF for training purposes. The German Army Aviation Corps ordered six Skeeter Mark 50 aircraft and the German Navy orderd four Skeeter Mark 51 aircraft. The Skeeter was withdrawn from Army Air Corps service in 1967.

In service the AOP.12 was used for co-operation tasks, including aerial observation and artillery spotting. Some were employed on pilot training for which dual controls could be installed. Due to the Skeeter’s performance limitations, though, it served almost exclusively on duties in the UK and in continental Europe. An early AOP.12 production example, XM528, was fitted with a skid undercarriage rather than the normal tricycle arrangement and trialled other changes under the designation P.534.

In 1960 there were plans to develop a gas turbine powered version of the Skeeter but these were abandoned however the knowledge was later used in the development of the Saunders-Roe P.531 which resulted in the Westland Scout and the Westland Wasp helicopters.


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