In the midst of World War II, a brilliant and audacious idea took flight, quite literally on the British frontlines, in the form of the Hafner Rotabuggy. Conceived by Austrian aviation engineer Raoul Hafner and developed by the British Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment, this remarkable creation aimed to provide airborne forces with a unique form of ground transportation. Let us delve into the captivating story of the Hafner Rotabuggy, where a humble jeep took to the skies, forever altering the landscape of airborne operations.
From Jeep to Autogyro: The Birth of the Rotabuggy
The concept of the Rotabuggy stemmed from Hafner’s successful development of the Rotachute, which utilized a rotor instead of a parachute to enable pinpoint landings of troops in enemy territory. This achievement led to the daring proposal of applying similar principles to larger loads, specifically the idea of a rotor-equipped jeep and tank. Basically, it was a modified Willys Truck 4×4 model MB, commonly known as a Jeep, transformed into an autogyro.
The initial flight trials involved towing the Rotabuggy behind a Whitley bomber, but the experience proved arduous for the pilot, who had to grapple with a continuously thrashing control column within the cockpit. On occasions when the tow cable remained attached, heart-stopping moments ensued as the Rotabuggy, teetering on the edge of a stall, touched down after the tow plane departed and the driver assumed control. Despite these challenges, the concept of using rotors for pinpoint landings in enemy territory, as demonstrated by the successful development of the Rotachute, inspired the idea of applying the principle to larger loads.