1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Autogyro
Johnny Green  /  AP
British Army Warrant Officer Barry Jones, an Army Air Corps pilot, flies over southern England in his autogyro, a light aircraft that he hopes will fly him around the world.
updated 4/26/2004 1:31:19 PM ET 2004-04-26T17:31:19

A British Army pilot set off Monday to break one of the world’s last remaining aviation records — circumnavigating the globe in an autogyro, the neglected cousin of the modern helicopter.

Flanked by the army’s Blue Eagles helicopter display team, Barry Jones took off from Middle Wallop in southern England for the first leg of a grueling, 24,700-mile (39,520-kilometer) journey that could take up to four months.

“He’ll be flying through the heat of the desert; the dense jungle of Thailand and Myanmar; over the wetlands of China and Russia; the ice of the Arctic,” team engineer Andy Wilson told Reuters.

“He’s in an open cockpit, so this will be a real test, both for him and the aircraft,” he added. “He’ll experience temperatures from 50 degrees Celsius to minus 50 (122 degrees Fahrenheit to 58 below zero). ”

The most dangerous legs are those where landing is not an option — particularly over jungle canopies and the northern Atlantic Ocean.

Invented in 1920s
The autogyro was invented in Spain in the 1920s, using an unpowered rotor to replace the wing of a conventional aircraft. They are neither fast nor economical, and have never been a commercial success.

But they are highly stable, said Wilson, and capable of gliding safely to the ground if the rear-mounted propeller fails.

Autogyros briefly soared to fame in the 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice,” when an autogyro known as “Little Nellie” starred alongside Sean Connery in an aeronautical dogfight.

They have also been used in military reconnaissance and in the search for Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness monster.

'Besotted' with autogyros
Jones, a 37-year-old Lynx pilot, first saw an autogyro while flying for the army over Scotland.

“He became besotted with them,” said project manager Peter Taylor, who along with Jones remortgaged his house to finance the expedition when it failed to find a backer.

“We were sat in a bar in Yorkshire and he said, ‘I wonder if anyone has flown one of those things round the world?’ Eighteen months later and he’s on his way.”

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Joan Lunden: 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed with breast cancer

    From the moment you hear the words ‘You have breast cancer,’ it’s almost like you’re shot out of a cannon. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed.

    10/1/2014 10:52:45 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:52:45
  2. Want to help? A guide to breast cancer charities

    In the United States an estimated 296,000 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and almost 40,000 women and 410 men will die of the disease. That's one death every 14 minutes, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

    10/1/2014 10:45:11 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:45:11
  3. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
  1. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

    Secret Service director resigns amid scandal

    10/1/2014 7:30:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T19:30:52
  1. Texas Ebola patient had contact with kids

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a press conference on Wednesday that “some school-age children” had been identified as having contact with the man diagnosed with the first case of Ebola in the United States. 

    10/1/2014 5:37:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T17:37:52
  1. Carrie Vitt

    5 things we learned from '100 Days of Real Food' blogger Lisa Leake

    10/1/2014 6:30:19 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T18:30:19
  1. Getty Images file

    Brad Pitt loves 'being a father,' raves about kids, Angelina Jolie

    10/1/2014 6:16:00 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T18:16:00