Saunders-Roe Limited, also known as Saro, was a British aero- and marine-engineering company based at Columbine Works, East Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Saunders-Roe Limited
IndustryAerospace, Engineering
FateMerged with Westland Aircraft
HeadquartersEast Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK
Key people
Samuel Edgar Saunders
Alliot Verdon Roe
Francis Percy Beadle[1]
Maurice Brennan
Ray Wheeler
ProductsAircraft, helicopters, hovercraft


Saro Princess G-ALUN Farnborough 1953
Saunders-Roe Princess G-ALUN displaying at the Farnborough SBAC Show in September 1953

The name was adopted in 1929 after Alliott Verdon Roe (see Avro) and John Lord took a controlling interest in the boat-builders S. E. Saunders. Prior to this (excepting for the Sopwith/Saunders Bat Boat) the products were Saunders, the A4 Medina for example dating from 1926. Sam Saunders the founder developed the Consuta material used in marine and aviation craft.[2]

Saunders Roe concentrated on producing flying-boats, but none were produced in very large quantities – the longest run being 31 Londons. They also produced hulls for the Blackburn Bluebird. During the Second World War Saro manufactured Supermarine Walrus and Supermarine Sea Otters. Their works at Beaumaris, Anglesey, modified and serviced Catalinas for the Royal Air Force.

In January 1931 Flight magazine revealed that Whitehall Securities[3] Corporation Limited acquired a substantial holding in Saunders Roe. Whitehall Securities was already a large shareholder in Spartan Aircraft Ltd, of Southampton, and arising out of this investment Spartan was effectively merged into Saunders Roe.

In 1938 Saunders-Roe undertook a re-organisation of the commercial and administrative sides of its business. First, the marine section, consisting of the shipyard and boat building business, was transferred to a new company, Saunders Shipyard Ltd., all of the shares of which were owned by Saunders-Roe Ltd. Mr. C. Inglis was appointed shipyard manager. Secondly, the plywood section of the business carried on at the factory on the River Medina was transferred to a new company, Saro Laminated Wood Products Ltd., in consideration for a majority of the shares therein. Laminated Wood Products Ltd., which had marketed most of the plywood output, also merged its interests into the new company. Major Darwin, managing director, left the company. On the aircraft side of the business Mr. Broadsmith continued as director and general manager. All other senior posts in the executive staff remain unchanged.[4]

In 1947 they flew the SR.A/1 fighter prototype, one of the world's first jet-powered flying boats, and in 1952 they flew the prototype Princess airliner, but the age of the flying-boat was over and the two further Princess examples to be completed were never flown. No further new seaplanes were produced here. Modification work on Short-built flying boats continued at Cowes until 1955.

Saro Princess G-ALUN Cowes 1954
Saro works at East Cowes in September 1954 with stored Princess G-ALUN

The last fixed-wing aircraft they built was experimental SR53 mixed-power interceptor.

In 1951 Saunders-Roe took over the interests of the Cierva Autogiro Company at Eastleigh including the Skeeter helicopter project. In September 1952 the company comprised:

There was a branch design office in London, during the 1950s. It was situated in Queens Square, overlooking the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children

  • Saunders-Roe (Anglesey) Ltd, Friars Works, Beaumaris, North Wales
  • Saro Laminated Wood Products Ltd., Folly Works, Whippingham, I.O.W.
  • Princess Air Transport Co. Ltd of Osborne I.O.W. with an office in London at 45 Parliament St. SW1.

In 1959 it demonstrated the first practical hovercraft built under contract to the National Research Development Corporation to Christopher Cockerell's design, the SR.N1.

In the same year Saro's helicopter and hovercraft interests were taken over by Westland Aircraft which continued the Skeeter family with the Scout and Wasp. In 1964 all the hovercraft businesses under Westland were merged with Vickers-Armstrongs to form the British Hovercraft Corporation. This, in turn, was taken over by Westland and was renamed Westland Aerospace in 1985, and hovercraft production was reduced to nearly nothing until the advent of the AP1-88. The company produced sub contract work for Britten-Norman, produced composites and component parts for the aircraft industry, especially engine nacelles for many aircraft including the De Havilland Canada "Dash 8", the Lockheed Hercules, the British Aerospace Jetstream and parts for the McDonnell-Douglas MD-11. By the mid-1990s, over 60% of the world's production of turboprop nacelles took place in the East Cowes works.

Gloster Saro Meteor light foam tender at Brooklands Museum

In the late 1960s/early 1970s the Saunders-Roe Folly Works, by then owned by Hawker Siddeley was merged with the Gloster works to form Gloster-Saro utilising both companies' expertise in aluminium forming to produce fire appliances and tankers in the Gloster factory at Hucclecote, mostly based on Reynolds-Boughton chassis. In 1984 Gloster Saro acquired the fire tender business of the Chubb group with the company merging in 1987 with Simon Engineering to form Simon Gloster Saro.

In 1994 Westland was taken over by GKN, and when GKN sold off its shares of Westland to form Agusta-Westland, it retained the East Cowes works, where it continues aircraft component design and production.

Laird (Anglesey) Ltd was formed in 1968 and incorporated the Beaumaris and Llangefni factories of Saunders-Roe and the engineering business of Birkenhead shipbuilders Cammell Laird. Laird developed the Centaur, which was half Land Rover and half light tank. The company is now known as FAUN Municipal Vehicles Ltd.having been taken over yet again. Today, FAUN manufactures portable aluminium roadways and runways at Llangefni under its TRACKWAY brand.[5]

MV Red Jet 3 berthed at East Cowes, 19 August 2018
MV Red Jet 3 docked at the Columbine, 19 August 2018

In 2015, the East Cowes Columbine Hangar (famously now with the huge Union Jack painted on its doors) was leased from Homes & Communities Agency to Shemara Refit (now Wight Shipyard Co. Ltd), initially to carry out a total refit of MY Shemara, and who have constructed the catamaran ferry Red Jet 6 inside the hangar for use by Red Funnel Ferries, with the next Red Jet in the series, Red Jet 7, also built there. The GKN North site had sold in 2002 for £8m to a government quango, SEEDA, South East Enterprise Development Agency for the regeneration of East Cowes. That stalled with the financial crash in 2008 and is set never to achieve the sites full potential as a deep water Prime Tier 1 Marine Industrial Site.

The docks at the Columbine Hangar have also been used by Red Funnel as berths for their Red Jet catamaran ferries when not in use; for example, Red Jet 6 was berthed at the Columbine while undergoing system tests.

Saunders and Saunders-Roe designs

Flying boats

Land-based aircraft



  • SR.N1 ("Saunders Roe Nautical 1"): First modern hovercraft
  • SR.N2 First to operate a commercial service
  • SR.N3 First designed for military use
  • SR.N4 or Mountbatten class – large 4 prop ferry
  • SR.N5 Also Bell SK-5, as PACV used in Vietnam
  • SR.N6 Longer SR.N5 38 passengers


With the Royal Aircraft Establishment

The Rocket Development Division was formed in 1956 and the Rocket Test site at Highdown started functioning exactly one year later. The division was headquartered at Yeovil. It was this Division, in conjunction with the Royal Aircraft Establishment, that was responsible for the design, manufacture and static testing of the Black Knight Rocket, the first of which was successfully fired at Woomera, South Australia, on 7 September 1958.

Military canoes, assault boats and load carriers (World War II)

Designed by Fred Goatley# Marine designer Mark 2 Canoe – 1941–1942 (used on the Cockleshell Heroes "Frankton Raid") Mk 2** Canoe – 1943 ( used in Leros – various, incl. Sunbeam Raids ) 12 man Assault craft c. 1940–1942 8 ton load carrier. c. 1942–1943


The Electronics Division was formed in 1948. Its progress was rapid and the Division also designed and manufactured such diverse specialist equipment as Analogue Computers, Control Simulators and a variety of Electronic Equipment and Electronic Test sets associated with Guided Weapons. When using strain gauges of the normal wire type in the dynamic testing of helicopter components, notably rotor blades, Saunders-Roe found that such a high proportion of the gauges were failing that development was considerably retarded. The Electronics Division was therefore asked to devise an improved gauge and, in collaboration with Messrs. Technograph Printed Circuits Ltd.,[7] produced the foil strain gauge.


  • R-103 – a 17-ton hydrofoil for Royal Canadian Navy, Known as "Bras d'Or". Built in 1956 by Saunders-Roe (Anglesey) Ltd. (This should not be confused with HMCS Bras d'Or, a 240 tonne hydrofoil patrol vessel, which was the result of the tests performed by the R-103)

Illuminated signs

Early in aviation, it was difficult – if not impossible – to supply uninterrupted power in aircraft. Saunders-Roe solved this problem by putting an ionising gas (tritium; 3H) in small tubes. Tritium was discovered in 1934 by Lord Rutherford. The tubes ("Betalights") are made of borosilicate glass. The inside of the tubes is coated with a fluorescent powder, which glows as a result of the ionizing radiation of the tritium gas. Such a tube emits light for 15 years. Betalights were used to illuminate the flight instruments, exit signs and corridors of the aircraft produced by Saunders-Roe. When Saunders-Roe was acquired by Westland Helicopters production continued via Saunders-Roe Developments Ltd of North Hyde Road, Hayes, Middlesex (the former Fairey Aviation Head office). Betalight production was made independent under the name SRBT (Saunders-Roe Betalight Technology). A factory was established in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, where tritium supplies are readily available. Today betalights are used in self luminous escape-route signs, under the product name Betalux.

Mark 3 airborne lifeboat

Avro Shackleton with Saunders-Roe airborne lifeboat
Mark 3 airborne lifeboat fitted underneath an Avro Shackleton

In early 1953, Saunders-Roe at Anglesey completed the Mark 3 airborne lifeboat to be fitted underneath the Avro Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft. This model was made entirely of aluminium, previous marks being made of timber. Parachuted at a rate of 20 feet per second into the rescue zone, the craft was powered by a Vincent motorcycles HRD T5 15 hp engine; sails and a fishing kit were also provided. The Mark 3 measured 31 feet (9 m) from bow to stern and 7 feet (2 m) across the beam and held enough to supply 10 people with food and water for 14 days.[8]

Road vehicles

During World War II, Saunders-Roe opened a factory at Fryars in Llanfaes, Anglesey, converting and maintaining Catalina flying boats. In the late 1940s and 1950s the Beaumaris factory began making bus bodies under the names Saunders, SEAS (Saunders Engineering & Shipbuilding) and SARO. When AEC took over Crossley Motors, many of the design staff left and joined SARO. In pre-Atlantean days when Leyland began looking at low floor vehicles, the "Low Loader" (STF 90) bodied by SARO was similar in certain respects to the Crossley chassisless bus designs. Bodies were manufactured at Beaumaris for installing on "Leyland Royal Tiger" and "Leyland Tiger Cub" chassis; SARO bodied 250 RTs for London Transport between 1948 and 1950 (RT 1152–1401), which were almost indistinguishable from the standard Weymann/Park Royal products; and some double-deck buses for Liverpool Corporation. 620 prefabricated Rivalloy (the brand name comes from rivetted (aluminium) alloy) single deck buses components for local assembly were sold to Autobuses Modernos SA, Cuba which later became Omnibus Metropolitanos, S.A. Another large customer was Auckland Regional Transport in New Zealand who took the Rivalloy body on 90 Daimler Freeline chassis.

In the UK large numbers of SARO bodies were specified by the British Electric Traction group on Leyland Tiger Cub chassis, operators including Trent, East Midland, Ribble and the Northern General Group. An integral version of the body design powered by a Gardner 5HLW engine was bought by Maidstone & District.

The factory later passed to Cammell Laird who mainly used it for producing refuse-collection vehicles, but when Metro Cammell Weymann had a production backlog, they completed a batch of MCW-style double deck forward-entrance highbridge bodies on Leyland Titan PD3 for Brighton Corporation, these were numbered 31-5, registered LUF131-5F and delivered in June and July 1968, they were unusual as front engined half-cab buses built to be driver operated.[9]

See also



  1. ^ Moss, Roger. "Francis Percy Hyde Beadle". British Aviation - Projects to Production. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  2. ^ Details can be found in the hardcover A Solent Flight by Ivor J. Hilliker.
  3. ^ A company within the Pearson Group
  4. ^ Retrieved on 18 August 2011.
  5. ^ Retrieved on 18 August 2011.
  6. ^ Yenne, Bill (1993) [1990]. Kirk, John (ed.). The World's Worst Aircraft. Dorset Press. pp. 121, 159. ISBN 0-88029-490-6.
  7. ^ Archived 7 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 18 August 2011.
  8. ^ Flight, 13 February 1953. "Service Aviation: New Airborne Lifeboat." Retrieved on 21 September 2009.
  9. ^ "Bus Lists On The Web".


  • Peter London, Saunders and Saro Aircraft Since 1917, Putnam (Conway Maritime Press), London, 1988
  • The Cockleshell Canoes, Quentin Rees, ISBN 978-1-84868-065-4 Amberley Press, 2008, reprinted 2nd edition 2009
  • The Cockleshell Heroes — The Final Witness,ISBN 978-1-84868-861-2 Amberley Press, December 2010

External links

Black Arrow

Black Arrow, officially capitalised BLACK ARROW, was a British satellite carrier rocket. Developed during the 1960s, it was used for four launches between 1969 and 1971. Its final flight was the first and only successful orbital launch to be conducted by the United Kingdom, and placed the Prospero satellite into low Earth orbit.Black Arrow originated from studies by the Royal Aircraft Establishment for carrier rockets based on the Black Knight rocket, with the project being authorised in 1964. It was initially developed by Saunders-Roe, and later Westland Aircraft as the result of a merger.

Black Arrow was a three-stage rocket, fuelled by RP-1 paraffin (kerosene) and high test peroxide, a concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide (85% hydrogen peroxide + 15% water). It was retired after only four launches in favour of using American Scout rockets, which the Ministry of Defence calculated to be cheaper than maintaining the Black Arrow programme.

British Hovercraft Corporation

British Hovercraft Corporation was the corporate entity created when the Saunders-Roe division of Westland Aircraft and Vickers Supermarine combined March 1966 with the intention of creating viable commercial hovercraft. Westland Aircraft held 65% of the shares, Vickers 25% and the National Research Development Corporation 10%.

None of the Vickers designs were 'taken forward', the existing production of the Saunders-Roe designs continued (SR.N5 Warden class and SR.N6 Winchester class) and the Saunders-Roe designed SR.N4 (Mountbatten class), was completed and entered service on the English Channel.

Only one new design was produced (1969) by the British Hovercraft Corporation, the BH.7 (Wellington class).

In 1970, Westland Aircraft acquired the shares of the other parties. In 1971 Cushioncraft was acquired from Britten-Norman. In 1984, the company was renamed Westland Aerospace – hovercraft design/manufacture had effectively ceased and the company was involved with the manufacture of composites for the aerospace industry.

The British Hovercraft Corporation was responsible for the largest Union Flag in the world. It was painted on the doors of their hangar on the seafront at East Cowes in 1977 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II.


The Saunders-Roe SR.N1 ("Saunders-Roe Nautical 1") was the first practical hovercraft. The concept has its origins in the work of British engineer and inventor Christopher Cockerell, who succeeded in convincing figures within the services and industry, including those within British manufacturer Saunders-Roe. Research was at one point supported by the Ministry of Defence; this was later provided by the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), who had seen the potential posed by such a craft.

In order to test the theories and overall concept, it was decided that the construction of a full-scale craft, designated as the SR.N1. On 11 June 1959, it performed its first flight in front of the public. The SR.N1 participated in the test programme for four years prior to its retirement, by which point it had served its purpose in successfully validating the concept and further hovercraft had been developed.

In less than four years following the SR.N1's maiden flight, multiple hovercrafts were being designed and produced by several companies in the United Kingdom, as well as in Japan by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding & Engineering under a license given by Westland Aircraft.


The SR.N2 was a hovercraft built by Westland and Saunders-Roe. It first flew in 1961. It weighed 27 tons and could carry 48 passengers. Although only one was built it is regarded as the prototype for commercial hovercraft, following on from the SR.N1 research craft. It was demonstrated on the Saint Lawrence River, Canada in 1962 and operated by P & A Campbell as a ferry crossing the Bristol Channel between Weston-super-Mare and Penarth in 1963. It was then fitted with deeper (4 ft) skirts to improve its performance in rough seas. Southdown Motor Services and Westland Aircraft ran the SR.N2 on the Solent between Eastney and Ryde in 1963/4, carrying 30,000 passengers. It was eventually broken up.


The SR.N4 (Saunders-Roe Nautical 4) hovercraft (also known as the Mountbatten class hovercraft) was a passenger and vehicle carrying class of hovercraft. Work on the SR.N4 was begun in 1965 by Saunders-Roe. By the time the first trials took place in early 1968, Saunders-Roe had merged with Vickers Supermarine to form the British Hovercraft Corporation. Power was provided by four Rolls-Royce Proteus marine turboshaft engines each driving its own lift fan and pylon-mounted steerable propulsion propeller.

The SR.N4 was the largest hovercraft then built, designed to carry 254 passengers in two cabins besides a four-lane automobile bay which held up to 30 cars. Cars were driven from a bow ramp just forward of the wheelhouse. The first design was 40 metres (131 ft) long, weighed 190 long tons (193 t), was capable of 83 knots (154 km/h) and could cruise at over 60 knots (111 km/h). The SR.N4s operated services across the English Channel between 1968 and 2000.


The Saunders-Roe (later British Hovercraft Corporation) SR.N6 hovercraft (also known as the Winchester class) was essentially a larger version of the earlier SR.N5 series. It incorporated several features that resulted in the type becoming the one of most produced and commercially successful hovercraft designs in the world.

While the SR.N2 and SR.N5s operated in commercial service as trials craft, the SR.N6 has the distinction of being the first production hovercraft to enter commercial service. In comparison to the SR.N5, the SR.N6 was stretched in length, providing more than double the seating capacity. Some models of the craft were stretched further, enabling an even greater capacity.

Experience gained in the development of the SR.N6 has been attributed as heavily contributing towards the design and production of the largest civil hovercraft to be ever produced, the SR.N4. Several major design features of the SR.N6 appeared on both the SR.N4 and further hovercraft designs by Saunders-Roe and its successor, the British Hovercraft Corporation.

Saro Cloud

The Saro Cloud was a British passenger amphibian flying boat designed and built by Saunders-Roe as the A.19 and later produced as the A.29 for the Royal Air Force for pilot and navigator training.

Saro London

The Saunders Roe A.27 London was a British military biplane flying boat built by the Saunders Roe company. Only 31 were built, entering service with the Royal Air Force in 1936. Although due for replacement by the outbreak of World War II, they saw some active service pending the introduction of the ultimately unsuccessful Lerwick.

Saro P.531

The Saro P.531 (or Saunders-Roe P.531) is a British all-metal five-seat helicopter designed and built by Saunders-Roe Limited (Saro).

Saro Shrimp

The Saunders Roe A.37 Shrimp was a 1930s British two-seat four-engined experimental flying boat built by Saunders-Roe Limited ("Saro") at Cowes.

Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick

The Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick was a British flying boat built by Saunders-Roe Limited (Saro). It was intended to be used with the Short Sunderland in Royal Air Force Coastal Command but it was a flawed design and only a small number were built. They had a poor service record and a high accident rate; of 21 aircraft, 10 were lost to accidents and one for an unknown reason.

Saunders-Roe Duchess

The Saunders-Roe Duchess also known as the model P.131 was a British design for a large jet-powered flying boat from Saunders-Roe, based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The Duchess was designed to follow the propeller-driven Princess. The Duchess would have been a high-wing cantilever monoplane with a conventional tail and a full-length planing bottom. It also had retractable stabiliser floats at each wingtip. It was to have had a pressurised and air-conditioned cabin for 74 passengers in two compartments with a freight hold in the centre. The six de Havilland Ghost turbojets were to have been mounted inside the wing roots. The company displayed a model of the aircraft at the 1950 Farnborough Air Show. Tasman Empire Airways considered ordering the aircraft for journeys between Australia and New Zealand but the aircraft was cancelled.

Saunders-Roe Princess

The Saunders-Roe SR.45 Princess was a British flying boat aircraft developed and built by Saunders-Roe at their Cowes facility on the Isle of Wight. It has the distinction of being the largest all-metal flying boat to have ever been constructed.The Princess had been developed to serve as a larger and more luxurious successor to the pre-war commercial flying boats, such as the Short Empire. It was intended to serve the transatlantic route, carrying up to 100 passengers between Southampton, United Kingdom and New York City, United States in spacious and comfortable conditions. To achieve this, it was decided early on to make use of newly developed turboprop technology, opting for the in-developed Bristol Proteus engine to power the aircraft. The project suffered delays due to difficulties encountered in the development of the Proteus engine.On 22 August 1952, the first prototype Princess, G-ALUN, conducted its maiden flight. Between 1952 and 1954, the first prototype performed a total of 47 test flights, including two public appearances at the Farnborough Airshow. This work was carried out under a development contract for the Ministry of Supply, the intention being that this would lead to a contract for the aircraft from British flag carrier British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Although the initial development contract had been successfully met, BOAC eventually decided to focus on its land-based routes using the jet-powered De Havilland Comet instead. The era of the large flying boat had effectively ended prior to the aircraft's completion.

Work on the Princess was ultimately cancelled after having produced three examples, only one of which flew. By the mid-1950s, large commercial flying boats were being increasingly overshadowed by land-based jet airliners. Factors such as runway and airport improvements had added to the viability of land-based aircraft, which did not have to compromise to accommodate the additional weight and drag of the boat hulls that were necessary on seaplanes, or the mitigating measures needed against the corrosion caused by seawater. Following the project's termination, the three airframes were stored with the intention of selling them on; however, upon receipt of a promising offer for the aircraft, it was found that corrosion had set in while in storage. As a result, all three airframes were scrapped.

Saunders-Roe SR.177

The Saunders-Roe SR.177 was a 1950s project to develop a combined jet- and rocket-powered interceptor aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy. It was an enlarged derivative of the Saunders-Roe SR.53, which was itself an experimental combined jet-and-rocket interceptor aircraft.

The SR.177 principally differed from the smaller SR.53 in its adoption of a nose-mounted airborne interception radar unit, which allowed it to scan for and lock onto its own targets; a more powerful turbojet engine was also incorporated. In addition to British interests in the aircraft, the German Navy had also expressed their interest in the project and closely evaluated its progress with an eye towards its potential procurement. However, the SR.177 was ultimately cancelled as a result of changes in Britain's military policies in 1957.

A much larger derivative of the SR.177 had been studied, which was designated as the SR.187, and was being developed with the intention of meeting the requirements of Operational Requirement F.155. However, this work was also cancelled in 1957. By the time of termination, approximately 90 per cent of the first prototype had been completed, while several other prototypes were in various states of completion. The prototypes were stored for several years while attempts were made to revive the project; while interest was present, including from Japan, nothing more came of the project and the remaining assets were broken up.

Saunders-Roe SR.53

The Saunders-Roe SR.53 was a British prototype interceptor aircraft of mixed jet and rocket propulsion developed for the Royal Air Force (RAF) by Saunders-Roe in the early 1950s. As envisaged, the SR.53 would have been used as an interceptor aircraft, using its rocket propulsion to rapidly climb and approach incoming hostile bombers at high speeds; following its attack run, the aircraft would be able to return to its base by making use of the secondary jet propulsion instead.

Although the SR.53 proved to have promising performance during test flights, the requirement for such an aircraft had been overtaken by rapid advances in surface-to-air missile technology, leading to reconsideration of the aircraft's purpose. In July 1960, the development programme was formally cancelled, by which time a total of 56 test flights had been performed. A pair of prototype SR.53 aircraft had been completed and used during flight tests. One of these was destroyed during one such test flight in June 1958. The other, the first prototype, survived and was preserved; it is currently on public display at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford.

Saunders-Roe SR.A/1

The Saunders-Roe SR./A.1 was a prototype flying boat fighter aircraft designed and built by British seaplane manufacturer Saunders-Roe. It was the first jet-propelled water-based aircraft in the world.The concept behind the SR./A.1 originated during the Second World War as a reaction to Japan's successful use of military floatplanes and the emergence of the turbojet engine. Saunders-Roe presented an initial proposal of their jet-powered seaplane concept, then designated SR.44, to the Air Ministry during mid-1943. In April 1944, the Ministry issued Specification E.6/44 for the type and supported its development with a contract for three prototypes. Development was protracted by Saunders-Roes' work on other projects, the war having ended prior to any of the prototypes being completed.

On 16 July 1947, the first prototype made its maiden flight. The SR./A.1 was evaluated by the Royal Air Force (RAF), who concluded that the design was incapable of matching up to the performance of land-based designs. Despite interest from foreign governments, including the United States, no orders for the SR./A.1 materialised. As such, it never entered volume production or saw service with any operators. While interest in the SR./A.1 programme was briefly revived following the start of the Korean War, the aircraft was considered to be obsolete by that point and was again rejected.

Saunders-Roe Skeeter

The Saunders-Roe Skeeter was a two-seat training and scout helicopter that was developed and produced by British manufacturer Saunders-Roe ("Saro") of Cowes and Southampton, in the United Kingdom.

Work on what would become the Skeeter had been commenced by the Cierva Autogiro Company as the Cierva W.14. Following Saunders-Roe's take over of Cierva, it was decided to continue its projects, including the Skeeter. Despite an initial preference for the rival Fairey Ultra-light Helicopter, which had already been ordered, there was a reversal of fortune when interest from the Bundeswehr in the potential procurement of a large number of Skeeters. This led to the British order for the Ultra-light Helicopter being cancelled and the Skeeter effectively taking its place, which also served to guarantee an export order from Germany.

During the late 1950s, the Skeeter entered service with the British Army Air Corps, the German Navy, and the German Army. It has the distinction of being the first helicopter to be used by the Army Air Corps. While some consideration had been made to developing a version of the Skeeter powered by a turbine engine instead of a piston engine, it was decided to produce the developmental Saro P.531 for this purpose instead of a more direct Skeeter derivative.

Society of British Aerospace Companies

The Society of British Aerospace Companies, formerly Society of British Aircraft Constructors, known as SBAC, was the UK's national trade association representing companies supplying civil air transport, aerospace defence, homeland security and space. As of October 2009 SBAC merged with the Defence Manufacturers Association and the Association of Police and Public Security Suppliers to form the ADS Group.

The SBAC organises the Farnborough Airshow.

Westland Helicopters

Westland Helicopters was a British aerospace company. Originally Westland Aircraft, the company focused on helicopters after the Second World War. It was amalgamated with several other British firms in 1960 and 1961. In 2000, it merged with Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta to form AgustaWestland, which in turn merged into Leonardo-Finmeccanica in 2016.

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