Saunders-Roe Limited was a British aero- and marine-engineering company based at Columbine Works
East Cowes, Isle of Wight.
The name was adopted in 1929 after
Alliot 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. Details can be found in the hardcover "A Solent Flight" by Ivor J. Hilliker.
Saunders Roe, commonly abbreviated Saro, 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, and during the Second World Warmanufactured Supermarine Walrusand Supermarine Sea Otters. In 1952 they flew the prototype Princess, but the age of the flying-boat was over and no more were produced here.
The last fixed-wing aircraft they built was experimental SR53 mixed-power interceptor.
In 1951 Saunders-Roe took over the interests of the
Cierva Autogyro Companya helicopter design of which was developed into the Skeeter helicopter. In September 1952 the company comprised of Saunders-Roe Ltd. with a Head Office in Osborne , East Cowes I.O.W. with works at Columbine I.O.W. and Southampton airport. Saunders-Roe (Angelsey) Ltd, Fryers Works Beaumaris, North Wales, Saro Laminated Wood Products Ltd., Folly Works, Whippingham I.O.W. and 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 hovercraftbuilt under contract to the National Research and Development Corporation to Christopher Cockerell's design, the (Saunders-Roe Nautical 1).
In the same year Saro's helicopter and hovercraft interests were taken over by
Westland Aircraftwhich continued the Skeeter family with the Scout & Wasp. In 1964 all the hovercraft businesses under Westland were merged with Vickers-Armstrong 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 nacellesfor many aircraft including the DeHavilland Canada 'Dash 8', the Shorts 330 "Skyvan", 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 turbopropnacelles took place in the East Cowes works.
In the late 60s/early 70s 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 in the Gloster factory at Hucclecote, mostly based on Reynolds-Boughton chassis.
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, and more recently manufactures blades for wind turbines.
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.
Saunders A3 Valkerie
Saunders A4 Medina- 1929.
*A17 Cutty Sark
*A29 Cloud Monospar
Saunders-Roe Jet Princess(Paper Project only)
Saunders-Roe Dutchess(Paper Project only) Landplanes
*Saunders Roe A22 Segrave Meteor - Designed by Sir Henry Segrave
*Saunders-Roe A24M (Spartan Cruiser) - Built by Spartan Aircraft Limited - 1932
*Saunders-Roe A24 Mailplane - Designed by
Edgar Percival, originally the Saro-Percival Mailplane - 1931
Saunders A10Intercepter (spelt with an e, not an o) - fighter - 1928
*SR.177 (cancelled before completion)
*SR-N1 "Saunders Roe Nautical" 1: First modern hovercraft
*SR-N4 Large 4 prop ferry
SR-N5Also Bell SK-5, PACVused in Vietnam
SR-N6Longer SR-N5 38 passengers
Royal Aircraft Establishment
Black ArrowThe Rocket Development Division was formed in 1956 and the Rocket Test site at Highdown started functioning exactly one year later. 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, Western Australia, on 7th September 1958.
*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.
* R-103 - a 17 ton
Hydrofoilfor 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 (FHE 400), a 240 tonne hydrofoil patrol vessel, which was the result of the tests performed by the R-103)
Early in aviation, it was difficult – if not impossible – to supply uninterrupted power in aircraft. This problem was solved by Saunders-Roe by putting an ionising gas (tritium; 3H) in small tubes. Tritium was dicovered 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 Helicoptersproduction continued via Saunders-Roe Developments Ltd of North Hyde Road, Hayes, Middx (the former Fairey AviationHead office). Betalightproduction was made independent under the name SRBT (Saunders-Roe Betalight Technology). A factory was established in Ontario, Canada, where tritium supplies are readily available. Today betalights are used in self luminaus escape-route signs , under the product name Betalux™.
* Developed by Saunders-Roe (Angelsey) Ltd. the mark 3 Lifeboats 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 motorcyclesHRD T5 15hp engine, sails were also provided. The mark 3 measured 31 feet by 7 foot across the beam and held enough supplies for 14 days.
* During WWII, Saunders-Roe opened a factory at Fryars in Llanfaes, Anglesey, converting and maintaining Catalina flying boats. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s the
Beaumarisfactory began making bus bodies under the names Saunders, SEAS (Saunders Engineering & Shipbuilding) and SARO. When AEC took over Crossley, 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 "Leopard" and "Tiger" chassis. 620 prefabricated Rivolay single deck buses components for local assembly were sold to Autobuses Modernos SA, Cuba which later became Omnibus Metropolitanos, S.A.
* [http://www.bartiesworld.co.uk/hovercraft/saunders.htm Hovercraft of Saunders-Roe, Westlands, and BHC]
*Peter London, "Saunders and Saro Aircraft Since 1917", Putnam (Conway Maritime Press), London, 1988
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