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Autogyro Builder Racing Through Retirement

July 1, 2010 — Typical retirement goals often include spending more time with the family, catching up on the gardening, or maybe some travel. But Kenneth Wallis of Norfolk, England, is not your typical pensioner. At 94, he is working to break the gyrocopter speed record - the one he set in 2002 at 121.9 mph. In the 74 years he has been flying and 51 years building autogyros, the World War II Royal Air Force pilot has set more than 34 world records and built close to 20 aircraft, including Little Nellie, featured in the James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice. Wallis was also appointed a Member of the British Empire by the Queen in 1996 for his services towards aviation.

It is clear that Wallis has gotten where he is through rugged determination; he does not let a setback stop him. After twice failing the RAF medical because of his eyesight in 1939, he bought a book called Medical Fitness for Flying and cheated his way through the third eye exam. Wallis went on to survive 28 bombing missions over Germany, some quite narrowly, and earned the nickname “The Crasher” because of his propensity to come back with damaged aircraft.

When he lost his medical in the UK at the age of 77, Wallis went and got one in the U.S. (He was later reissued a British pilot’s license.) (Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1071025.stm)

And now that the Civil Aviation Authority in Britain has set the maximum speed for gyrocopters at 70 mph, the Daily Mail has reported that he will go outside the country to break his record."It’s ridiculous," Wallis said. “Seventy’s nothing.”

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