Obituary: Kenneth Wallis / Flew James Bond's 'Little Nellie' autogyro

April 26, 1916 - Sept. 1, 2013

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Kenneth Wallis, a decorated British bomber pilot in World War II who went on to proselytize for the buglike flying machine called the autogyro -- and flew one as Sean Connery's stunt double in the 1967 James Bond film "You Only Live Twice" -- died Sept. 1 in East Dereham, England. He was 97.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Vicky Wallis.

Mr. Wallis flew 28 missions for the Royal Air Force over Germany, reaching the rank of wing commander. Many pilots flew off never to return. He would later recall: "We had arrangements. If you didn't come back, then your bacon and eggs the next morning would be given to someone else."

Much of his postwar life was spent building and promoting the use of autogyros, which look a little like helicopters but which sport, in his models, a rear propeller. He set 34 world autogyro records, including for speed and altitude, but disparaged the notion that they were primarily sporting vehicles or oddities, said Ian Hancock, his biographer: "He didn't want them to be toys. He wanted them to be workhorses."

He created one after another, incorporating surveillance equipment, radar and other apparatus, using ground-penetrating radar to help investigators search for corpses and anthropologists find lost Roman settlements, and scanning Loch Ness for its famous monster, which proved uncooperative. He most famously flew one, "Little Nellie," in "You Only Live Twice."

In 1996, Mr. Wallis was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. This summer he was awarded the Bomber Command medal for his missions during World War II.

Kenneth Horatio Wallis was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, on April 26, 1916, to Horace and Emily May Wallis -- "during a zeppelin raid," his daughter said.

The family was in the business of building and repairing motorcycles and bicycles, and little Ken was building his first motorcycle by the age of 11, but never studied engineering at a university. Instead, he would ponder things that fascinated him, Mr. Hancock said, "usually examining something, finding out how it works and how he could improve it."


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