(official name: Beagle-Wallis WA-116): The amazing portable autogyro (mini-helicopter) designed by Wing Commander Kenneth H. Wallis and flown by James Bond (Sean Connery) in You Only Live Twice. In the film, it’s transported to Tokyo by Q (Desmond Llewelyn) in four suitcases and features an arsenal of weapons, including two fixed machine guns; two rocket launchers, forward firing on either side, with incendiary and high explosive capability; heat-seeking air-to-air missiles; two flame guns firing astern, range of eighty yards; two smoke ejectors; and aerial mines. Bond takes his new toy on a reconnaissance of Japan’s volcano country, and runs into four SPECTRE helicopters that are no match for Nellie’s deadly charms.
As to who discovered Wallis and his incredible mini-helicopter in reality, credit must be split between production designer Ken Adam, who heard a radio interview with Wallis, and producer Harry Saltzman, who saw the autogyro in an aviation magazine. During filming in Japan from August through October 1966, Wing Commander Wallis himself doubled Sean Connery, as he was the only one with the skill to fly Little Nellie. Close-ups of Connery were later shot against a blue screen on the special effects stage at Pinewood Studios. The tiny helicopter flew eighty-five sorties over Japan, for a total of forty-six hours in the air. Because it is against the law to fire guns—even phony ones—in midair over Japan, the Bond crew eventually completed the battle sequences in Spain near Torremolinos.
Little Nellie was an incredibly versatile flying machine, capable of a speed range of 14–130 mph. According to journalist Robin Harbour, who interviewed Wallis for a 1988 article in 007 Magazine, Nellie weighed 250 pounds and could lift twice its own weight. Its range was 170 miles, and it could remain in the air for two and a half hours with a fuel consumption of seventeen liters per hour. Originally designed for the British Army as a reconnaissance aircraft, the autogyro carried the military serial number XR 943 and civil registration G-ARZB.