Private Flying Notes

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64

If one adheres unimaginatively to the ruling of the seasons, that one during which all organised sporting flying takes place is now over. There will be no more races until next May, while the smaller meetings such as lunch and tea patrols organised by the more energetic flying clubs will continue only in greatly reduced doses.

This closing of the 1954 season brings with it the first woman British Air Racing Champion in Miss Freydis Leaf, who achieved her particular measure of success in the very interesting Miles Hawk Major G-ACYO, which first saw the starter’s flag as many as nineteen years ago. This attractive little open two-seater was the predecessor of the more famous Magister, which saw extensive service before and during the war in the ham hands of thousands of R.A.F. pupil pilots.

In practice the Hawk-Major is a much cleaner and lighter aeroplane than the “Maggie” (itself called the Hawk Trainer when in civil use, as it is today). All of which results in considerably better performance, but this is even more pronounced in the case of G-ACYO, for it has conceded to modernity to the tune of a metal propeller in front of a high-compression Gipsy Major 1c. All this produces average speeds in the region of 135 m.p.h.

Reluctantly, Freydis Leaf has now sold “Charlie Yoke Oboe,” and its new owner, one Howard Stirling, hopes to take it with him to the Middle or Far East, in which parts he is to continue his activities as an air traffic control officer; and so yet another real aeroplane leaves the country!

* * *

Thinking, and-writing, of women and aeroplanes brings to mind the Amy Johnson Memorial Scholarship, which is to provide some fortunate member of the fair sex with the opportunity of becoming a flying instructor. The award will be made by a selection committee from a large number of candidates, the only requirements for consideration being a current Private Pilot’s Licence and an Age under thirty.

One feels that selection may not be unduly difficult, for temperamentally most girls are quite unsuited to the task of teaching other people to fly, although there are some noteworthy exceptions and it is hoped that one of these will come to light to take advantage of the course offered. In practice, the thought of women flying instructors immediately conjures up a picture of Joan Hughes, who, as C.F I. of the West London Aero Club at White Waltham, takes many a male to task through the Gosports of a Tiger Moth; however, this is a very different picture from that of her war-time activities, when as an important personage within the Air Transport Auxiliary she was frequently seen descending from the cockpits of Lancasters and Halifaxes accompanied only by an armful of cushions!

* * *

Although we hear of objections to the use of certain motor-racing tracks being raised by the less sporting-minded of our community, these can in no way equal the number of complaints put forward each time an air race is flown. Courses are carefully planned to avoid anything other than the scantiest of built-up areas and that laid out for the Chiltern Hills Races held at Denham over the August Rank Holiday weekend covered only one inhabited building; yet complaints were received literally by the dozen, often from people whose television reception was momentarily upset.

The racing not only provides entertainment and useful precision-flying practice for the “grossly inconsiderate and irresponsible” pilots, but also the first of these to large numbers of spectators who pay for the pleasure of seeing it. One wonders what difference in mentality causes one person to leave home to become an enthusiastic follower of the game while his neighbour wastes his time and energy frantically ‘phoning the police, or anyone else who might be prepared to listen, in an irrational attempt to put a stop to the perfectly law-abiding activities of an all-too-small band of spirited aviators. It is unfortunate that the old adage of taking all types to make a world should be true!

* * *

A recent letter from a reader condemned me for my remarks on the cruising speed of the Autocrat, which I stated to be a “hard-fought-for 85.” my correspondent insisting that he had owned two such pieces of machinery, each of which had purred along merrily at 100 to 105 m.p.h. This seemed very intriguing until his letter went on, ” . . . keeping down to the cruising limitation of 2,300 r.p.m.” Personally, I would hardly consider 2,300 r.p.m. keeping down to anything, and my figure was based on the recommended 2,100 r.p.m., a setting taught at all self-respecting flying schools.

Admittedly the engine limitations state that “maximum continuous revs, must not exceed 2,300,” but surely no man paying for his own petrol or crankshaft flies in this manner! However, for personal peace of mind, I grabbed three Autocrats at random and treated myself to a few minutes of ear-splitting vibration in each, finding that by keeping just within the figurative law I attained 88, 91 and 93 m.p.h. I.A.S. respectively. But it was much less painful cruising at 2,100 and 80-85 m.p.h.!

* * *

Thinking of crankshafts (one cannot think of anything else with an Autocrat at 2,300 r.p.m.), it is scandalous that the engines powering the majority of light aeroplanes on the British Civil Register should shed these valuable parts of their make-up with such routine monotony. The many unfortunate users of this particular power-plant have suffered the expense of a reduction in overhaul life from 800 to 600 hours, and never before have I heard of any aero-engine “progressing ” in this manner.

Admittedly the manufacturers have produced a modification to the top half of the crankcase and when this has been incorporated the life reverts to 800 hours, but the additional cost of this belated rectification virtually defeats its own principle, i.e., keeping down the overhaul, and therefore overall, cost per flying hour.

It is gratifying to note that one active body in the private flying movement is demanding an investigation into this inexcusable hiatus, but if those possessed with the power to dictate such things would devote their own energy to what is essentially their own job, it would be quite unnecessary for a private-venture organisation to divert its already-burdened resources towards this problem that might affect lives and certainly affects pockets.

* * *

Coupé conversions of some of the more elderly open-cockpit types are becoming quite a habit; three or four years ago Billy Woodhams converted his Tiger Moth G-AIZE into a comparatively-luxurious cabin cruiser, while in 1950 two Magisters, G-AKRV and G-AKRW, exchanged their windscreens for glasshouses, and in one of these Edward Day managed to win the King’s Cup for that year.

However, these are common knowledge, but two more recently-modified machines are not yet known quite so far afield. A Cirrus-Minor-powered Swallow, G-AEMW, has taken on a semi-modern look at the instigation of A. R. “Tiny” Pilgrim, but recently he sold this and in its place has had a Moth-Minor, G-AFNI, similarly converted. This latter aircraft is a truly-enviable possession and has been “modernised” to exactly the same standards as the original Coupé Minor G-AFO.J., which was used during the war by de Haviland’s as a propeller test-bed. By coincidence all three of these now live at Elstree.

* * *

The rebuilding of ancient aeroplanes by enthusiastic amateurs has never received a particularly generous share of official encouragement, but so long as such enthusiasts exist (few in numbers though they are) these reconstructed relics will continue to take to their intended element. In practice, any factor of interest today is dependent almost entirely on these pre-war survivors, for modern production gives us only Austers, Austers and a few more Austers.

Recent resurrections have been the 22-year-old Puss Moth G-ABDF, which has seen daylight under its wheels due mainly to the efforts of John Jakeman, a de Havilland student from Hatfield; and G-ABTC, a Pobjong-powered Comper Swift that combines its new lease of life with its coming-of-age party. Group Captain J. A. Kent, the station commander at R.A.F. Tangmere, has been responsible for getting ‘BTC into the air again, all of which brings to mind our perpetual regret that this brand of enthusiasm, should be such a rarity in Service circles. In fact, that this brand of enthusiasm should be such a rarity in any circle … — D. F. Ogilvy.