Some notes on the TK-4
An exciting small Pre-War Racing Aeroplane
ALLOWING students to build their own concept of racing car or aeroplane must concentrate their minds marvellously and materially increase their enthusiasm for work and study. Consequently, when, many, years ago, I saw that the College of Automobile Engineering at Chelsea was picturing in its advertising a couple of identical-looking Brescia Bugattis, each endowed with racing bodywork, one painted black, the other white, I thought what a good omen this must be for the College students, for I assumed they had worked on this pair of Bugattis and perhaps would be preparing them for racing at Brooklands. However, nothing more was heard of them and I do not think they were ever raced; perhaps David Sewell who looks after the 16-valve side of Bugatti OC interests can tell us what became of them?
In aeronautical circles, students seem to have fared better. At Cranwell the RAF Cadets had a part in the building of ultra-light aeroplanes for the Lympne Competitions of 1924-26 (and Nicholas Comper as their designer), a scheme that spread to the staff and apprentices at Halton and the RAE. Later the de Havilland Technical School at Stag Lane, Edgware, built a number of racing light aeroplanes, designed by Marcus Langley, a lecturer there on aircraft design. The first of these was the TO-I, which looked rather like a poor-man’s DH Moth. A two-seater biplane powered by a Gipsy III engine, Geoffrey de Havilland asked if he could fly it in the 1934 King’s Cup Race, so G-ACTK was rushed through its tests and it finished fifth, averaging 124.24 m.p.h.
The TK-1 was followed by the TK-2, a wooden low-wing monoplane with a high-compression Gipsy Major IC engine developing 147 b.h.p. Registered G-ADNO, a was given an extra fuel tank in the passenger’s seat for the 1935 King’s Cup Race and was flown into sixth place at 165.88 m.p.h. by Capt. H. S. Broad, no less. Using stub exhausts, longer wheel spats, and a modified windscreen, the TK-2 was 6th in the 1936 Wakefield Trophy Race, at 170 m.p.h., and it won the London-Cardiff Race at 189.72 m.p.h. flown by R. J. Waight, who, as I mentioned last month, had flown in his first race, the King’s Cup, that year, with this aeroplane.
However, the racer which really opened my eyes around this time was the TK-4, a tiny single-seater monoplane with retractable wheels, built by those dedicated DH Students, guided by Sqdn. Ldr. Clapp and E. W. Dodds, around a Gipsy Major II engine driving a DH v.p. propeller. The TK-4 was bided in high-gloss red and I looked at it with awe, as I had at the Camper Swifts and earlier tiny racing single-seaters, until the Percival Mew Gull overshadowed them all. The TK-4 had a wing-span of 19 8″, weighed 931 lb. empty and was designed to do well over 200 m.p.h. A real little racer!
It was handicapped at 235 m.p.h. in the 1937 King’s Cup Race. Waight brought it home ninth, at 230.5 m.p.h. It looked as if G-AETK could easily capture the 100 km. closed-circuit class speed record but while on a practice run in October 1937 it crashed when flying at a very low altitude at Hatfield and DH’s Chief Test Pilot, Bob Waeight, lost his life.
The TK-2 continued to be successful. It was seventh in the 1937 Wakefield Cup Race, flown by Geoffrey de Havilland (171.5 m.p.h.) and he also flew it in the 1938 King’s Cup contest. This game little aeroplane was then used by de Havilland’s for communication work during the war, but it did some more racing after peace had returned, tatting second place in the 1947 Olley Challenge Trophy Race (Bruce Campbell up) at 179 m.p.h. It was broken up that December.
I thought these notes might be appropriate on the eve of the DH 100 celebrations — see below. W.B.
THE above refers, not to a de Havilland aeroplane (if it did, it would be the Vampire), but to the DH Centenary Celebration which will be staged over the week-end of July 2nd-4th, by the DH Moth Club and the British Aerospace Hatfield-Chester Group, under the patronage of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The arrangements have been slightly changed from the original announcement. The rally, open to such DH aeroplanes as types 51, 60 Moth, Puss Moth, Tiger Moth, Fox Moth, Leopard Moth, Hornet Moth, Dragon Rapide, Dragonfly, Dove, Mosquito, Trident, 125, Dominic, Vamp., B. 126, and some non-DH but Gipsy-powered machines, will assemble at Hawarden Aerodrome on the Friday, to fly on the Saturday to Hatfield, overflying, but not now stopping at. Swell, unless for essential reasons. The main part of the event is based on Hatfield, to which the public will be admitted, for a flying display commencing at 14.15 hours.
Here there will be a park of static machines such as the DH Autogiro, Devon, Sea Vixen, Heron and Comet, etc., a further tribute to one company, which started its aviation enterprise in 1920, under the auspices of Geoffrey de Havilland, been in 1882. The Halford Special racing car will be at Hatfield as another tribute to Frank Halford, the designer of the Cirrus and Gipsy aero-engines, etc. The rest of the programme is not for the public, except, perhaps for “spotters”. On the Sunday the Moth Club aeroplanes will fly from Hatfield to RAE Farnborough for lunch, and then on to White Waltham for tea, and finally to RAF Henlow to be closetso the dinner and prize-giving at Stevenage.
The DH Moth Club thrives and issues an excellent magazine “The Moth”, the current issue of which includes illustrated articles by Phillip Gordon-Marshall about his associations with the DH Moth Minor and by ex-racing driver C. T. Delaney about his Pre-War Moth flying. We understand that the Club is open to genuinely-DH-orientated non-fliers. Contact Stuart McKay, Tangmere, 16, Thatcher’s Drive, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 3PW, Sponsors for the DH 100 Rally include Shell, Carless Petroleum, P&A Wood, Alan Butler, C. Martin Sharp, Pace, Schwepps, Dunlop and Airtour International. The next event is a fly-in to Woburn Abbey on August 22nd, from where the Duchess of Bedford used to fly._W.B.