AIR ULTRA-LIGHT NOSTALGIA
by the Editor
I’M suffering from Ultra-Light Nostalgia and am trying to forget: the present-day apathy on the part of officialdom for private-owner flying by delving into the past. I must say this has strengthened enormously my faith in the really low-power light nerophine. In spite 4,f ” Lymptie laments,” Fbing
Flea fiascos mid ” pessimisms, I maintain that. the light and ultra-light aeroplanes built over the two past decades primarily for the purpose of making private-ownership a practical possibility–which, after all, is what we are still st.riving fur–really flew very well loot thoroughly justified themselves. Let use refresh your memories, and then you can decide for yourselves
Soon after the Kaiser war the Austin Motor Company produced a metal singleseater biplane with folding wings and a 50-It.p. six-cylinder Anzani radial engine!. This aeroplane weighed 580 Ili; well within the 1.20011). limit recognised to-day by the Ultra-Light. Aeroplane Association. Designed by John Kenworthy, the Austin climbed at the rate of 500 ft. per minute. A. V. Roe went, if anything. one better, for their soon-famous A vro ” Baby,” using merely a Converted 35-11-Pt;reen Wkiter-cooled stationary engine, left Croydon during May, 1920, with. Bert flinkler at the controls, and flying through thick fog near Paris, it crossed the Alps and landed, 9A hours after taking off, at ‘Eurin. It had averaged 68 m.p.h. for the journey
consurned petrol at the economical rate of 32 m.p.g. Bather a (lassie performance, surely, for a very normallooking. not specially faired biplane built thirty years ago. The germ of owner-pilotage was contained in these and similar little aeroplanes and, in spite of the post .war slump, it received encouragement in the early nineteen-twenties which emphasises the apathy of the present. day. Indeed, the financial low-ebb which threatened to cripple the industry actually served
to further the ultra-light movement, for it was optimistically thought that factories would be able to remain open SUpplying the private-owner demand auc I that the military authorities would be interested in appreciable quantities of tiny aeroplanes for use as trainers.
If things didn’t shape that way it wasn’t the fault of the Daily Mail and the Duke of Sutherland, who don tied the principal Prizes, totalling £2,118). for the leympne Light Aeroplane Contests of 1923. the rules for which strove to test Iii)) only speed but economy, attitude, reliability and manoeuvrability on the ground. Twenty-eight entries were received. itieluding nominations from such famous firms as Avne, de Davin:end, Gloster. Viekers, Ilandley-Page. and Parnell. Every day, as the week of the contest drew near, the enterprising Daily 3101 published news and fascinating philtres of aeroplanes of hitherto 11mb-carnet] of diminutiveness being assemlileel. laing wheeled single-handed through narrow gates and across fields and, oecasioi tally. being flown in Bre Kentish sky. It was said that I Rise tiny single-seater aeroplanes, nom of ‘which laid an engine capacity of more than 750-e.c., could
fort her On a gallon of petrol I hair ci eyeleear would run and that they would soon be on sale for considerably less than the cost of a good touring car. An invigorating ainwspliere of rivalry and a sense altruist of pioneering pervaded the flying field and penetrated into the wartime hangars. It was new and all very lilt rigning. I know about the pessimisms which history justified. I low over-stressed motor-cycle engines overheated, seizedup solid. broke valves. How these special competition nnwhines had cost much money to construct and were, therefore, far removed from the ” cveryttum’s ideal. How stiff Itead breezes hetet back these underpowered aeroplanes and how icc eertain cameS clipped vvings called for
skilful pilotage let Matter hoW docile and unhurried those contesting the landing competition appeared to be. Yet. did these little aeroplanes do so badly ? Admittedly, as these cycleears-of-theair pops)ed around LyMplie inc the several
tests arranged for some pilotS CXperielleed eligine failures and landed away f Nan base, ot tiers staggereil late k with difficulty, and maw ease of stem.) oral I; tilt tic 911.1trrcd, eeisting poor Main‘yrol his life. Yet out of it all emerged some’ excellent performance figures. The Abtlidia Speed Prize was won the Douglas-engirwel Parnell Pixie monoplane, it no less than 76.8 m.p.h. The Sutherland and Mity Mail prizes were worm jointly by the A.N.E.C. which climbed I() 14,400 feet and averaged $7.3 m.p.g. of petrol and by the Wren, which equalled this excellent fuel consumption. Seeond place iii the height faintest went to the A vro 538. with it climb to 13.850 feel, whiell.?-on who fly habitually at 1,000 feet in your heated eabins should ponder
The nine contestants in the fuel eon. stimption contest averaged 57.4 m.p.g., and the seven maehilies whieli flew I he speed course,. eonsisting if three turning points in 12A miles, averaged 112.4 m.p.h. H in kier’s AVI*0 Hew 1,000 miles during the six (lays withemt developing trouble of any kind. The e0111peting machines were true ultra-lights. Iteir laden weight. averaging about 472 II)., their wing loading about 3.74. 11).’sq. l’t., and their power loading in the region of 26 IL/1Lp. The A.N.E.C. had an inverted Blaeklairne engine mid the Wren managed on it 398-e.e A.B.C., mai had a laden weight. of 408 lb.
The contests were repeated in 1 92′)huh it, was, perhaps, a mistake to insist on two seats while raising the maximum engine size by only 350 cci., to 1,100 ex. ‘Die prize name), had ;if )arcl to £3,900 and some decidedly ingenious and expensive machines were built. Folding or easily-detachable wings were again stipulatelt and, Intel the 550-e.e. per passetwer limit not hampered performance, some very usefill aeroplanes might have resu t ed.
As it was, three speeial engines wen, evolved to meet conditions with which converted motor-evele units could hardly hope to comply. These were the AIM:1Di, the A.B.C.. and the Bristol Cherub, the last-named a horizontally-opposed twin developing 32 b.h.p. at 3.900 r.p.nt. for a weight of just over 90 II). Entries in 11)24 included the all-metal Bristol Brownie, the side-by-side Iwo stutter-It I ,.ntrii. tin. A vro Avis with ailerons thud. could he depressed by Nvorm gearing lo net, as flaps, the Supermarine Stnirrivw h worin-contrrilled variable camber gear. Nvhiell also figured in the earefidly construeted Viekers Vagabond. the Westland Widgeon which possessed automat it’ as well :is camber-varying llapS, and the senSatiOnal Short M0110plane With. duralumin fuselage and a
34-11.1). Scorpi(m II engine.
These Machines were a credit to the ingenuity Of the industry. Their average weight was approximately 834 lb. anti their average wing loading about. 4.31 lb./sq. ft. Nor did the better examples fly too badly. The Bristol Cherub-engined Beardmore Wee Bee won the major award, with ‘a speed range of 39 to 71 m.p.h., while it. Cornper’s
covered 702 miles in 11 flying time of 17 hr. 58 min.
Those, ‘then, were the sort of performances possible with single and twoseater ultra-lights over twenty-five years Alas, after the 1924 contests small aeroplanes grew up.
Tlic Cirrus Nlot It came and set a ‘fashion. The Avro Baby of 1920 re-emerged as the Southern Martlett, the Austin Whippet as the Robinson Redwing. The Avro Avian, Blackburn Itluebird, Simmonds Spartan, Westland ‘Widgeon and many others were evol VII l.xe(‘hlelLt light but not ultra-light machines.
I.:Yen II 1C 20-11..p. Klemm soon became the 70177-h.p. British Salinson-engined it,A. Swallow and the 40-It.p. Comper Swift. was (lest hind to inflate far too quickly. Investigating the light aeroplane field for Flight just Over a dozen years ago, 1 fintild that by 1032 the ,Lvcrage Weight of the macliines on the British Market. wits in the region of 1,592 lb. and that by 1930 it Rad risco to approximately 1,881 lb. for aeroplanes up to 200 his.. their wing loading now. averaging 10.78 lb/sq. ft. The 1948 ligure was 1,993 lb.
1 n 1936 examples of the true ultra-light Were seen in the 30-h.p. two-seater l’raga E 114, for which a cruising speed III 80 and a maximtun of over 93 m.p.h.
were claimed, in the 38-11.p. two-seater Aer0nea-.1…1.1′. (87 ;oaf 95 m.p.h.) and in the 5.1.0-e.e. Tipsy, said to have flown at 94 m.p.h. Aliont t his time some notable performances had been put tip I) such machines, notably Lord .”i)4)hills return flight from Croydon to Berlin in a B.A.C. Soper Drone (750-e.e. Douglas) and F1L-1.t. . Llewellyn’s trip to South Africa in an Aer< 1111'a. I estimated froill tla-c lierformances that it woulki. be possible to produee two-seater with a wing loading of 0i to 7 lb/sq. ft., capable of 35 m.p.g. and 80 m.p.h., for ti350. Naturally, I am gratified to Om] that the post-war l' jut Junior bears out my pre-war theory, But, the Junior apart, the ultra-light outlook is bleak. In congratulating the Ultra-Light Aeroplane Association on its endeavours to popularise lighter and less expensive aeroplanes and the Royal Aeronautical Soeiety for allowing the t71tra-Light circus, the Zaunkoenig, the Junior, a Comper Swift and the 1924 Hawker Cygnet to take the air at this year's Garden Party, I maintain that on past performances alone the ultra-light is rut irely justified and deserving of further :itleotion,