The ideal formula for a light training aeroplane for use by the clubs seems to be that of a small side-by-side two-seater, powered by an engine of comparatively low power to cut down operating costs, yet with sufficient performance in reserve to help pupils out of difficulties when such conditions arise. That a fairly near approach to this ideal has been available since before the war appears to have been overlooked by those designers (some of them amateur) who today are searching for an answer to their problems, yet examples of the Tipsy B have been flying in this country for the past fourteen years.
However, first things first, Monsieur E. O. Tips, of Avions Fairey at Gosselies in Belgium, produced a diminutive, single-seat, low-wing monoplane in 1935 and this proved sufficiently popular to warrant its production over here. The first English-built specimen, G-AEDB, took the air in 1937 and was followed on the line by eight further machines, each powered by an Aero Sprite engine of only 22 b.h.p. Although none of the home-hewed S2s, as the type was designated, has survived to the present day, at least two of the imported variety, G-AFFN and G-AFVH, are still intact but not currently airworthy.
As a result of the single-seater’s success, a logical two-seater development appeared first in Belgium and soon afterwards in this country, where it was produced by the Tipsy Aircraft Co. in Slough and assembled at Hanworth. In fact, at the outbreak of war in 1939 production was well under way, and several incomplete airplanes remained at the factory until such time as work on them could legitimately be resumed.
Eventually, in 1946-47, three Tipsies emerged following assembly by the Fairey Aviation Co. at Heston; the first two of these, G-AISA and ‘ISB, appear to be giving very satisfactory service in the hands of the Royal Naval Flying Club at Gosport, whilst the third, G-AISC, is operated from White Waltham by the Fairey Flying Club—a flourishing concern that offers subsidised flying to the firm’s employees at rates well within reach of the shallower pocket.
Of the slightly more elderly examples from the original 1938-39 production batch there seems to be a remarkably healthy number of survivors. Those that come readily to mind are G-AFJS and G-AFSC of the Cardiff Ultra Light Aeroplane Club; G-AFJT, in which K. C. Millican won the 1950 Grosvenor Challenge Cup Race; G-AFRU, owned by Ian Forbes; G-AFRV of J. Harris Reed, who has also some elderly cars including a 1912 Gregoire and 1929 4½ Invicta, and finally G-AFWT, operated by the West London Aero Club and the basis of this handling report. Surprisingly enough, although offered at the comparatively low rate of £2 per hour, very few members make use of the opportunity.
What looks right usually is right, and the Tipsy starts with the advantage of being both clean and attractive; the low wing is of an elliptical, almost Spitfire, shape, the fuselage has neatly curved top decking and the undercarriage is of the neat well-spatted variety.
Inside, however, there is no abundance of room for anyone who may be of rather above-average dimensions; the notched elevator, for instance, is too close to the pilot’s left knee for comfort, although the remainder of the equipment is reasonably well placed. Round the combing is stamped virtually a copy of Pilots’ Notes, with such information as stalling and cruising speeds, maximum permissible dive, engine settings, etc.
No brakes are fitted, but taxi-ing presents no problems except under violent wind conditions, when many of the aeroplane’s pleasant qualities both on the ground and in the air tend to disappear.
There is no swinging tendency on take-off and with the trimmer two-thirds forward the Tipsy unsticks quite decisively at about 37 I.A.S., without any work on the pilot’s part. With the throttle retarded an inch, giving about 2,600 r.p.m., the rate of climb at 60 m.p.h. is in the region of 600 feet per minute and at an angle comfortably shallow to the horizontal.
Plenty of amusement can be had from trying various low-speed tactics; with the throttle closed and flaps up the stall occurs at 30 I.A.S. and the right wing drops, but it should be noted that at this attitude the position error is +8, resulting in a more normal time figure. With small amounts of power and the flaps lowered it is possible to find combinations where the air speed disappears from the clock well before anything drastic happens.
In normal flight and given reasonably “bump-free” conditions, there are few genuine criticisms that can be levelled at the Tipsy, for despite its Walter Mikron engine giving a mere 62 b.h.p., it is possible to cruise continuously at not far short of 90 m.p.h., and viewing is good in all directions.
It is perhaps in the flying controls that the best points present themselves; some pilots complain that everything is too light and without much feel, but I consider this to be unjust criticism. The rudder, elevators and even the ailerons are of about the same weight, a characteristic that cannot truly be claimed for many other small aeroplanes, and even during a 140-m.p.h. dive they maintain their pleasant harmonisation.
The design stressing covers all normal aerobatic manoeuvres, and these can be performed without losing much height in building up the necessary commencing speeds. Loops can be flown round comfortably from 110 I.A.S. and an additional 10 m.p.h. more than suffices for rolling-off-the-top, but in the slow roll the ailerons adopt that characteristic sloppiness when in the inverted position—a feature common to many machines of the lighter variety.
A few words about the engine may not he misplaced; the Mikron, an inverted four-in-line, appears to be a very well built little unit and usually runs very smoothly, but it performs at discornfortingly high revs and is inclined to be temperamental over mixture strengths. However, it pulls well and gives the Tipsy a more than creditable performance.
In the circuit, matters are made easier if the speed is reduced to a moderate figure early in the proceedings, for otherwise on the final turn-in it is impossible to lose both height and air speed. Even with the small and ineffective flaps fully extended, the approach is so flat that if the boundary is crossed at 55 I.A.S. the machine is virtually in the three-point attitude, and consequently no real hold-off is necessary. It seems unnatural to intentionally “drive” an aeroplane at the ground and more than once, unconsciously checking, out of a hidden respect for the undercarriage, I have touched slightly tail-skid first.
Taking stock of the Tipsy, the designer can justly claim many features of which he should be proud; a 90-m.p.h. cruise on just over three gallons per hour, pleasant control harmonisation and ease of handling, reasonable view from a comparatively draught-free cockpit and all for a loaded weight of 1,100 lb., combine to make a sensible mount offering the qualities of a larger aeroplane yet with the economy of an ultra-light.
Of legitimate criticisms there can be only two; a tail wheel and brakes would be appreciated for taxi-ing in confined spaces and in windy conditions, and a single control column positioned between the two seats could usefully be replaced by one for each occupant. This offsetting of the ‘stick feels rather strange in steep turns and even more so during aerobatics.
Although the Tipsy has finished its production days in this country, M. Tips remains as active as ever and has designed at least two new machines since the war. Of these, one is a modernised Trainer, known as the Belfair and fitted with an enclosed cabin, while the other, known as the Junior, is a reversion to the earlier single-seat layout. Examples of each of these have spent some time over here and in fact the second prototype Junior, OO-ULA, lives now at White Waltham.
The entire Tipsy family has suffered a rather unfortunate existence, for in 1939 when the original two-seater variant had established itself on a production basis the war broke out, while those of the more recent era have suffered from all the troubles that beset anyone who attempts to build light aeroplanes today. The old vicious circle of cheap production only against demand and no demand without cheap production presents itself, but whatever may happen in the future, M. Tips can be relied upon to design something practical, attractive and cheap to operate. David F. Ogilvy.