BROOKLANDS: Civil aerodrome. (Before WW1 known as BROOKLANDS AVIATION GROUND)
Note: This picture (2018) was obtained from Google Earth ©
Note: If anybody would like to see videos of BROOKLANDS please click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/user/andysvideo
Military during WW1. In 1919 (?) returned to civil use mainly as a manufacturing base for Hawker and later Vickers. Which later became part of the BAC - British Aircraft Company.
Later occasional private airfield operated by the Brooklands Museum Trust
(Also known as WEYBRIDGE)
Operated by: From 1907 to 1914: The site was built and developed by the wealthy landowner Hughe Locke King in 1907 – but did he form an operating company to run the place?
WW1: Requisitioned by the War Office.
No.2 Reserve Squadron 9 Sqdn (BE.2Cs)
Note: The first picture is from The John Stroud Collection.The second picture from a postcard was kindly sent by Mike Charlton.
Between the wars: From 1925, (some say 1935), operated by Brooklands Aviation.
Note: Many years ago I took this picture and captioned it: "This is reckoned to be the first ever booking office for passenger flights. Circa 1911." In late 2017 I was finishing reading the most excellent book, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years by Harald Penrose, when on page 246 (near the end of the book) I came across this picture of the Blue Bird Restaurant from Flight magazine in his 1913 section. And lo and behold, on the right, there it is.
How on earth this diminutive building has managed to survive for over one hundred years must rank as miraculous.
WW2: Ministry of Aircraft Production.
From 1946 to 1987: Vickers-Armstrong, later Vickers and later still British Aircraft Corporation.
From 1987: Brooklands Museum Trust
Experimental site: A V Roe: 1907 to 1908
Note: It is now thought in respected circles that the claim that Roe did become airborne, even for a short 'hop' is highly questionable.
Charter, air taxi: Pre 1940: Brooklands Aviation, Leslie Hamilton, Lloyd Aviation
Post 1945: Brooklands Aviation
Commercial users: Pre 1940: Alliston Aviation Co, International Horseless Carriage Corporation, Southern Counties Aviation Co
Post 1945: College of Aeronautical Engineering, Vickers Aircraft Company
Flying schools: Pre 1914: Avro Flying School, Blackburn Flying School, Blériot School***, Bristol Flying School (aka British & Colonial Aeroplane Co Ltd), Deperdussin School** (aka Deperdussin British Aviation School and British Deperdussin Aeroplane Syndicate), Flanders School, Grahame-White School*, Handley Page School, Herbert Spencer Flying School, Hewlett & Blondeau School, Sopwith Flying School, Vickers Flying School
*The Grahame-White School didn’t stay long, moving to HENDON in late 1910.
**Also moved to HENDON in 1912
***The Bleriot School moved from HENDON in late 1913
Note: For a very detailed explanation of what was happening in this pre-WW1 era, the book, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years by Harald Penrose, first published in 1967, is hard to beat, and highly recommended.
Between the wars: Brooklands School of Flying, Henderson School of Flying
Military users: WW1: Army (RFC), RAF later? Home Defence attachments including 141 Sqdn
Manufacturing: 1909 to 1919: Aero Construction Co, A.V.Roe & Co, British Bleriot*, De Bolotoff & Co, D.F.W., Eardly Billing, Hewlett & Blondeau (Hanriot), Humber Ltd, L Howard Flanders, Martin and Handasyde (later Martinsyde Ltd), Nieuport, Parsons, Sopwith Aviation Co, The Varioplane Co, Universal Aviation, Vickers Ltd and Walton & Edwards Aeroplane Co (?)
*There are reports that the Bleriot factory was actually in ADDLESTONE and the facility at BROOKLANDS was for final assembly, flight testing and of course the flying school.
Pleasure flights: Pre 1940: Brooklands Aviation, Henderson School of Flying
Location: E of the A318, 1nm SSE of Weybridge
Period of operation: 1907 to very special occasions until the early 1990s? Flying visits were ruled out probably in the late 1990s but the possibility of a grass landing strip being laid out to allow for use onexceptional occasions was being talked about when I visited by car in 2006
Site area: WW1: 290 acres 1966x914 grass
Runway: 1933: Max landing run: 1052 grass
WW2: N/S 1005 grass
In 1951 Vickers built a hard runway here, (presumably 01/19 or 18/36?), from which the first Viscount, Valiant, Vanguard and VC.10 took off .
1143x69 hard with 122 m offset starter extension at N end
2000: 01/19 503x30 hard (in 2004 this runway was closed for good but a 500m grass strip was planned. Did this happen? (Not by Feb 2005 at any rate)
From 2004 the possibility of using the runway was eliminated forever as developers moved in to destroy it. (Only open for special events since 1980?)
The first picture was scanned from British Aviation - The Pioneering Years by Harald Penrose, first published in 1967. But - did it fly?. It appears he performed some taxi trials with it, but didn't attempt a 'hop'. It now seems he removed the engine and, "took it to the country and flew it as a kite." Presumably from BEACON HILL near Newbury?
The second picture, also scanned from the book listed above, shows the Avro biplane on 1908.
In his excellent book, British Aviation -The Pioneer Years, mentioned above, Harald Penrose provides more information: "Judging from the background of bare trees, it is February or March in photographs showing Roe's machine on the track outside his shed. A contemporary plate in the Autocar illustrates the Avroplane stationary half-way down the 'pull-up' slope, but it has no engine, although several photographs taken by one of Roe's assistants show the propeller spindle in place and one or two show a propeller."
"It was in this engineless condition that the machine was sometimes towed. Col. Sorrel, an amateur racing driver of that time, told me that he saw Roe pulled off by car for several short and undulating hops, which usually ended with the machine swerving directionally and suddenly hitting the ground. That might be the instinctive action of a man jerking the elevator to a negative angle in order to land quickly because the machine was out of control."
"On another occasion the machine was towed down the track in a succession of hair-raising leaps, swaying and pitching, while the driver of the towing car happily assumed that this was part of the piece in trying to get airborne. Roe said that time and again the machine was broken." This account graphically illustrates, that even in 1908, the British experimenters were mostly still barely getting to grips with how to fly. And of course, how to design and build an aeroplane.
Is it not amazing? Within two years the basics had been learnt, and by 1914 the design of aeroplanes was already quite advanced. The main problem being, how to make them structurally safe. It was at FARNBOROUGH, (HAMPSHIRE), where most of the reseach was taking place to improve matters in this respect. .
NOTES: I really must pay tribute to Ron Smith in his book British Built Aircraft Vol.3 for furnishing most of the details of rare types and little known companies. Many early aircraft manufacturers also used BROOKLANDS for final assembly and flight testing, examples being: The combination of Louis Blériot Aeronautics, ANEC (The Air Navigation & Engineering Co), Blériot & SPAD Manufacturing Co, all built at the Addlestone factory.
THE EARLY YEARS: 1910 to 1914
Note: This picture from a postcard was kindly sent by Mike Charlton. My knowledge of the aircraft types being used at BROOKLANDS during this era does not run to being able to identify the examples in this picture.
Some time ago I made this comment: "If anybody can kindly offer advice, this will be most welcome." In October 2020 I was kindly contacted by Mr Mike Martens in the USA. He tells us that from left to right the aircraft are: A Blériot X1, (quite heavily modified), an Avro Dulgan/Avro 500 and another Blériot XI. He also sent the second picture of a Blériot XI from his daughter-in-laws family collection. This example quite likely being the aircraft on the right in the first picture.
According to Graham Smith in his excellent book ‘Taking To The Skies’ in late 1909 thirty acres of land in the centre of the motoring racecourse were cleared, and a shed erected, to allow Louis Paulhan to give flying ‘exhibitions’ on the 29th and 30th October and the 11th November. Quite how the impoverished A V Roe managed to get permission to use BROOKLANDS the year before seems a mystery and it seems his presence was ‘suffered’ by the manager of the site who had little time for him. The success of the Paulhan ‘exhibitions’ of flight convinced the owners of BROOKLANDS to clear the entire centre area of the racing track to provide a ‘Flying Ground’ and flying ‘exhibitions’ took place on race days between the car races to help entertain the crowds.
Note: This picture by Flight magazine was scanned from, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years, by Harald Penrose, first pubished in 1967.
I think this memory from Sir Alan Cobham in his biography 'A TIME TO FLY' published in 1978, after he had died from natural causes and highly recommended reading, needs to be included. Together with his friend Laurie Stocks; "....we were as one in our reponse to the news that there was going to be a flying meeting ay Brooklands on Good Friday, 1910. We had to see these flying machines, we had to get near them. Might we even hope to touch them? Everyone said that this would be impossible, but we were determined to try."
"The aerodrome at Brooklands, lying within the circuit of the motor-racing track, was then the centre of aviation in England, and remained so for long time afterwards. Laurie and I rode down there, (My note - on a motorcycle), in blue overalls, like those worn by mechanics. We stowed the bike in a garage, sneaked round unobserved, climbed a fence, and were able to mingle inconspicuously with the crowd of aviation men. Our bluff succeeded, and we were able to move from one aircraft to the next, studying each at close quarters."
"Nobody rumbled us. I was particularly impressed by the sight of Gustav Hamel ground-testing the engine of his little biplane. Having no revolution-counter, he did this by attaching one end of a very large spring balance to the tail of the aircraft and the other to a stake in the ground. The engine was then revved up to full power, while another man braved the battering blast of the slipstream to read the blance and so determine how hard the engine was pulling."
"The figure he read was a measurement not of shaft horse-power but of 'static thrust' in pounds. It is the same unit that we use today in order to define the power of a jet engine. Aviation has developed enormously, but its basic principles have not changed. "
Without much doubt this spirit of enterprise served Alan Cobham very well later on. And indeed, in the 1930s he was arguably the most famous pilot in the UK due to his fabulous exploits. But, I wonder, is his name now mentioned in schools? Is he now recorded as being as famous as Lord Horatio Nelson?
If not this is a disgrace. Without any doubt his National Aviation Day Display Tours in the 1930s encouraged countless youngsters to get involved in aviation, and when the build up to WW2 commenced, the majority of applicants volunteering for the RAF, had had their first flight in a 'Flying Circus'. Even if not in a Sir Alan Cobham Tour, his Tours became the generic term - rather like Hoover for a vacuum cleaner.
This is an aspect of the lead up to WW2 which you won't find in most history books.
AN AMAZING HISTORY:
It is probably really quite difficult to imagine the vast amount of activities being conducted at BROOKLANDS in the few years prior to WW1? So many significant figures in our aviation history make an appearance here. The amount of companies either on the aerodrome or using it for flight testing their designs seems to beggar the imagination. I think it is fair to say that no other flying site in the UK can match it although HENDON must be a very strong contender.
It is claimed that Alliott Vernon Roe made a successful powered flight here, (or hop), as early as 1908 with his Roe 1 Biplane. One record states that on the 8th of June 1908 A.V.Roe made a short ‘hop’ in his biplane and he had witnesses who signed an affidavit (or similar) to that effect. This hop was discounted because they weren’t officially recognised witnesses. It seems that A V Roe was originally building his aeroplane at premises in stables at his brothers house), in Putney (London) during 1907 before moving it to BROOKLANDS.
WHO REALLY WAS THE FIRST TO FLY?
People in other countries also make convincing claims too! In many ways it is really a shame that the Wright brothers have ended up being accredited with being the first to achieve a powered flight in 1903 because that event at Kittyhawk in December 1903 cannot sensibly be regarded as a significant ‘flight’. It was barely a ‘hop’, conducted in 'ground effect' and has since served to greatly demean and diminish their true worth to aviation history. Largely ignored and ‘cold shouldered’ in the USA they were ‘forced’ to come to Europe where their real worth was greatly appreciated and applauded in France.
It was in France, not the USA, that the Wright brothers were allowed to truly demonstrate the enormous strides they had subsequently made in mastering the techniques required for controlled flight in any meaningful sense. It now appears that the Wright brothers were probably the first to conduct a 'proper' flight, exercising the aircraft in all three axis to complete a circuit, when conducting further experiments near to their home town of Dayton, Ohio. They were very keen to be secretive about their achievements as they hoped to gain patents on having a developed flying machine. What they failed to realise is that you cannot patent a concept, but only a particular form of apparatus or machine.
THE 1910 AEROPLANE HANDICAP TRIALS
On the 14th of June 1910 James Radley flying a Blériot Monoplane was the first pilot to be awarded a Pilots Certificate, (No.7), from here. Flying displays (air shows) were held from about 1910 or shortly after. It also seems noteworthy that in the early years of powered aviation it appeared that the engine type used was of equal importance to the airframe manufacturer.
On Whit-Monday 1910 the ‘Aeroplane Handicap’ was held here over twelve miles with fifteen entrants and C C Turner gives the details:
PILOTS NAME TYPE ENGINE
L F MacDonald Vickers Monoplane Vickers R.E.P.
W B Rhodes-Moorhouse Blériot Monoplane 50hp Gnome
E Hotchkiss Bristol Biplane 50hp Gnome
M Ducrocq Hanriot Monoplane 50hp Gnome
Lieut. J C Porte Deperdussin Monoplane 50-60hp Anzani
R L Charteris Hanriot Monoplane A.B.C.
H Spencer Spencer Biplane 50hp Gnome
T O M Sopwith Burgess-Wright 40hp A.B.C.
C P Pizey Bristol Biplane 50hp Gnome
C Gordon Bell Bristol Monoplane 50hp Gnome
T O M Sopwith Blériot Monoplane 70hp Gnome
A V Roe Avro Monoplane 35hp Viale
D L Santoni Deperdussin Monoplane 35hp Anzani
N S Percival Percival Biplane 60hp Dorman
By Whit-Monday 1912 the picture had changed quite dramatically with fewer contestents;
T O M Sopwith Blériot Monoplane and the Burgess-Wright Biplane
R L Charteris Hanriot Monoplane
C Gordon Bell Bristol Monoplane
E Hotchkiss Bristol Monoplane
C L Pashley Humber Monoplane
A V Roe Avro Monoplane
M Ducrocq Hanriot Monoplane
Captain H F Wood Vickers Monoplane
W B Rhodes Moorhouse Blériot Monoplane
Many years ago I asked this question. "It seems quite a few lessons can be found looking at the above listings. For example the monoplane seems to be the favourite design, it was certainly f superior speed. Why then were most WW1 fighters of the biplane type? Presumably it’s that age-old argument…is speed better than manoeuvrability in a fighter aircraft?" Further research shows that in those days monoplanes were invariably structurally weaker, and indeed for a while the RFC banned the use of monoplanes as so many fell apart in flight. It would take many years (up till the 1930s in the UK generally speaking) before the methods of designing and building very strong monoplanes was truly mastered. Here again though, it seems that the French, Germans, Italilians and indeed the Americans, were all way ahead of the British in most aspects of future aircraft design.
In November 1910 the Spencer-Stirling biplane, similar to a Boxkite, was flying here and continued to do so until at least the summer of 1911. Spencer then built another similar machine based on parts of the MacFie Empress which first flew here on the 31st March 1912. It then appears he built a third aircraft, the Spencer Farman which was used by the RNAS with serial No.200. Another rarity was the Star monoplane first tested at DUNSTALL PARK (WEST MIDLANDS). It then appeared here being tested during December 1910 and January 1911. Presumably with disappointing results?
I suppose it is a task behoven of a Guide to remember hopefully some of the people who created aviation activity, (now history), at BROOKLANDS. Like Mr Macfie and Major J Valentine known as “Jimmy”. Mr Oscar C Morison was a “star performer” in those days. He flew their machine… “It was his first effort on a biplane, and a very successful one till the time came to descend, when he shut off his engine without dipping the nose, as was necessary with old biplanes with heavily-loaded tails; the result was a ‘pancake’ into the middle of the sewage farm.” It appears that Mr Morison was not alone in coming to grief in the sewage farm.
José Weiss turned up here in 1910 with at least one of his monoplanes and No.2 was flown by E C Gordon England. Prior to this Weiss had been experimenting, according to Ron Smith in British Built Aircraft Vol.3, at FAMBRIDGE (ESSEX), AMBERLEY (presumably AMBERLEY in SUSSEX?), and LITTLEHAMPTON (SUSSEX). Another contributor was Howard Wright who had several Avis and similar Howard Wright types flying here in 1910. The Hon. Alan Boyle made a flight of more than five miles at a height of 40ft and in fact gained his Aero Club Certificate (No.13) on an Avis in June 1910.
SOME MORE DETAIL AND CORRECTION
It is claimed that the first aircraft purchased by T.O.M. Sopwith was one of these, (a 60hp Howard Wright), flying it for the first time on the 22nd October 1910 and gaining his Aero Club Certificate barely a month later on the 21st November 1910. As pointed out elsewhere the date of the Certificate referred to the date of issue, not the date of the ‘test flight’.
However, according to Harald Penrose in his excellent book, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years, first published in 1967, and after just a couple of instructional flights at the Hewlett-Blondeau school: "After a few enquiries he promptly bought a little Blériot-inspired 40-h.p. E.N.V. powered Avis monoplane designed by W.O. Manning and built by Howard Wright for a selling price of £630." My note; Much, much more than the price of a modest house!
"It arrived at Brooklands from the Battersea workshop on October 21st, and to the amazement of the Brooklands habitués Sopwith spent only a few minutes 'rolling' his new possession before attempting a straight flight. After fairly steadily covering some 300 yards he brought his tail down too sharply in attempting to land, causing the machine to slant steeply up, stall, drop a wing, and smash undercarriage and propeller. Within a few days the damage was repaired, such was the simplicity of wooden aircraft, and he was out again, rolling the machine more cautiously, and then made several straight flights, but burst a cylinder head." My note; It was common practice in those days to conquer flying in a straight line before attempting a turn.
"At that he decided to sell the machine and buy one of the new Howard Wright biplanes - a machine, like the Short 27, typical of modified Farman two-seater pusher practice, with pilot and passenger on seats above the leading edge of the lower wings completely exposed to the elements." Clearly, young Sopwith was a rather impulsive individual, having, in his own words being, "terribly bitten by the aviation bug". And, clearly important, having access to a source of reasonable wealth.
"The machine was beautifully made and extremely light. Sopwith bought the 60-h.p. E.N.V. prototype which he had seen displayed a month earlier at the Royal Aero Club's ground at Eastchurch. Once again Tom Sopwith startled the Brooklands onlookers. On the morning of November 21st he brought out his new biplane for the first time - and again without taking instruction on handling, attempted a few straights. In the afternoon, throwing caution to the winds, he launched into the air, making a number of excellent circular flights, including three qualifying for his brevet." My note: This was then the equivalent of a PPL (Private Pilots License). Hard to believe of course, but this was how it was in those days.
"Sopwith shyly decided that his first efforts at flying, which had included crashing the monoplane and buying the biplane, had been very expensive, so he must try to make his future flying pay by winning some of the available prizes. Two were on the list of possibilities - the Michelin for the longest non-stop flight by a British pilot in a British machine, or the £4,000 offered by Baron de Forest for the longest non-stop flight from any point in England to anywhere on the Continent."
Some people claim that Tom Sopwith won the Michelin Cup - he didn't. Samuel Cody did. But, Sopwith put up a good show. "....with 10 hours total flying to his credit, he made an attempt on the closed-curcuit Michelin Cup and hept going from 10.15 a.m. until 1.18 p.m." For the record, on the last day of December 1910, Cody beat both Alec Ogivie on his Short-Wright and Tommy Sopwith flying a Howard Wright, by flying 189.2 miles in 4 hours 46 minutes around LAFFAN's PLAIN
Without much doubt his main success was winning the Baron de Forest prize for the longest non-stop flight from any point in England to a destination on the Continent. This he achieved on the 18th December 1910 flying from EASTCHURCH (KENT) to Thirlmont in Belgium. (See EASTCHURCH for more details of this very risky endeavour).
Also here was Jack Humphries (see WIVENHOE in ESSEX) in 1911 and Charles Lane, (between 1910 and 1911 only?), the latter building two monoplanes, a glider and a biplane and forming Lane’s British Aeroplanes Ltd. Another company of this period was Neale’s Aeroplane Works of Weybridge; they built up to seven types it seems and all probably flown here? The Walton & Edwards Aeroplane Co had their ‘Colossoplane’ flying here in 1911, the first flight seems to have been on the 25th September that year. But was it built here?
R F Macfie of FAMBRIDGE (ESSEX) also moved here, (albeit via PORTHOLME, HUNTINGDONSHIRE, flying on the 12th and 13th May 1910 only?), subsequently demonstrating his ‘Empress’ biplane from the 18th June 1910. He took it to the DUNSTALL PARK (WEST MIDLANDS) meeting held at the end of June 1910 (27th June to 2nd July). It is reported to have still been flying at BROOKLANDS in the summer of 1911 and in 1912 he sold it to Herbert Spencer who rebuilt it as the Spencer-Stirling biplane.
E V HAMMOND
Here again Ron Smith in British Built Aircraft Vol.3 states that Mr E V Hammond built a number of aircraft to his own design which were tested here in 1910 and 1911 although it appears none were successful? Even so I think it is of considerable importance to record these names because they serve to illustrate just how the ‘fever’ of aviation had caught on. As any student of history will appreciate there are a large number of factors, including luck, which determine which of those will succeed to develop a ‘name’ later on.
He also tells about Maurice Ducrocq who, “…was ‘General Agent for the British Empire for Nieuport monoplanes’ from 1911. M Ducrocq was also the UK agent for Viale engines, managed Hanriot (England) Ltd and had the distinction of teaching John Alcock to fly. Alcock was ofcourse later to be the first to fly the Atlantic non-stop, with Arthur Whitten-Brown.” Very much a businessman obviously, but also ‘hands-on’, something often sadly lacking in so many especially large companies today? Another type he describes is the 1911 Universal Aviation Birdling which he says, “…was used with great success by H J D Astley and then by F K McClean.” He then mentions that, “Cecil Pashley was also reported in September 1911 to be flying the Universal Aviation Sommer. Apart from these two machines, seemingly quite good aircraft, this company seems to have faded from the pages of our aviation history?
This account from C C Turner in his book ‘Old Flying Days’ seems worth repeating. “In September, 1910, Captain Watkins took over the Howard-Wright biplane*, with E.N.V engine, belonging to Maitland; the latter had crashed it at LARKHILL, but had it repaired. Captain Watkins taught himself to fly on this machine at BROOKLANDS, and carried a great number of passengers on it; indeed, the first time he flew a circuit he carried a passenger (Mr W O Manning). This recalls the tale of the nervous passenger who became alarmed at the evolutions his pilot was doing and said to him, “Please be careful, you know it’s my first flight.” “And mine, too,” replied the pilot. Not too far-fetched a tale in those days! “Among Watkin’s passengers were Mr A. V. Roe, Mr R. C. Kemp, Mr T. O. M. Sopwith, Gordon Bell and myself.” Surely a major claim to fame?
*THE HOWARD-WRIGHT BIPLANE
*The history of the Howard-Wright biplane seems worth investigating? It was first tested, or so it seems, at FAMBRIDGE in ESSEX without much if any result in 1908. It was then moved to CAMBER SANDS in KENT but again it doesn’t appear to have been very successful. Its appearance at LARKHILL (WILTSHIRE) raises a few questions, such as in what year did it fly there?
THE ROUND BRITAIN CIRCUIT RACE
Possibly the biggest event to take place here in those early years was the Daily Mail ‘Round Britain Circuit Race’ in July 1911 won by the French pilot Jean Conneau in a Blériot taking 22 hours and 28 minutes to cover the 1,010 mile course which included eleven compulsory stopping points.
AN ACCOUNT BY C C TURNER
On the 22nd July 1911 twenty one out of thirty entrants assembled here to fly to HENDON for the start of the Daily Mail ‘Circuit of Britain’ watched by a crowd of about 50,000 people. The course was via HENDON, HARROGATE, NEWCASTLE and EDINBURGH. André Beaumont, (actually Lieutentant de Vaisseau Conneau of the French Navy), won the race landing back at BROOKLANDS on the 26th of July having flown 22 hours, 28 minutes and 18 seconds. The second place French pilot, Védrines, arrived “70 minutes later” taking 23 hours, 31 minutes and 56 seconds.
Oddly it seems to me, (as C C Turner makes no mention), some reports say Samuel Cody came third being the ‘British’ entrant, arriving back at BROOKLANDS on the 6th August. Needless to say the British press thought that Cody’s was the “finest performance and certainly the pluckiest.” And Cody was, at that time, still an American citizen! The third place actually went to James Valentine.
In 2009 I came across C C Turners account of the race published in 1927 or thereabouts. His very precise account states the race began at BROOKLANDS. With staging posts at HENDON,HARROGATE, NEWCASTLE, EDINBURGH, STIRLING, GLASGOW, CARLISLE, MANCHESTER, BRISTOL, EXETER, SALISBURY PLAIN, BRIGHTON and then back to BROOKLANDS. He says that out of the thirty entrants only seventeen started.
The attrition rate was high and here are the locations C C Turner says these pilots gave up at for various reasons: Blanchett retired at LUTON (BEDFORDSHIRE) due to engine failure. ‘Benny’ Hucks damaged his machine near LUTON too. Lieut. Bier had engine trouble and retired at HATFIELD (HERTFORDSHIRE), his machine badly damaged. Mr Pixey reached MELTON MOWBRAY (LEICESTERSHIRE) and retired. Gustav Hamel retired at WAKEFIELD (YORKSHIRE) after wrecking his machine, (presumably a bad landing?) De Montalent lost his way and landed at WETHERBY (YORKSHIRE). Mr Weymann reached LEEDS (YORKSHIRE), broke his chassis on landing and retired.. Mr Pixton wrecked his machine at SPOFFORTH, (YORKSHIRE). Mr Astley and Lieut. Reynolds got as far as HARROGATE (YORKSHIRE), the latter damaging his machine. The French pilot Valentine got as far as CARLISLE (CUMBRIA).
ANOTHER ACCOUNT WELL WORTH READING
In 2017 I found the most excellent book, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years by Harald Penrose first published in 1967. His account of the competition gives even more detailed information, which is highly recommended reading.
MRS HILDA B HEWLETT
What I find very interesting indeed is that barely a month later on the 29th of August 1911 Mrs Hilda B Hewlett was the first British woman to be awarded a Pilot Certificate. This was No: 122 flying her own Farman type biplane from BROOKLANDS. Hilda was 47 years old at the time so really a very remarkable woman by the standards of the day.
Note: The first woman ever (?) to be granted a pilots license was by the French authority, (The Aero Club de France I think?). She was the actress Elise Daroche – who had changed her name to Raymonde de Laroche – and this license was dated 8 March 1910. She flew a Voisin-Farman operated by a flying school ran by the Voisin brothers.
Of Hilda Hewlett, C C Turner says she was, “....also the first woman to do a right-hand turn, and to reach a height of 100 feet. She set up an aircraft factory at BROOKLANDS, and ran a flight school in association with M Blondeau.” Claimed to be the first Flying School in the UK, shortly afterwards she taught her son, Francis Hewlett to fly, and he gained his certificate on the 9th November 1911. He was a Royal Navy sub-lieutenant and went on to fly in the RNAS.
We need to be a bit careful about this. In those early days most makers of aeroplanes offered instruction in how to fly the aeroplane being purchased, as part of the purchase price, So, in effect, giving schooling. And of course, was the Royal Aero Club at SHELLBEACH, later at EASTCHURCH, something of a 'Flying School' in most respects?
In the first half of the twentieth century many women pilots, parachutists and stunt artistes – across the world - really did make a significant contribution to aviation history. I only wish that this was more widely appreciated today.
In his book Powder Puff Derby Mike Walker gives this interesting insight into how Mrs Hewlett, (who was married to a top-ranking civil servant and writer of plays and historical novels), became involved in aviation. “(she)….became a noted cyclist and got caught up in the motoring craze. She taught herself to be a more than competent mechanic and then, one day in 1909, Hilda Hewlett met a Frenchman called Gustave Blondeau, who loved flying: and she, who loved enthusiasm, decided to take a look at this new thing and see if it was just a craze or something longer-lasting.”
(I think it should be explained that Mike Walker gives a good explanation of how this marriage worked, her husband Maurice Hewlett was something of a bohemian, and for his day obviously very broad minded. It appears that Hilda and Gustave didn’t confine theircombined passions just to flying either).
To continue the story: “Accepting Blondeau’s invitation to a flying show in the north of England – the two drove an open topped auto from London to Blackpool, no mean feat in those days – she was deeply impressed by what she saw and felt she either ‘wanted to cry or shout’. She agreed absolutely with her new friend that the future lay in the sky.”
(My Note: See both BLACKPOOL and DONCASTER to see how these two competing entities managed to screw up the first major British ‘Aerial Meeting’ or ‘Air Show’, split the field, and ended up with nothing to match the previous event staged in France at Reims)
HEWLETT and BLONDEAU
This enterprise was certainly ambitious, advertising in 1911, “Exhibition and passenger flights can be arranged anywhere in England.” They flew Farman type biplanes which they built and three additional aircraft for the Vickers School. In fact T.O.M. Sopwith had his first flight in a powered aeroplane with this School it seems.
To quote from British Built Aircraft Vol.3 Ron Smith states that:, “In December 1912, Hewlett and Blondeau were constructing three Hanriot monoplanes at Battersea under contract to Hanriot. In February 1913, the company was advertising ‘Aeroplanes of any description from customers’ design.’ Ten different types of aircraft were built at Battersea, the company building the Dyott 1913 monoplane, and later the BE2A, BE2C and other types. During 1914 the company moved to a new factory at Leagrave near Luton.” (BEDFORDSHIRE)
One source I discovered claimed that on September 18th 1911 the prototype AVRO 504 off on it’s maiden flight from here. What utter bunkum! I think it was probably the Avro Triplane? Yet another example of just how confusing some sources are regarding our aviation history. The Avro 504 first flew on September 18 1913 and became the longest produced British type . However, I have yet to ascertain exactly where this first flight took place. It was almost certainly not here? The ubiquitous Avro 504K first flew, without much doubt, from ALEXANDRA PARK in CHESHIRE.
The Skinner monoplane flew here in August 1911. According to Ron Smith built by Mulliners Coachworks at Vardens Road, Clapham Junction. A very odd choice to say the least and I’ll bet the reason it did not succeed was because it was far too heavy?
Another manufacturer from 1912 was Martin Limited. The picture above was scanned from British Aviation - The Pioneer Years by Harald Penrose. It is captioned as being a Martin-Handasyde but the name on the 'shed' No.17 states 'Martin Limited' as far as I can make out. They must have presumably decided to combine their efforts as, later on, there was a Martinsyde concern based here.
In February 2018 Terry Grace kindly contacted me to point out that this picture was actually taken at LARKHILL during the military trials.
THE PASHLEY BROTHERS
Also flying here in the summer of 1911 was the Pashley Brothers/Sommer biplane which was a Farman type from France. The Pashley brothers used it for training, including a certain Mr Percival. They moved to SHOREHAM (SUSSEX) in 1913 and did very well. Indeed, after WW2 Cecil Pashley was still instructing there.
THE BRISTOL SCHOOL OF FLYING
‘Jack’ Brereton who went on to become a well known test and demonstration pilot for the Blackburn Aeroplane & Motor Co gained his Pilot Certificate No:136 on 19th September 1911 here flying a Bristol ‘Boxkite’ type with the Bristol School of Flying. It is also claimed that in 1911 the two Bristol Flying School sites, (here and at LARKHILL in WILTSHIRE), trained fifty-six pilots - nigh on half those trained to fly in the UK that year. In 1912 this figure had risen to ninety-eight pilots and by comparison it is claimed the most any other school trained was twenty. In 1913 the total was one hundred and seventeen. In fact it is claimed that prior to WW1 these two Bristol Schools had trained three hundred and nine pilots out of a total of six hundred and sixty-four who had obtained their Royal Aero Club ‘tickets’. Which contrasts with a contemporary claim in a Bristol advert that, “Where nearly Seventy-Five Per Cent Of England’s Aviators Have Gained Their Certificates.”
The Radley-Moorhouse monoplane was quite well known in 1912. Developed from a Blériot it was flying here and at PORTHOLME (HUNTINGDONSHIRE) before being raced at HENDON (LONDON). Mr Radley and Mr Moorhouse experimented with a seaplane design around this period, flying it from a site near Huntingdon and SHOREHAM (SUSSEX), presumably from the River Adur?
In his excellent book, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years, Harald Penrose tells us this about activities in 1912: "At Hendon, Brooklands, Larkhill and Eastchurch flying could be watched any day unless there was gale. In mid-Ap[ril the Brooklands' pilots began to organise impromptu air races, with time handicaps calculated by George Handasyde. The first was 6 miles to Chertsey Bridge and back, which Collyns Pizey won on a Boxkite, with Tom Sopwith, as scratch man, second on his 70-h.p. Blériot. Next day the race was 9 miles, and this time Sopwith won."
"Rival Hendon immediately went one better with Grahame-White holding regular week-end races around pylons set in the wide sweep of the aerodrome so that everybody could admire the turns." It might well be viewed as extraordinary today, to realise that in those days considerable nerve and skill was required to make an aeroplane turn, and indeed, the aeroplanes in those days were not designed to make a turn easy, and the elements of knowledge needed were barely understood.
Another manufacturer was Perry-Beadle & Co whose second design, the T.2, was first flown here in June 1914. They had works in Twickenham, (West London), but their first design, (for some odd reason?), the T.1 was flown from BEAULIEU (HAMPSHIRE) in 1913. It appears the T.2 design was first flown here, and was taken seriously by the Admiralty, entering the RNAS with serial number 1322. Nothing came of this and nor did a later flying boat design, the B.3 tested on Lake Windermere (WESTMORLAND) in 1915.
Note: These two pictures were scanned from British Aviation - The Pioneer Years by Harald Penrose, first published in 1967.
First picture: Caption reads; "Tommy Sopwith at the controls of the modified Dragonfly sold to Graham Gilmour".
The second picture from Flight magazine caption reads; "The outstandingly successful Sopwith 3-seater landing at Brooklands after attaining the height record."
SOPWITH and HAWKER
The relationship between T O M Sopwith and the gifted Australian Harry Hawker is of course the stuff of legend, Harry Hawker taking over the Sopwith company assets in 1920. Hawker was of course one of the top Sopwith test pilots and gained his Certificate just four days after starting to learn to fly on the 17th September 1912. Within seven weeks he flew the Sopwith-Wright to win the British Empire Michelin Trophy with a non-stop flight of 8hrs 23mins on the 24th October 1912.
In his excellent book, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years, Harald Penrose tells us that the first full-page advert for the Sopwith School of Flying appeared in February 1912. "....offering tuition at £75 on the American Wright or the Howard Wright with dual control, and a Blériot and a Howard Wright monoplane for afvanced flying.
On the 31st May 1913 Hawker gained the British altitude record of 11,450ft flying the Sopwith Three-seater. With this same aeroplane he set another record, 12,900ft with one passenger on the 21st June and not much later on the 27th July, another record of 10,600ft with two passengers.
I think it rather interesting that in his book British Built Aircraft Vol.3 Ron Smith quotes an article by R Dallas Brett in which he observes that the Sopwith facilities at the west end of BROOKLANDS were, “…a row of dilapidated wooden hangars backing onto the Byfleet banking.” This being probably around 1912? Which I suppose illustrates that much of the hangarage erected at BROOKLANDS during this era was cheaply and hastily erected. One can only pity the usually highly skilled fitters and riggers working in such conditions. As an aside the book, ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanphropists’ written during this pre-War period gives a considerable insight into the invariably appalling social and general conditions of the working classes to which the vast majority if not all fitters and riggers came from.
THE VICKERS SCHOOL
With regards to the Vickers School I shall quote once again from Ron Smith’s British Built Aircraft Vol.3: “The Vickers School at Brooklands used the company’s early monoplanes, together with three Farman-style Boxkite biplanes, originally supplied by Hewlett & Blondeau. Having suffered the inevitable modifications consequent upon school use, the Boxkite biplanes were eventually regarded as Vickers machines. Famous students included W. Sefton Brancker, Hugh Dowding, R.K. Pierson (Vickers’ designer), J. Lankester Parker (Short Brothers’ famous test pilot), and Noel Pemberton Billing (co-founder of Supermarine). Pemberton Billing – ever the self-publicist – took his test for the Royal Aero Club following a single day of instruction on his own Farman in September 1913, as a result of a £500 bet with Frederick Handley Page. It appears he gained his certificate before breakfast!
His instructor was Robert Barnwell of the Vickers School (acting in a private capacity). The Vickers flying school trained seventy-seven pupils from 1912 to 1914, second only to the Bristol school.”
OTHER INTERESTING TYPES
In his book British Built Aircraft Vol.3 Ron Smith gives examples of other interesting types that appeared at BROOKLANDS before and after WW1, which include; The Collyer- Lang monoplane in late 1910 and the Champel Biplane in 1913. After the Warwick Wright company were taken over by the Coventry Ordnance Works they used the Wright shed, (No.32), to erect their entry for the 1912 Military Trials held at LARKSHILL on Salisbury Plain in WILTSHIRE. A rare odd-ball type listed by Ron Smith is the Fritz monoplane, designed by Fritz Goetz and built by Messrs H & D J Oyler & Co of London W.1. It was photographed at BROOKLANDS in August 1911 but nothing else seems known. Did it even fly?
In a similar vein who now remembers the Parsons biplane of 1913 which eventually “proved to fly well” and “climbed like a rocket” reaching heights up to 2000ft! This was advertised forsale from Shed 6 in September 1913. Another rare type was the Gaskell-Blackburn biplane which first flew on the 2nd April 1914. He also makes a very interesting observation regarding early aero engines noting that having an oil capacity of 22 gallons to 50 gallons of fuel was quite normal.
Perhaps highly indicative of the unexpected and explosive rate in which WW1 developed is illustrated by the DFW German Aircraft Works setting up a facilty here in Hangar 18 during1913. They planned to have a factory in Richmond, Surrey, up and running by July 1914.
Ron Smith also gives much information about L Howard Flanders Ltd who occupied Hangar 33, (or was it shed No.53?), and were very productive from March 1912 until being takenover by Handley Page that same year. Yet another company I had certainly never heard of. Of interest I would say is that in a contemporary advert posted by Handley Page: They claim the possibility of making “Cross Country Flights with 2 Passengers with a Handley PageMonoplane powered by a 50 H.P. Gnome. In this same advert they also list, “The 70 H.P Renault - Flanders Monoplane,” which they claim won the, “Altitude Prize. Brooklands (3,600 ft).
The Flanders F.2 was first flown, (presumably here?), on the 8th August 1911 although some say it was the 31st July 1911. This was modified to a two-seater – the F.3 in October 1911. It crashed with fatal results on the 15th May 1912, possibly when flown by the Flanders test pilot Mr E V B Fisher? The company was advertising the, “Flanders School – Tuition on Monoplane with dual control,” from March 1912. The Flanders F.4 monoplane first flew here on the 7th July 1912 and the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) purchased four examples. It appears to have been very successful until use of the type was curtailed when the RFC banned the use of monoplanes in 1912. A policy they, later the RAF of course, fought hard to pursue into the 1930s it seems. To counter this the Flanders B.2 biplane was produced, first flying here on the 22nd December 1912 when the company was presumably now fully under Handley Page control? It flew well and was purchased by the Admiralty with serial number 918, continuing to fly until the start of WW1.
THE FIRST PILOT TO FLY A LOOP IN THE UK
It is reported that it is here, on the 25th September 1913, the French airman Celestin-Adolphe Pégoud was the first to perform a loop in the UK. It seems worthwhile to expand on this; for example it appears that Pégound only gained his pilot’s certificate in February 1913! He was then employed by Blériot as a test and demonstration pilot. Later I discovered a report that he had actually performed a complete aerobatic display, (something he’d perfected at Buc in France), which included a flick roll, a tail slide and - absolutely incredible I think, an outside loop or bunt. Something I’d have thought impossible in a Blériot XI? Also, it is reported he didn’t perform just one loop, on one occasion at least he performed a succession of eight loops!
Incidentally, about two months later, having been trained by Pégoud at Buc, Bennie Hucks was the first British pilot to ‘loop the loop’ at HENDON in November that year.
When WW1 started Pégoud became an adjutant reservist with the French air force and very quickly got involved in combat, earning himself the Médaille Militaire for downing two enemy aircraft. In 1915 he was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. Shortly after this action he was shot down and killed by a German two-seater, the first Allied ‘ace’ to be killed in that conflict. Ironically the German aircraft was being flown by one of his former pupils, (presumably at Buc?), Unteroffizer Kandulski.
In the years before 1914 quite a variety of aircraft built by various manufacturers were flying here or flew from here in events and the list of manufacturers includes; Avis, Avro, Barber, B.E., Blériot, Borel, Bristol, Burgess-Wright, Depperdussin, D.W.F., Farman, Hanriot, Howard-Wright, Humber, Martinsyde, Macfie, Percival, Short, Sopwith, Spencer, Vickers and Voisin. I suppose it is a sad reflection that none of these British company names lasted to see out the 20th century and still used in aircraft manufacture and design?
BEWARE OF FALSEHOODS
I have come across some accounts stating that Short Bros were making balloons here in the early years of the 20th century and even built an aeroplane here for Lieut.-Colonel J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon. These accounts are at best utter rubbish - but - how on earth to they get published? For more detailed accounts of Short Brothers early history see BATTERSEA in LONDON, SHELLBEACH, (LEYSDOWN) and later nearby EASTCHURCH in KENT for a better idea of what was actually happening. It is a sad fact that many books on British aviation history have been written by people who have been very sloppy in their research - if you can even call it that. I just hope I won’t be accussed of the same fault too often!
WORLD WAR ONE
During WW1 the No.10 Aircraft Acceptance Park was established here taking in aircraft directly from the local factories.
In addition Vickers built a large number of aircraft for the Royal Aircraft Factory before and during WW1. In fact it seems it was a BE2C that was the first aircraft Vickers built at BROOKLANDS. C F Andrews in Vickers Aircraft since 1908 has probably compiled the finite list? With aircraft built at Crayford, Dartford, Erith, Crayford and Weybridge:
BE2/2a 31 built at Erith
BE8/8a 35 built at the Dartford works and the rest at Erith
FE8 50 built at Weybridge
Sopwith 1½ Strutter 150 built at Crayford
SE5a 515 at Crayford, 1650 at Weybridge and an additional 431 by Wolseley Motors
Ron Smith in his book British Built Aircraft Vol.3 gives a considerable amount of history to this company and in many ways it seems remarkable that these two gifted designers and their company seems to have avoided greater recognition. Apart from making fourteen BE2C and at least 258 SE5As, it appears they produced some splendid aircraft of their own design in WW1. In fact the Martinsyde F.4 Buzzard is claimed to have probably been the finest fighter in WW1, rather like the Martin-Baker MB.5 in WW2 perhaps?
I suppose we need to realise that many people in the know claim that the appearance of a superior weapon (or aircraft) is not in itself usually of much interest to the military, at least initially? Unless perhaps if it is available during the initial and often frequent evaluation stages when the big procurement decisions are made. The modern military ‘machine’ is a cumbersome and inflexible beast by its very nature. A vast web of administration has to be set in place before any item can be used and some claim that the paperwork system is significantly more important than any ‘front-line’ equipment considerations. It has been a long told joke in the aviation industry (which applies to all aircraft) that no aircraft can fly until the weight of the accompanying paperwork exceeds that of the aircraft itself.
This said a large number of F.4 Buzzards were ordered, some 327 being delivered out of an order for for 600. Perhaps oddly in WW1, the military ‘machine’ now appears rather better equipped to be flexible in taking advantage of new and better aircraft. By WW2 the process had severely slowed down. Today the process of fully developing a ‘new’ aircraft type can occupy a quarter of a century. This is called ‘progress’.
THE HOLLE VARIOPLANE
In British Built Aircraft Vol.3 Ron Smith gives details of the Holle Varioplane of 1917, one of a number of experimental aircraft made to test the Alula-Holle wing form. He says there were two related companies; The Varioplane Co Ltd and The Commercial Aeroplane Wing Syndicate Ltd and, "Operations were conducted at ADDLESTONE and BROOKLANDS, NORTHOLT (LONDON) and SHERBURN-in-ELMET (YORKSHIRE)." Presumably the Addlestone site was for manufacturing only?
BETWEEN THE WARS:
Note: This picture from a postcard was kindly sent by Mike Charlton. My guess is that is was probably taken in the 1930s, perhaps the early 1930s? However, if anybody can be good enough to offer advice, this will be most welcome.
Manufacturing: ABC Motors (who built the single ABC Robin G-AAID at Walton-on-Thames), DW Aircraft, Hawker and Vickers.
After WW1 the DW Aircraft Co was set up by the racing pilot Dudley Watt who produced the DW1 and DW2. Prior to these two types it appears he flew a Sopwith Scooter, K135/G-EACZ which was a parasol monoplane mounted on a Camel fuselage. The DW1G-EBOG was a modified SE5A. The DW2 G-AAWK was a two-seat biplane designed by K N Pearson, (who also designed the Glenny & Henderson Gadfly and the Pickering Pearson KP2). Don’t you just love these names? The DW1 first flew here in June 1918 but not raced until 1926 - why? The DW2 first flew here in mid-May 1930.
FLIGHTS TO THE CAPE
On the 24th January 1920 Vickers sent two of their pilots off to South Africa, (presumably with a mechanic or two?), in a Vimy, but they crashed. A tad later on the 4th February two South African pilots, Lt. Col. Pierre van Rynevald, (some say Ryneveld), and Major Quinton Brand, (some say Christopher Quinton Brand), with two mechanics also set out in the Vickers Vimy Silver Queen, and they made it….eventually. It appears they crashed at night near Wadi Haifa in Egypt, salvaging the two engines which were fitted to a new airframe. They then crashed this aircraft taking-off from Pretoria on the 5th March. The South African Air Force supplied them with a DH.9 in which they reached Cape Town on the 20th March. They were both knighted for this achievement.
Brooklands August 1923. First flight of the A.N.E.C.1 which took part in the Daily Mail Lympe trials that same year. Only a couple of these aircraft were built.
In May 1927 Brooklands opened the first petrol filling station with ‘motoring type’ pumps for aircraft in the UK.
A DH.53 Humming Bird was acquired by the Tellus Super Vacuum Cleaner Co and it appears they operated it here in 1927 and possibly to 1928. Does anybody know the history behind this short dabble into aviation by this company? The aircraft, (G-EBRJ), was scrapped at Woodley in 1930 according to reliable records.
AN ACCOUNT BY DON ROBERTSON
In his book, ‘The Urge to Fly’ Don Robertson recounts enlisting at the Henderson School of Flying in 1928. He learnt to fly on the Avro 504, and his first flight was with Colonel Henderson and the cost was £4.10s an hour. “…a tremendous sum but I took five hours dual and three solo before getting my license, so the total cost amounted to £36.” To put this into perspective, when finishing his three year engineering apprenticeship at Armstrong Whitworth in Coventry shortly before, he was paid £1.10s a week…for a 47½ hour working week. From this he saved enough to go to Brooklands!
He also states, regarding learning to fly here; “The group of us, living in a bungalow near the sheds, were a mixed crowd of aviators, racing drivers, actors and rich sportsmen whose main pastime seemed to be drinking, starting early in the day and finishing long after the pubs closed. There were no regular hours but life moved fast with an atmosphere of devil-may-care prevailing among the older experienced pilots who had flown in the war. With the average life expectancy of pilots who had flown over France being only a few weeks, it was not surprising that drinking habits acquired then had left their mark.”
“While in Coventry I had not been interested in the usual pub crawl beer drinking, simply because it was too expensive and every penny counted. At Brooklands, however, I had to drink spirits to be in the swing and to keep up with my friends. Certainly flying in an cockpit with the wind in one’s face and the cold, noise and anxieties of it all did produce a fierce thirst.” His is a book well worth reading. For example: “When I refect on those early flying days I can see how crude the aeroplanes were and how very new flying was. There was always a sense of danger lurking in the back of one’s mind and during my three week course, one of the students, Miss Welby, spun in and was killed. Both Colonel Henderson and an instructor called Davenport had fatal accidents shortly afterwards.”
THE HENDERSON HSF.1
The Henderson HSF.1 G-EBVF was designed for joy-riding in 1928, and built at nearby West Byfleet, and was a six-seater type.* It first flew at BROOKLANDS on the 27th April 1929. It was, it appears, quite a popular attraction even before being fitted with a canopy for the passengers. Typically its service life was short, it being scrapped in 1930. In his book British Built Aircraft Vol.3 Ron Smith reckons the Henderson School of Flying operated, at one time, nine Avro 548s. Some of which were passed on to the Brooklands School of Flying.
*Possibly the type used at RUNNYMEDE? See also in SURREY
THE KING'S CUP AT BROOKLANDS
The seventh King’s Cup Race was held here on the 20th July 1928, the first time at this venue. Thirty six aircraft competed that year, by far the largest contingent since the first race from CROYDON in 1922 which had twenty-two aircraft signed-up. The course was over 1,097 miles and a two-day event and won by Mr W.L. Hope in the de Havilland DH.60 Moth G-EBYZ averaging 105.5mph. This was a considerable gain over the Moth G-EBME in which he had won the previous years King’s Cup at an average speed of 92.8mph. This took place from HUCKNALL in NOTTINGHAMSHIRE.
I have come across accounts stating that the first King’s Cup Race was held here in 1932. It wasn’t, the first took place from CROYDON starting on the 9th September 1922. In fact it wasn’t even the first King’s Cup Race held here, see 1928 above. BROOKLANDS did seem lucky for Mr W. ‘Wally’ L. Hope. Having won first place at HUCKNALL in 1927 flying the DH.60 Moth G-EBME, he then won the race again the next year, (see 1928 above), flying the Moth G-EBYZ. When the King’s Cup returned to BROOKLANDS four years later in 1932, he won again. This time there were forty-two starters and the course was 1,223 miles, and once again it a two day event. Mr Hope won flying the DH.83 Fox Moth G-ABUT at an average speed of 124.25mph. 1928 and 1932 where the only years the annual King’s Cup race took place here.
A FLIGHT TO AUSTRALIA
18.03.29 The Vickers 166 G-EBYY took-off for Australia but it crashed at Cape Don on the 26th May 1929. Cape Don is on the tip of the Coburg Peninsular in the Northern Territories, roughly one hundred miles or so NE of Darwin. This must have been a bitter blow having flown so far.
The Glenny & Henderson Gadfly prototype G-AAEY first flew here in April 1929 and was built in West Byfleet. It is reported that soon afterwards it gained a World Height Record for single-seat light aeroplanes of 3,021 metres, 9,915ft. ( I’d say this should be 9,911ft as my obviously superior calculator cost around a ten quid!)
YOUNG LADIES FROLLICKS EXPOSED
Note: All the above were kindly provided by Mr Michael T Holder
In October 2020, Mike Holder who is a great friend of this 'Guide' was trawling through newspaper archives for 1935 trying to find evidence of a Sir Alan Cobham display near Wick in Scotland when he found a lengthy and serious article in The Bystander published on the 31st July 1935, entitled "New 'Planes and Flying Facilities". Clearly worth a look, especially as this 'Guide' is dedicated to serious research. The motto being, "Leave no turn unstoned."
So, imagine his surprise when the lead photograph was of a bevy of bathing beauties! Not at all what one might expect, but, it had an aeroplane in the picture - a de Havilland DH60 Moth. Being something of a 'super-sleuth' Mike was somewhat baffled by the picture caption, which read: "Do you fly to swim? The aeroplane is a useful vehicle in this hot spell. You can fly to swim, either to the seaside, the river, or the local pool. The girls from the Windmill Theatre have been transported by "Moth" from Brooklands, where they are learning to fly." Clearly the author was a sandwich short of a picnic, to say the least - but - the picture seemed genuine enough.
Then Mike then looked at the background, which had a certain familiarity about it. In next to no time he had confirmed it was BROOKLANDS. Perhaps this clearly deluded caption writer was influenced by the 1933 film 'Flying Down to Rio' and thought the special effects were real, and the girls had all been sitting or standing on the wings? Who knows? Who cares? Who cares who knows? Who knows who cares?
The DH60 Moth can carry the pilot plus one passenger. The Moth has clearly been pushed, towed or taxied into position and evidence of the girls means of transport, cars, can be clearly seen in the picture. Perhaps the caption writer is the 'Peeping Tom' also seen in the picture?
Whatsoever, and howsoever, we have to thank Mike for providing, as he called it, "Light relief", into this enormous list of mostly fields.
THE HURRICANE LEGEND STARTED HERE
Designed by a team led by Sydney Camm on the 6th of November 1935 the prototype Hawker Hurricane K5083, (it was then called the Fury Interceptor), first flew from BROOKLANDS. The design was based on being a monoplane version of the incredibly successful Hawker bi-plane variants which pretty much formed the backbone of RAF front-line fighter capability in the 1930s. In the days when the Hurricane design was first being developed, it is said that RAF Fighter Command was comprised of just thirteen front-line squadrons, equipped with Bristol Bulldogs, Hawker Demons and Hawker Furys. All biplanes with a fixed undercarriage and open cockpits. When the so called "Battle of Britain" was being fought, (10th July to 31st October 1940), roughly two-thirds of Fighter Command’s front-line aircraft were Hurricanes and they accounted for about 60% of the Luftwaffe aircraft shot down. This figure, apparently, also includes anti-aircraft fire but we need to be a bit careful as anti-aircraft batteries shot at anything, including RAF and Fleet Air Arm aircraft.
Patrick Bishop in his excellent book Wings decribes the event of the Hurricane's first flight: “On 6 November 1935 it made its first flight at Brooklands. The test pilot was George Bulman, a short, bald, ginger-moustached extrovert who had flown with the RFC in the war (My note: WW1 of course) and won a Military Cross. The prototype Hurricane had been developed in great secrecy and when the tarpaulins were stripped away and the hangar doors opened there were murmurs of surprise.” I bet there were and it is perhaps rather difficult for us today to try and imagine the impact such a radical design had in those days.”
“The new machine had been painted a futuristic silver, which emphasized its smooth, aerodynamically efficient lines and the way the wings fitted flush to the fuselage below the neat narrow cockpit.” The cockpit was enclosed, which was a real novelty in those days, although the Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter, which first flew on the 12th September 1934 was the first RAF fighter type to feature this new development. “It was big – bigger than any existing fighter – and very heavy at more than 6,000lbs. It seemed unlikely that a single engine could get it airborne. Bulman strode to the aeroplane, clambered up onto the wing root and hopped into the cockpit, watched by Camm and a clutch of Hawker executives from the edge of the field.”
“The Hurricane bumped away into the distance, then turned into the wind. The rumble of the Rolls-Royce engine deepened into a growl. The aeroplane moved forward, but slowly, so that it seemed to some that Bulman would run out field before he got airborne.” This was because the first Hurricanes, just like the first Spitfires, had ‘coarse’ fixed pitch propellers which are very inefficient at low speeds. “At the last moment the Hurricane left the ground in an abrupt bounding movement and climbed steeply. Neatly, the undercarriage folded inwards and disappeared into the underside of the wings.” Bulman knew exactly was he was doing of course; when confronted with a situation of decreased thrust (and lift for that matter), you build speed as far as possible on the ground before lifting off.
“The muscular shape dwindled, then disappeared and the engine note faded to nothing. Then, half an hour later, it was heard again. Bulman touched down in a perfect three-point landing and rolled over to where Camm was waiting to report that the flight had been a ‘piece of cake’. It was clear to all that in the Hurricane a star had been born.” But, it wasn’t all plain sailing by a long chalk. When ‘the A&AEE' lads at MARTLESHAM HEATH (SUFFOLK) got hold of it, they discovered a few faults, not the least being it was damned difficult to recover from a spin. This was ironed out, but not it appears, until after the first sixty or so had entered squadron service. The first four production aircraft went to 111 Squadron at NORTHOLT (LONDON) in December 1937.
By this time, (1935), although the main Hawker factory was in Kingston-upon-Thames, the final assembly and flight testing was here. It appears the Hawker presence increased right up to and during the first years of WW2 at least, but, did they have what can correctly be called a factory or manufacturing facility at Brooklands? Just a small thought. How did it turn out that Vickers took over BROOKLANDS and Hawker moved out to LANGLEY? Is the obvious answer that Vickers held more sway and with the Ministry of
Aircraft Production? With Hawker and Vickers production increasing by the hour, in the run up to WW2, something had to give? BROOKLANDS is a fairly confined site as airfields go and even a ‘A’ frame runway layout wasn’t practical. Possibly Hawkers decided themselves to move to the altogether better site at LANGLEY?
The initial flight test results with the Hurricane were so favourable the Head of the Hawker Board, Tommy Sopwith, gave the ‘go ahead’ to produce a thousand aircraft, several months before the Air Ministry placed an order. It now seems beyond doubt that this decision played a critical role in the outcome of the "Battle of Britain" some four years later. In many ways the Hurricane was by far the victor in that conflict - and not the Spitfire! But popular history has no regard or interest in facts of course. Myth and legend being preferred.
THE END OF AN ERA
According to Graham Smith, “Brooklands mounted its last pre-war meeting on the 20th (in August 1939 - my note), which brought to a close private and club flying at this historic aerodrome.”
WORLD WAR II:
Hawker Hurricanes, Vickers-Armstrong (Vickers Wellingtons etc)
At the start of the "Battle of Britain" the RAF had thirty squadrons equipped with Hurricanes, nineteen with Spitfires. The Spitfires were mostly employed to fend off German fighter escorts and the Hurricanes were usually employed on the far more dangerous job of shooting down the bombers. But, the Hurricane pilots also enjoyed much suceess in shooting down enemy fighters too. As stated above, it appears that Hurricanes shot down far more enemy aircraft in the "Battle of Britain" than Spitfires and ack-ack combined.
In 1940 the Hurricane could outmanoeuvre any contemporary fighter - it is claimed? Eventually the Hurricane went on to serve with 194 RAF Squadrons with over 14,000 built. Perhaps the most significant point being that right from the first design to the last, the basic Hurricane airframe design remained pretty much the same. And yet it perfomed such a wide range of duties in so many theatres of that war. Perhaps the most extraordinary role being catapulted with rocket assistance off the bows of CAM ships, (Catapult Armed Merchantman), to combat German Condor aircraft during the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’ whereby the pilot couldn’t land back. Having to either ditch, parachute out or perform a ‘belly’ landing if land could be reached!
By comparison the Spitfire and Mustang designs underwent considerable changes. And this aspect of these types had a considerable impact on the end result.
POST 1945: Vickers Aircraft Company, BAC (British Aircraft Company)
The first flight of the Vickers 600 Series Viscount G-AHRF took place here in July 1948. It now seems incredible today, (does it not?), that such an advanced British design to replace the DC-3, flew so soon after WW2?
I well remember sitting glued to our family black and white television set to watch the first take-off of the VC-10 from BROOKLANDS in June 1962. It seemed pretty hairy then but knowing what I now know the margin for error was huge. It lifted off using only a fraction of the available runway. The overall performance of the VC10 became legendary, it could out-perform, by quite a large margin, every other large four-engined jet airliner of the period. Largely due, I suspect, boosted by the amount of noise it could make? VC.10 pilots say it handled like a fighter and without any doubt such excellence made the "British government" and other interests, (along with the TSR.2), absolutely determined to make damned certain that we’d never, ever, lead the world again in aviation. Sounds cynical? Check the history.
The really big question is of course….WHY? Why did the British aviation industry get deliberately dismantled, thrown away, wrecked and discarded in the 1960s and 70s? It seems to have a lot of explanation required to say the least. Look at the facts. After WW2 when the UK emerged virtually bankrupt, (despite the US Marshall Plan on equal levels to Germany), the British aviation industry arguably achieved its blundering zenith. Our skies were thick with both hopeless designs, and others that were truly brilliant. By the 1960s it would appear this had mostly been sorted out - with mainly designs of real merit being commissioned. So why I would ask, did these designs fail to achieve anywhere near the international sales which the Vickers Viscount achieved?
There were a few exceptions of course. The Hawker Hunter did well in export sales - but generally speaking we failed. Without too much doubt this was due to our goverment resolutely insisting they would not back our aviation industry whereas the French goverrnment took the opposite attitude and offered enormous long-term support to Airbus. We should hang our heads in shame.
In 1977 the following aircraft were listed as being based here: Agusta AB-206B JetRanger 2 G-AXRU plus Bell 206B JetRanger G-BBOR, both of Air Hanson Ltd, Bell 206A JetRanger G-BBCA of Hambros Bank Ltd and Bell 206B JetRanger
G-BBFB of Anthony Hutley Ptnrs Ltd.
It appears Autokraft rebuilt the Hawker Hurricane Mk.XII BE417/G-HURR here, the first flight being from BLACKBUSHE on the 14th January 1996.
A REMARKABLE FLIGHT
It was in March 1998 that Brian Milton and Keith Reynolds set off in a Pegasus Quantum 912 flex-wing microlight G-MGTG to fly around the world. Reaching Anchorage in Alaska, Keith Reynolds decided to ‘abandon ship’ so Brian Milton completed the trip solo to arrive back, utterly haggard and exhausted, in July after 120 days having flown 24,000 miles. Flights like this equal if not surpass the extremes of human endurance the early pioneers faced.
THE BROOKLANDS MUSEUM
Now the site of the excellent Brooklands Museum. Light aircraft have occasionally used this famous aerodrome on special days in more recent years with special permission. In the early 2000s property developers moved in to destroy the main runway for good but it was mooted that a grass runway closer to the museum might well be laid out to enable light aircraft to still use the site.
SIGNIFICANT FIRST FLIGHTS (Martin & Handasyde Ltd/Martinsyde Ltd
Type Reg/Serial No Date of 1st flight
No.3 Monoplane N/A May 1910?
No.4B Dragonfly N/A July 1911?
No.5 N/A 13th November 1911
‘Martinsyde’ N/A 1913
S.1 N/A? ?
G.100 Elephant 4735 August 1915
G.102 Elephant ? ?
F.1 A3933? ?
F.2 ? ?
F.3 ? ?
F.4 Buzzard ? ?
Type A ? ?
Semiquaver G-EAPX 1920?
SIGNIFICANT FIRST FLIGHTS (H G Hawker Engineering Co. Ltd)
Type Reg/Serial No. Date of 1st flight
Woodcock J6987 March 1923
Duiker J6918 July 1923
Heron J6989 1925
Danecock No.151 15th December 1925
Horsley J7511 1925
Hornbill J7782 June 1926
Hawfinch J8776 March 1927
Hart J9052 June 1928
F.20/27 J9123 August 1928
Tomtit J9772 November 1928
Hornet J9682 April 1929
Fury I K1926 25th March 1931
Nimrod S1577 14th October 1931
Audax K1438 February 1931
Osprey S1677 1931
Hart Trainer K1996 20th April 1932
Demon K2842 10th February 1933
Hart (Sweden) 1301 6th January 1934
Hardy K3013 7th September 1934
Hind K2915 12th September 1934
Hartbees 803 28th June 1935
Hurricane K5083 6th Nov 1935
Hector K3719 14th February 1936
Fury II K7263 3rd December 1936
Henley K5115 10th March 1937
Hurricane I L1547 12th October 1937
Hotspur K8309 14th June 1938
Possibly the most interesting aspect to be gleaned from this list is that even after the first Hurricane flew in 1935 the Air Ministry/RAF were still commissioning biplanes such as the Hector and Fury II. Perhaps the Henley of 1937 is of most interest because, although of advanced design similar to a Hurricane, it was designated to be a target tug! The Hotspur was a design competing with the ill-fated Boulton-Paul Defiant.
I suppose it is also worth mentioning, in particular, how Hawker managed to sell several types to foreign countries, albeit normally in small numbers although, for example, a couple of licensing agreements applied to the Hart in Sweden (42 built) and the Hartbees for South Africa (65 built). Direct exports of the Fury went to Norway, Persia, Portugal and Yugoslavia wheras the Audax went to Canada, Iraq and Persia. Exports of the Hind went to Afghanistan (20), Ireland (6), Latvia (3), Persia (35), Portugal (4), Switzerland (1) and Yugoslavia (3).
SIGNIFICANT FIRST FLIGHTS (The Sopwith Aviation Co)
Note: Obviously the seaplane/flying boat types did not fly from here! Where they did first fly from? I think I have found some correct answers? Here again I am astonished to discover that so much of the factual history of this famous company seems cloaked in a fog confusion and debate. Why is this? Were many of the company records lost or destroyed including those of the main sub-contractors?
Type Reg/Serial No. 1st Flight Notes
Sopwith-Wright N/A 2nd May 1912 One built
Sopwith-Sigrist Hybrid 27* 4th July 1912 One built
Three Seater N/A? 7th February 1913 11 built
Bat Boats** ? 8th July 1913 These flew from COWES, ISLE of WIGHT
Tractor Seaplane 58 Mid 1913 COWES also? 3 built
Tabloid ? November 1913 Between 29 and 50 built?
Schneider N/A? 1914 COWES also?
Type 807 807? Autumn 1914 12 built?
Gunbus ? October 1914 36 built
Type D.5 ? Late 1914 24 built
A.1 860 or 851? Late 1914 Admiralty Type 860 18 built
Baby ? September 1915 286 built
Admiralty Type 9400 3686 December 1915 ***
Pup 3691 February 1916 **** Admiralty Type 9901
Triplane N500 June 1916 Just 152 built?
Camel N5 22nd December 1916 *****
SE.1 Dolphin ? 23rd May 1917 1,532 to 2,074 built
T1 Cuckoo N74 June 1917 233 built
3F.2 Hippo X.10 or X.11? 13th September 1917 2 built
7F.1 Snipe B9962 November 1917 1,100 to 2,178 built. The Dragon was a variant
TF.2 Salamander E5429 27th April 1918 163 built
In addition the Sopwith company built several types which did not enter production, including the: Bee, Buffalo, Bulldog, Grasshopper, Rhino, Scooter, Snail, Snapper, Snark and Swallow. Between the Armistace and September 1920 the company produced just fifteen aircraft.
* After being sold to the Admiralty on the 21st October 1912
** There were a series of Bat Boats. The second version went to the Admiralty with the serial No. 38 and the third version with the serial No.118
*** Became the Sopwith One-and-a-half Strutter, the first major Sopwith success with 5,466 built? (Others say 5939, about 4500 in France)
**** It seems the Pup quickly evolved from the Type 9901, flying shortly after. Production estimates vary, some reckon 1,770 others 1,847. But…..it seems, Sopwith only built 97!
***** Surely the Camel became the most famous Sopwith type? But, oddly enough total production numbers don’t appear much different to the ‘One-and-a-half-Strutter’. Needless to say estimates vary, 5,747, 5,490 and 5,695 for example. It appears Sopwith only built about 10% of these aircraft.
(Vickers, Sons and Maxim Ltd, Vickers Ltd, Vickers (Aviation) Ltd, Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, British Aircraft Corporation (BAC).
Because of the Vickers type numbering system I thought it might be a good idea, for a bit of fun, to see just how many type numbers that emerged from the design office (?) actually flew. I also suspect that Vickers possibly produced the greatest number of types and variants compared to any other British aircraft manufacturer? And yes, I did regret starting the list even when up to the one hundreds! And, this is just to give some idea, the list is far from complete. Plus, despite all the time spent on this list I still couldn’t find the famed Vickers Daughter! But…..I do think you will find with a quick trawl down the list that several points of interest will be found – such as who was actually buying these aircraft. In several notable cases I have given total production numbers, (often a case for debate), and these can be informative.
It should be noted that some of the early types first flew from JOYCE GREEN (KENT) although much further test, development and modification work took place here. For convenience I shall list all the Vickers types discovered so far in this one table. It does appear that if a fitter replaced a screw or rivet this was enough to warrant a new Type number! IF by some miracle I have got all the details correct I would like thank C F Andrews and Ron Smith especially, Cross-checks were usually internet sources such as Wikipeadia. This said it pretty easy to discover contradictory information even in their own listings. But, as I said right from the start, this is only intended to be a ‘Guide’ and nothing more.
Just one other note. The Vickers factory at Weybridge was adjacent to BROOKLANDS airfield and many people slightly confuse this fact, listing WEYBRIDGE as being the airfield. The military serial number or civil registration only applies (hopefully correct) to the first version of the type flown.
Type No: Reg/Serial Date of 1st flight Notes
No.1 REP Type N/A July 1911 First flew at Joyce Green – Variants No.1 to No.8
18 F.B.5 Gunbus ? 5 February 1914 First flew at Joyce Green?
? F.B.6 Gunbus ? ?
? F.B.9 Gunbus ? ?
? F.B.12C ? ?
? F.B.14 ? ?
? F.B.19 ? ?
? F.B.26A Vampire B1485 ? First flew at Joyce Green
? F.B.27 Vimy B9952 30 November 1917
? F.B.27 Vimy II ? ?
? Vimy (Civil) None ? Flown by Alcock and Brown across the Atlantic
? Vimy Ambulance ? ?
? Vimy Commercial K107 13 April 1919 First flew at Joyce Green. Also carried the civil reg. G-EAAV
? Vernon Mk.I ? ?
? Vernon Mk.II ? ?
? Vernon Mk.III ? ?
? Viking G-EAOV November 1919 Aka ‘Viking Amphibian’ and first flown from Brooklands
? Viking Mk.II G-EASC June 1920 First flown from Cowes
? Viking Mk.III G-EAUK ?
54 Viking Mk.IV F-ADBL September 1921?
55 Viking Mk.IV ? ? Ten aircraft of four versions,
56 Viking Mk.IV ? ? Types 55 to 58 delivered to the Royal Netherlands Indies Air Arm from 1922 to 1923
57 Viking Mk.IV ? ?
58 Viking Mk.IV ? ?
59 Viking Mk.V N156 April 1922?
60 Viking Mk.IV G-EBBZ ?
61 Vulcan G-EBBL May 1922? For Instone Air Line
63 Vulcan G-EBEK October 1922?
64 Viking Mk.IV ? N/A Exported to Russia
67 Viking Mk.IV G-EBED ? For sales tour in Spain
69 Viking Mk.IV ? N/A Exported to Canada
71 Vixen Mk.I G-EBEC ?
72 Vanguard J6924 March 1925? To the RAF
73 Viking Mk.IV ? N/A Exported to the River Plate Aviation Co based in either Argentina or Uruguay?
74 Vulcan G-EBFC December 1924? For Imperial Airways
76 Virginia J6856 March 1924? Prototype for the RAF
78 Vulture I G-EBGO 1924 Version of a Viking Mk.IV for the MacLaren round-world flight
79 Virginia Mk III J6992 June 1924? For the RAF
81 Victoria J6860 February 1923? Two prototypes for the RAF
83 Vanellus N169 1925 For RAE trials
84 Viking Mk.IV ? N/A Exported to the Argentine Navy
85 Viking Mk.IV ? N/A Exported to the RCAF in Canada
87 Vixen Mk.II G-EBEC ? Modified Type 71
91 Vixen Mk.III G-EBIP 1924?
92 Valparaiso Mk.II ? 1924 Exported to Portugal
93 Valparaiso Mk.I ? 1924 Exported to Portugal
94 Venture Mk.1 J7277 June 1924? For the RAF
95 Vulture II G-EBHO ? First aircraft for MacLaren round-world flight
99 Virginia Mk.IV J7274 ? For the RAF
100 Virginia Mk.V J7418 November 1924? For the RAF
102 Valparaiso Mk.I ? 1924? Exported to the Chilean Navy
103 Vanguard J6924 ? Flown by Imperial Airways as G-EBCP?
105 Vixen Mk.IV G-EBEC ?
108 Virginia Mk.VI J7558 ? For the RAF
112 Virginia MK.VII J8236 January 1927? For the RAF
113 Vespa Mk.I G-EBLD ?
116 Vixen Mk.V ? N/A 18 delivered to Chile
117 Victoria Mk.III J7921 February 1926? For the RAF
119 Vespa Mk.II G-EBLD ? Converted Vespa Mk.I
120 Vendace Mk.I N208 ?
121 Wibault Scout ? N/A 26 exported to Chile
123 (Fighter type) G-EBNQ 1926 Vickers private venture
125 Vireo Mk.I N211 ?
126 Vixen Mk.VI G-EBEC 1927 Another version of the Type 71
127 Wibault 12.C.2 J9029 ? French built type
128 Virginia Mk.IX J8907 Sepember 1927? For the RAF
130 Vivid G-EBPY ? Modified Type 91 Vixen VII
131 Valiant G-EBVM 1927 Ended up in Chile
132 Vildebeest N230 1928
133 Vendace Mk.II G-EBPX ? Vickers private venture
134 Vellore I J8906 17 May 1928 Air Ministry contract for Imperial Airways, flying as G-AASW?
139 Virginia Mk.X K2321 August 1931? For the RAF
141 (Fighter type) G-EBNQ ? Modified Type 123
143 Bolivian Scout ? N/A Six delivered to Bolivia
145 Victoria Mk.IV J9250 September 1928? For the RAF
148 Vixen G-EBIP ? Modified Type 91
149 Vespa Mk.III ? N/A Six exported to Bolivia
150 (Bomber type*) J9131 ? Virginia replacement
151 Jockey J9122 February 1929? Fighter type for RAF evaluation
155 Vendace Mk.III ? N/A Three exported to Bolivia
157 Vendace Mk.II G-EBPX ? Converted with Nimbus engine
160 Viastra I G-AAUB ?
161 (Fighter type) J9566 August 1931? For RAF evaluation
163 (Bomber type*) 0-2 ? Vickers private venture
166 Vellore II J8906 ? Modified Type 134 also flying as G-EBYX
168 Valparaiso Mk.III ? ? In 1934 at least 13 built under license in Portugal
169 Victoria Mk.5 J9760 August 1929? For the RAF
170 Vanguard G-EBCP? ? Modified Type 103 for world load-carrying record on the 6th July 1928
171 Jockey J9122 January 1932? Modified Type 151
172 Vellore III G-AASW ? Later tested on floats carrying the marks 0-4
173 Velore IV K2133 ? Apparently also flew as G-ABKC
177 Scout ? ? Modified Type 143
192 Vildebeest Srs.2 N230 1929? Modified prototype
193 Vespa Mk.IV V.5 1930 First of four to the Irish Air Corps
194 Vildebeest Srs.III N230 December 1930? Modified Srs.II, also flying as G-ABGE
195 (Bomber type*) J9131 ? Rebuilt Type 150
198 Viastra II VH-UOM N/A Two exported to Australia
199 Viastra III G-AAUB ? Viastra Mk.I conversion
203 Viastra VI VH-UON ? Not delivered, flew from Brooklands as N-1, allotted G-ABVM but flown as O-6
204 Vildebeest Srs.IV O-1 1930
207 (Torpedo-bomber) ? ? Was it built and did it fly?
209 Vildebeest Srs.V G-ABGE ? Modified Srs.III
210 Vespa Mk.VI G-ABIL ? Converted from G-EBLD for world height record
212 Velox G-ABKY 1936? Sold to Imperial Airways
214 Vildebeest Srs.VI G-ABGE ? Modified Srs.V
216 Vildebeest Srs.VII G-ABGE ? Modified Srs.VI and also fitted with floats carrying the marks O-3
217 Vildebeest Srs.VII G-ABJK ? Converted Srs.IV. A total of 207 of all types built
220 Viastra VIII G-AAUB ? Viastra III conversion
242 Viastra IX VH-UOM N/A Reconverted to Type 198
246 Wellesley O-9 19 June 1935 Private venture. A total of 177 built
250 Vespa Mk.VII G-ABIL April 1933? Converted Mk.VI G-ABIL also flying as K3588?
252 Viastra-Wallis ? ? Experimental version for the RAF
253 (Bomber type*) K2771 March 1932? It appears this aircraft is often confused with the Wellesley, but the Type 253 was a biplane design
255 Vannox J9131 ? Another rebuild of the Type 150
259 Viastra X G-ACCC ? VIP version for HRH Prince of Wales. Later L6012 based at Croydon for radio/icing tests
262 Victoria Mk.VI K3159 September 1933? All Mk.Vis were converted to the Type 264 Valentia
264 Valentia K3599 April 1934? For the RAF
266 Vincent K4105 ? The protype S1714 was a converted Srs.1 Vildebeest. Total of 197 built
271 Wellington K4049 15th June 1936 The story of the Wellington is a subject in itself and by far the most successful Vickers bomber type
Note: Picture scanned from Aeroplane Monthly, September 1982
279 Venom PVO-10
Private venture to compete with the Hurricane and Spitfire.
Comment: Vickers-Armstrongs took over Supermarine in 1928, way before the Spitfire was being designed but R J Mitchell. But clearly there was no worthwhile exchange of interest going on between WEYBRIDGE/BROOKLANDS and the Supermarine factory in Southampton.
I am trying to think of a Vickers fighter which succeeded after WW1, and cannot think of a single example. For its day the Venom was actually pretty good - but the Spitfire was better.
284 Warwick K8178 13 August 1939
285 Wellington Mk.I L4212 ?
290 Wellington Mk.I L4212 ? Fitted with alternative engines
298 Wellington Mk.II L4250 ?
299 Wellington Mk.III L4251 ?
400 Warwick L9704 ? With Napier Sabre engines
403 Wellington Mk.III L4311? ? Originally for the RNZAF but not delivered, diverted to RAF
426 Wellington Mk.V W5796 ?
431 Wellington Mk.VI W5795 ? High altitude version, reached 40,000ft
432 (Fighter type) DZ217 ? Airframe completed but did it actually fly?
433 Warwick Mk.III DW506 ? Prototype Windsor fitted with four Merlins?
440 Wellington Mk.X LN157 ?
442 Wellington Mk.VIA W5797 ?
447 Windsor DW506 20 October 1943
449 Wellington Mk.VIG DR480G ? In total it appears 11,460 were built
456 Warwick C.1 BV243 ? One at least or BOAC flying as G-AGEX.. A total of 845 Warwicks were built
457 Windsor DW512 February 1944
461 Windsor NK136 11 July 1944
471 Windsor NN670 N/A? Probably not flown?
476 Windsor NN673 N/A? To be a Type 601 but cancelled when 60% complete
480 Windsor NK136 ? With armament removed
483 Windsor B.I PE510? February 1945? Probably not flown?
491 Viking G-AGOK 22nd June 1945 A converted Warwick
495 Viking G-AGOL ?
496 Viking G-AGOM ? For BOAC (BEA Division)
498 Viking G-AGON ?
601 Windsor N/A N/A Was this version built and flown?
604 Viking VT-AZA ? For Indian National Airways
607 Viking VL249 30 June 1947 Prototype Valetta
610 Viking G-AHPK ? For BEA (British European Airways)
614 Viking G-AHOX ? For BEA
615 Viking T-2 LV-XEQ ? For the Argentine Air Force
616 Viking VP-YEW ? For Central African Airways
618 Viking G-AJPH ? Fitted with two Nene 1 jet gngines, also flying as VX856
620 Viking T.1 LV-XEN ? For the Argentine Air Force
621 Viking VL226 ? For the King’s Flight, later G-AIJE
623 Viking VL246 ? For the King’s Flight
624 Viking VL245 ? For the King’s Flight
626 Viking VL248 ? For the King’s Flight
627 Viking G-AIXR ? Delivered to Airwork
628 Viking OY-DLA ? For DDL (Danish Air Lines)
630 Viscount G-AHRF 16 August 1948 Prototype, also flying as VX211
632 Viking VT-CIY ? For Air India
634 Viking EI-ADF ? For Aer Lingus
635 Viking ZS-BNE ? For South African Airways
636 Viking G-AJJN ? For BEA
637 Valetta C.1 VL262 28 January 1948 1st production example?
639 Viking G-AHPI ? To Hunting Air Travel
640 Viscount G-AJZW ? 3rd prototype, did it fly?
641 Viking VP-YHJ ? For Central African Airways
643 Viking ZS-BSB ? For Suidair International
644 Viking YI-ABP ? For Iraqi Airways
645 Valetta C.1 VL267 ?
648 Varsity VX828 ?
649 Viking J750 ? VIP type, Pakistan Air Force. It appears a total of 163 Type 649s were built
651 Valetta C.1 VW140 ?
659 Valetta C.2 VX571 ? Could be WJ504?
660 Valiant WB210 18th May 1951 Prototype ‘V’ bomber
663 Viscount VX217 ? 2nd prototype fitted with RR Tay engines
664 Valetta T.3 VX564? ? Could be WG256? A total of 263 built
667 Valiant WB215 ? 2nd prototype
668 Varsity WF324 17 July 1949 1st production example, a total of 163 were built
673 Valiant B.2 WJ954 ? Designed for low level sorties but declined by the Air Ministry for whom it was a huge and costly mistake.
674 Valiant B.1 WP199? ?
700 Viscount G-AMAV ? 1st production type? For the Ministry of Supply. Entered for the England – New Zealand Air Race in October 1953
701 Viscount G-ALWE ? For BEA
702 Viscount VP-TBK ? For British West Indian Airways
706 Valiant B.1 WP204? ?
707 Viscount EI-AFV ? For Aer Lingus
708 Viscount F-BGNK ? For Air France
710 Valiant B(PR)1 WP205? ?
720 Viscount VH-TVA ? For Trans Australia Airlines
723 Viscount IU683 ? For the Indian Air Force
724 Viscount CF-TGI ? For Trans-Canada Air Lines
730 Viscount IU684 ? For the Indian Air Force
732 Viscount G-ANRR ? For Hunting-Clan Air Transport
733 Valiant B(PR)K1 WZ380? ?
734 Viscount J751 ? VIP type, Pakistan Air Force
735 Viscount YI-ACK ? For Iraqi Airways
736 Viscount LN-FOF ? For Fred Olsen Air Transport
739 Viscount SU-AIC ? For Misrair
739A Viscount SU-AKN ? For Misrair
739B Viscount SU-AKW ? For Misrair
742 Viscount FAB-2100 ? For the Brazilian Air Force
744 Viscount N7402 ? For Capital Airlines
745 Viscount N7405 ? For Capital Airlines
747 Viscount G-ANXV ? Retained by Vickers
748 Viscount VP-YNA ? For Central African Airways
749 Viscount YV-C-AMV ? For Linea Aeropostal Venezolana
754 Viscount OD-ACT ? For Middle East Airlines
755 Viscount CU-T603 ? For Cubana
756 Viscount VH-TVH ? For Trans Australia Airlines
757 Viscount CF-TGX ? For Trans-Canada Air Lines
758 Valiant B(K)1 WZ400? ? In total 107 built for the RAF
759 Viscount G-AOGG ? For Hunting-Clan Air Transport
760 Viscount VR-HFI ? For Hong Kong Airways
761 Viscount XY-ADF ? For the Union of Burma Airways
763 Viscount YS-O9C ? For TACA International Airlines
764 Viscount N905 ? For the U S Steel Corporation
765 Viscount N306 ? For the Standard Oil Co
768 Viscount VT-DIO ? For Indian Airlines
769 Viscount CX-AQN ? For Pluna Lineas Aereas Urugauyas
772 Viscount VP-TRS ? For British West Indian Airways
773 Viscount YI-ACU ? For Iraqi Airways
779 Viscount LN-FOM ? For Fred Olsen Air Transport
781 Viscount 150 ? For the South African Air Force
782 Viscount EP-AHA ? For the Persian Government
784 Viscount VH-TVO ? For Trans Australia Airlines
785 Viscount I-LIFE ? For Linee Aeree Italiane, soon to become part of Alitalia
786 Viscount HK-943X ? For Lloyd Aereo Colombiano
789 Viscount FAB-2101 ? For the Brazilian Air Force
794 Viscount TC-SEC ? For Turk Hava Yollari (THY)
797 Viscount G-APFR ? Later to the Canadian Dept of Transport as CF-DTA
798 Viscount G-APBH ? Later N6599C for Northeast?
802 Viscount G-AOJA ? 1st 800 Srs for BEA
803 Viscount PH-VIA ? For KLM
804 Viscount G-AOXU ? For Transair
805 Viscount G-APDW ? For Eagle Aviation
806 Viscount G-AOYG ? For BEA
806A Viscount G-AOYF ? Retained by Vickers
807 Viscount ZK-BRD ? For the New Zealand National Airways Corporation
808 Viscount EI-AJI ? For Aer Lingus
810 Viscount G-AOYV ? Vickers prototype, later sold to VASP as PP-SRH
812 Viscount N240V ? For Continental Airlines
813 Viscount ZS-CDT ? For South African Airways
814 Viscount D-ANUN ? For Lufthansa
815 Viscount AP-AJC ? For Pakistan International Airlines
816 Viscount VH-TVP ? For Trans Australia Airlines
818 Viscount CU-T621 ? For Cubana
827 Viscount PP-SRC ? For VASP. Which stands for?
828 Viscount JA-8201 ? For All Nippon Airways
831 Viscount G-APND ? For Airwork
832 Viscount VH-RMG ? For Ansett-ANA
833 Viscount G-APTB ? For Hunting-Clan Air Transport
836 Viscount N40N ? For Union Carbide
837 Viscount OE-LAF ? For Austrian Airlines
838 Viscount 9G-AAV ? For Ghana Airways
843 Viscount G-ASDP ? For CAAC (China), British registrations used for delivery. A total of 445 built of this version
950 Vanguard G-AOYW 20th January 1959 Two test fuselages built then this demonstrator for trials
951 Vanguard G-APEA ? For BEA (British European Airways)
952 Vanguard CF-TKA ? For TCA (Trans Canada Airlines)
953 Vanguard G-APEG ? For BEA
1100 VC10 G-ARTA 29th June 1962 For Laker Airways
1101 VC10 G-ARVA ? For BOAC
1102 VC10 9G-ABO ? For Ghana Airways
1103 VC10 G-ASIW ? For BUA (British United Airways)
1106 VC10 XR806 ? For RAF Support Command
1151 Super VC10 G-ASGA ? The first Super VC10. G-ASGB was the first fitted with an under wing spare engine pod. G-ASGG and G-ASGK were used for autoland development trials
1154 Super VC10 5X-UVA ? For East African Airways
* Experimental bomber types
And so ended the Vickers dynasty. Or did it? Many claim that the BAC.111 was basically a Vickers led project and indeed, the input by this company into the TSR.2 certainly has to taken into account.
The Vickers subsidiary company Armstrong Whitworth built 27 Siskin IIIAs, but built where? Possibly at the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Abbey works in Coventry? It appears they were delivered in 1930, but it seems, 65 Siskins were later reconditioned or rebuilt here
It also appears that 50 Hawker Harts were delivered in early 1934, presumably built at the Hawker works in Ham near Kingston-upon-Thames, but assembled and test flown here? Presumably the same applies to the 114 Hawker Hart Trainers, delivered in the first half of 1936.
It surely must be added that in WW2 Vickers built 235 Lancaster B.1s at their HAWARDEN factory (FLINTSHIRE). Aka BROUGHTON. That facility is probable best known during that period for Wellington bomber production.
As an indication of the sheer complexity and variety of operational use a particular type of aircraft might have got involved with in WW2, perhaps the Vickers Wellington in all its guises is as good an example as any? For this listing I have C F Andrews Vickers Aircraft Since 1908 to thank. Obviously the first and main operational duties were in Squadron use and Operational Training Units (OTUs), but, in addition the type served in Flights involved with Beam Approach Training (BAT Flights), Group Training and Target Towing. More specialised Flights/Units involved Aden Communications, at CHIVENOR (DEVON) for Radar Training, at CHRISTCHURCH (HAMPSHIRE) for Special Duty, Malta Special Duties and, it appears, the NORTHOLT (LONDON) Station Flight.
Other units included the A & AEE, No.1 Armament School, Advanced Flying Schools and an Advanced Flying Unit, plus an Air Fighting Development Unit, Air Gunners Schools, Air Navigation Schools and an Air-Sea Warfare Development Unit. In addition there was the Bomber Command Instructors’ School, the Central Gunnery School, the Central Navigation and Control School and the Central Navigation School. And there’s more! Like the Conversion Training Units and Conversion Units, Ferry Training Units, Ferry Units, Gunnery Research Units and a Operational Conversion Unit, plus the Service Flying Training School, Signals Flying Unit, Torpedo Training Unit (ABBOTSINCH - RENFREWSHIRE) and finally the RAE (FARNBOROUGH – HAMPSHIRE).
The ‘Wimpey’ certainly had its uses.
THE VISCOUNT STORY
After WW2 the Vickers Viscount is heralded as being the only huge success story in Britishcivil airline history – and quite rightly too. What is not usually appreciated is that the success of the Vickers Viking paved the way alongside the Douglas DC-3/C-47, and, it can be argued it was actually the Viking, (when BEA disposed of its fleet), that spearheaded the pioneer ‘Inclusive Tours’ and charter holidays flown by the motley collection of independent operators. (Argue amongst yourselves – please). The Viking certainly played a big part.
Regarding the development of the Viscount I reckon it is well worth quoting from Robert Jackson in his book Britain’s Greatest Aircraft, the results of the Brabazon committee established during WW2, in 1943, tasked with defining the sort of civil aircraft the UK would require after the war ended. By then it was realised that the Germans had lost the war! This really should be remembered as the consequent punishment by bombing of the German civilian population, the appalling slaughter of Jews, let alone the needless killing of Germans in the military services – could all have ended in 1943. Many Germans, right up to High Command level in the military knew this, but the collective mania of those with ultimate power had by then ‘lost the plot’ completely. Psychologists have now identified this apparently counter-productive obsession as belonging to those with ultimate power who become incapable of rational thought and develop the capacity to ignore all contradictory evidence. Even in more recent years we in Britain witnessed this when our Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to declare war, along with the Americans, on Iraq, despite huge amounts of protest from the pulic.
THE BRABAZON COMMITTEE
Getting back to the Brabazon committee, “The report identified four main types of civil transport that would needed after the war. The first, or Type 1, would be a very large transatlantic airliner serving high-density routes such as London – New York, and accommodating passengers in luxury during the twelve-hour flight.” This resulted in the Bristol Brabazon, which, I now think is unfairly regarded in so many respects, if you consider how many of us are slow to appreciate how quickly social dynamics can change? It seems to me entirely reasonable for the Bristol designers to envisage that, when the war ended, the rich and famous, (and those on government business of course), would expect the degree of luxury experienced before WW2 in the best and biggest flying boats? Instead they seemed quite content to accept being cooped up in, initially, types like Douglas DC-4s and Lockheed Constellations, making multiple stops on long distance routes. Some even put up with flying in converted bombers like the Avro Lancastrian.
“The Type II would be a short-haul feeder liner intended to replace the Douglas DC-3 and the de Havilland Rapide, although at the suggestion of BEA this was later split into two designs, the piston-engined Type IIA and the turboprop-powered Type IIB. Type III envisaged a larger medium-range airliner serving the air routes of the British Empire, while the Type IV, the most ambitious concept of all, called for a jet-powered 100-seat airliner. This resulted from the input of one of the committee members, Geoffrey de Havilland, whose company was involved in developing the DH.100 Vampire jet fighter.”
“Of these proposals, the Type I emerged as the Bristol Brabazon, which proved to be a white elephant. The biggest and most ambitious project ever undertaken by the British aircraft industry the Brabazon I prototype flew for the first time on 4 September 1949, two years behind schedule, and plans were made to produce a Mk.2 version, but the project was abandoned in 1952 and the prototype was scrapped.” To me at least it really is astonishing that nobody in a position of power and influence didn’t object along the lines that having spent and wasted so much effort, time and money – the least we should do as a nation is put the damned thing in a museum. If for no better reason than that it could serve as a reminder. It certainly wasn’t due to lack of space, because, with the war over we had more than enough defunct large airfields to choose from. Plus, surely somebody must have known that this is exactly what the Americans had done with Howard Hughes “Spruce Goose”. And, for that matter, talking of huge flying boats, why wasn’t a Saunders-Roe Princess preserved for posterity?
“The Type IIA became the Airspeed Ambassador, while the Type III was developed into the Bristol Britannia. (My note: Yet another Bristol airliner design plagued with problems some of which were never fully resolved). The contract for developing the Type IIB went to Vickers, who set about designing an airliner, originally named the Viceroy, which was to become the most successful venture of them all. It was to be powered by four Rolls-Royce propeller - turbine (turboprop) engines.”
THE ROLLS-ROYCE DART
Robert Jackson points out that during the late 1940s, the main emphasis at the Rolls-Royce Aero-Engine Company was on the development of the Avon family of jet engines and on the Dart turboprop. I would say that these two engines really took the world by storm! After WW2 Rolls-Royce decided to name their engines after British rivers, and still do, so rather a shame I suppose that a Rolls-Royce Thames doesn’t exactly ‘cut-the-mustard’, sounding a tad naff?
The Dart was evaluated using the Vickers Wellington LN715, which first flew in early 1948, and was the first aircraft to be powered exclusively by the Dart. An Avro Lancaster was used for anti-icing tests. Three Dakotas were used in the trials, G-ALXN and G-AMDB were flown by British European Airways (BEA) pilots to assist the Rolls-Royce team. As Robert Jackson says: “This was a valuable experience, because it injected the airline pilots’ experience and knowledge into the development of the first turboprop engine specifically developed for commercial aircraft.” The other Dakota, KJ829, was on loan from the RAF. What isn’t mentioned is whether or not Rolls-Royce invited the maintenance staff from BEA to contribute? I rather suspect the answer is ‘NO’?
Returning to Robert Jackson: “The next aircraft to fly with Darts was the prototype Vickers Type IIB, which by then would be renamed Viscount following India’s independence, which made Viceroy no longer politically acceptable. The choice of the Dart was not made without much discussion. As the Type IIB was a high-risk venture from the technical point of view, the Ministry of Supply also ordered the prototype of a rival design, the Armstrong Whitworth Apollo, which was fitted with four Armstrong Siddely Mamba turbo-props. The Mamba was an advanced turboprop with an axial compressor, whereas the Dart appeared to be a more primitive engine, with two centrifugal compressors derived from the Griffon supercharger and seven can-type combustion chambers around the outside. However, the centrifugal compressor was of proven reliability, and all the British industry’s turbine experience had been acquired with this type of engine, so it was the Dart that was selected.”
TWO PROTOTYES BUILT
“Once this decision had been taken, in March 1947, the construction of two V.630 prototypes began at Vickers’ Foxwarren high security experimental shop. The second prototype, the V.663, was experimentally fitted with Rolls-Royce Tay turbojets. This aircraft first flew on 15 March 1950 and spent its working life as a test-bed, being allocated the Ministry of Supply serial number VX217. It was originally fitted with manual controls, but was later used to test the power control system that was to be installed in the Vickers Valiant jet bomber. A third prototype, the V.640, was to have been powered by four Napier Naiad turbo-props. This aircraft, G-AJZW, was funded by Vickers, but was never built.”
“The Viscount 630 prototype first flew on 16 July 1948, with Vickers Chief Test Pilot Jeffrey ‘Mutt’ Summers at the controls. The aircraft, G-AMAV, was awarded a restricted Certificate of Airworthiness on 15 September 1949, followed by a full Certificate on 27 July 1950, and on 29 July British European Airways started a month’s trial service on the London-Paris and London-Edinburgh routes using this aircraft.” (My note: These flights took place from NORTHOLT (LONDON) as HEATHROW was barely open and NORTHOLT was the ‘London’ airport for European destinations.) “Although it never belonged to BEA, in 1953 it was named Endeavour as a member of the airline’s ‘Discovery’ class, and with race number 23 on its tail took place in the air race from London to Christchurch, New Zealand, in October 1953, averaging over 290 mph over the 11,795-mile course.” (My note: The race was won by an English Electric Canberra – see WARTON LANCASHIRE for more details)
“BEA’s immediate criticism of the Viscount was that the design was too small, the original version seating only thirty-two passengers, and too slow, with a cruising speed of 275 mph. These factors, which resulted in unacceptable operating costs, compelled BEA to reject the type in its present configuration. Vickers went back to the drawing board and came up with the enlarged Viscount V.700, which could accommodate up to forty-eight passengers (fifty-three in some configurations), and a cruising speed of 308 mph (496 km/hr). The new prototype first flew 28 August 1950. British European Airways ordered twenty V.701s, in August 1950, with a follow-on order for seven more. Of the original order, eighteen were built at Weybridge and the remainder at the new Vickers factory at Hurn.” (My note; for HURN see BOURNEMOUTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, HAMPSHIRE)
“The first production aircraft was delivered to BEA in January 1953, and after being awarded a passenger-carrying Certificate of Airworthiness on 17 April, this aircraft left Heathrow on the London-Rome-Athens-Cyprus route, inaugurating the world’s first turboprop-powered service.” I will make no apologies for including all this detail. I was seven years old when my parents moved house to Bedfont, just south of Heathrow. Today I cannot remember when I decided to become a ‘spotter’ but it was probably after I was somewhat pleased to learn I’d failed the ‘11 plus’ exams so didn’t have to go to a grammar school. One thing was certain, once I’d purchased my first spotters book, the BEA Viscounts were as ‘common-as-muck’ and you could probably tick off the entire fleet within a week or so.
Over the years I did become aware that the Viscount was the most successful British airlinerever, but, until researching this ‘Guide’ I had no idea how convoluted and often ‘touch-and-go’ the history of the type was. Indeed, it might be wondered why its successor, the BAC.111, quite successful commercially, wasn’t developed in the way the Boeing 737 was? There seems to have been, from government level downwards since WW2, a deliberate agenda to put paid to the British aircraft manufacturing industry. But why, and who were those people behind it? It can hardly have escaped the notice of those ‘in the know’ that the French were, for decades, absolutely intent on making Airbus the key global player to confront the might of the Americans and have, by and large, succeeded. After WW2 ended only Great Britain was second fiddle to the Americans and we often beat them in design, usually with little or begrudging support from the government, (except for military aircraft of course), and the Ministry of Supply. Why?
Plus of course, most of the leaders of the trade unions did everything within their powers and influence to destroy British industry, putting paid to their members jobs, and making doubly certain the UK would lack a solid manufacturing base to face the future. I failed at the time to understand this reasoning, and still do.
A close look at Viscount production reveals some interesting aspects, if construction numbers do in fact correlate with sequential progress down the production line? If this is the case I was surprised by how many customers were still ordering the 700 Series well after the 800 Series had been introduced, which must surely contain a lesson to be learnt? Also, in a few cases, some customers elected to buy types specified by other customers. I find this interesting simply because, as Vickers were obviously very keen indeed, (as they always were from the start of the company), to offer a product finely honed to a specific requirement. If buying something as expensive as a Viscount, I would have expected every customer, given this freedom of choice, would have elected to be very selective? But, this is a very time consuming and expensive way of selling aeroplanes and probably why, amongst several other reasons of course, why the British aircraft industry, concerning airliners at least, went into decline.
This said I do think there is a yawning anomaly? Why didn’t the Queen’s Flight employ a Viscount or two? On another tack the Viscount was being built during the height of the Cold War of course, when US interests were at their height to destroy the British aircraft industry for good. It must have caused considerable distress amongst the ‘back-room’ people in the US when the Viscount did so well in their then relatively open market? They soon plugged that gap, needless to say, with pure jets like the Boeing 727, 737 and DC-9.
The success of the Viscount in the USA is still given prominence in many accounts but it wasn’t quick in coming. Indeed, after BEA started Viscount services, again from Robert Jackson; “ Three Viscounts (V.702s) were ordered by British West Indian Airways (BWIA) in June 1953, and these were used to extend the airline’s services to New York in the north and Georgetown in the south.” And; “In November 1951 Aer Lingus ordered four Viscounts (V.707s)…..Also in November, Air France placed an order for twelve V.808* Viscounts.” Next came Trans Australian Airlines.
* This is a typo, the Air France Viscounts were the V.708 variant.
However, I think the following from Robert Jackson is of special note: “An order placed by TCA (later Air Canada) for the Viscount Series 700 in November 1952 was most significant. For the first time, a British company realised that an operator outside the UK might be able to improve the product and make it more acceptable in the world market. The TCA order was secured following a long series of meetings between Sir George Edwards, Chief Designer of the Vickers-Armstrong team and TCA engineers, which resulted in some 200 modifications being made to the basic Type 700 Viscount.” Hip, hip hooray – brilliant. But, even today how often do manufactures go to such lengths to actively involve engineers, pilots and cabin crews, let alone baggage loaders and ground staff etc into the design process? Top marks to Sir George Edwards, for being so forward thinking.
“The modified Viscount was known as the V.724, TCA placing an order for fifteen aircraft. On 12 December 1954, with the delivery of CF-TGI – which was built on the reopened Weybridge production line – TCA became the first operator of turboprop-powered airliners in North America. The inaugural service was on 4 April 1955, between Toronto and New York. TCA’s order aroused the interest of other companies in North America and in June 1954 Capital Airlines, at that time one of the largest US short-haul operators, placed an initial order for three Type 744 Viscounts. The first of these was delivered exactly a year later, and was the forerunner of much larger orders from Capital. By 1956 there were more Viscounts flying in the USA and Canada than in the whole of Europe. The airliner was immensely popular because of its standard of passenger comfort, one factor of which was the quietness of its Dart turboprops, which were setting hitherto unheard-of standards of running and maintenance. The large elliptical windows, measuring 26 inches by 19 inches along the axes, were also a prominent factor in the Viscount’s passenger appeal.”
There is no doubt about it, today and for many years, for most people today the miracle of being able to fly some six or seven miles above the earth in comparative comfort holds no interest for them whatsoever. Even those with window seats, especially on long-haul, prefer to draw the blinds down so they can concentrate on the small TV screens on the seatback in front, watch films, listen to music or play games etc. Whilst outside that often malicious bitch, Mother Nature, has decided to relent, and, equally quite often, provides the most spectacular displays anybody could ever wish to witness. Funny old world – innit? Today, in most cases, the airlines couldn't care less if passengers have a window conveniently situated to easily look out of.
In closing I would like to quote Robert Jackson once more: “The 444th and last Viscount was first flown on 2 January 1964, 438 of these being regular aircraft sold to airline customers. Several were bought new by executive owners (the first being the Canadian Department of Transport in 1954) and air forces, the first by the Indian Air Force in 1954. Every Viscount that appeared on the second-hand market was quickly snapped up.” And: “In summary, it may be said that the Viscount, despite a somewhat shaky start, turned out to be the right airliner in the right place at the right time.”
VICKERS LAST AIRLINERS
Robert Jackson makes a mention in passing of the Viscounts successor, the 900 Series Vanguard, (first flight 20th January 1959). It failed to sell and only forty-four were constructed despite it being, from most accounts (?) a really quite good aircraft. The same of course could be said of the VC-10 G-ARTA (first flight 29th June 1962) with 54 being built. This said the sheer performance and handling of the VC.10 bore no resemblance to the Vanguard, the VC.10 being a thoroughbred, whereas the Vanguard was more akin to a carthorse. And yet, despite these commendable qualities the VC.10 also failed to sell. Oddly enough the only comparative aircraft I can think of which also had impressive, indeed in one respect regarding a climb rate of superior performance, was the American Convair 990 Coronado, and that also failed to gain large orders.
Without any doubt the internet is a wonderful invention and usually very useful. However, in aviation subjects at least, the usefulness very quickly deteriorates when seeking even moderately accurate and directly comparitive data. I think it might be of interest to learn that the first ‘Standard’ VC.10 first flew about a year later than the Convair 990 – first flight 24th January 1961, with only thirty-seven being made.
Here are some comparative figures, hopefully roughly accurate, having found a few accounts with varying figures and often wildly inaccurate conversion figures; as in mph to kph etc :
Vickers 1101 VC-10 Convair 880
Max passengers: 151 110
Max weight: 151,900kg 87,730kg
Top cruise speed: 580mph (933kph) 610mph (982kph)
Service ceiling: 43,000ft 41,000ft
Rate of climb: 1,920 ft/min 3,250 ft/min
Thrust/weight ratio: 0.27 0.35
Max range: 4380mls (7048km) 3750mls (6035km)
Very interesting I trust you will agree, not much in it, but with the VC.10 coming out with slightly better figures for airline operators. BOAC announced that the VC.10 had better load factors than any other type of aircraft they were operating. A VC.10 made the fastest subsonic crossing of the Atlantic – a record that still stands. When it comes to internet searches, just try to establish the exact details. And good luck!
Both Vickers and Convair tried very hard to improve their designs and I reckon it is of interest to compare the latter with the former:
Vickers Super VC.10 Convair 990A Coronado
Max passengers: 174 149
Max weight: 335,000lbs (151,953,kg) 253,000lbs (111,674kg)
Top cruise speed: 581mph(935kph) 621mph (1000kph)
Ceiling: 43,000ft 40,000ft
Rate of climb: 2,300 ft/min Unknown?
Max range: 7,128mls (11,470km) 3,595mls (5785km)
Here again the Super VC.10 comes out better than the American design, but it didn’t make much difference in sales so other reasons need to be sought. The airline industry needs to survive by detecting long term trends – planning many years in advance is part and parcel of their basic survival strategy. Even by 1960 they must have realised that, due to entirely negative matters of influence within the UK government and the associated administration, the UK aviation industry was done for. Therefore, there was no future in buying a British product? But surely it cannot have been this factor alone?
It can be argued that all four of these types were ahead of their time and the worlds airlines had yet to realise the future potential of the mostly tourist driven markets whereby large jet airliners capable of using hot and high plus fairly short runways would be a necessity as often as not. One of my best friends is a senior BA captain flying the Boeing 767; “The Queen of the skies” and these days quite an old type, But, he points out, even with an engine out on take-off, he can still comply with standard departure procedures anywhere on the BA route network. I’m guessing of course but it seems doubtful if any airliner departing from HEATHROW in the last twenty years has been using full power to take-off? (Except for Concorde) That is, unless the crew decided to do so just for fun which I suspect was the case when I boarded a BA 747 to Hannover many years ago when the annual Cebit exhibition ended. Outbound it was carrying a B.737 load of passengers and obviously required a small fuel load. Even the cabin crew were astonished! The acceleration had us pinned in our seats and it became airborne in a ridiculously short distance compared to even much smaller airliners. Another location where a full-power take-off might be called for is Gibraltar and I watched astonished as a BA 737 appeared to leap from the runway and climbed out like a home-sick angel.
THE BAC ONE-ELEVEN
I am very grateful for advice from Stephen Skinner whose excellent book 'WISLEY - the story of Vickers' own airfield' has been a great help in producing this 'Guide'. From which I quote: "Thirteen One-Elevens were assembled at Weybridge in two batches between 1966 and 1970." Generally of course BAC One-Eleven is associated with HURN (now BOURNEMOUTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - HAMPSHIRE). "A batch of six aircraft was produced in 1966 and throughout the late-1960s One-Elevens made frequent flights into Weybridge, especially development models for refurbishment to delivery standard.
"In 1969-70 a second batch of seven more One-Elevens were completed there ending with D-ANNO for Bavaria Fluggesellschaft. On December 19, 1970 it made its first flight, which was the final first flight of an aircraft completed at the famous Brooklands site." I have to confess, I had no idea that the BAC One-Eleven had a presence at BROOKLANDS / WEYBRIDGE.
TWO VICTORIA CROSS CONNECTIONS WITH BROOKLANDS
JOHN AIDAN LIDDELL
Liddell was the fourth British airman to be awarded the Victoria Cross for aerial operations. As Chas Bowyer in his excellent book For Valour, the Air VCs: “On going down from Oxford, Liddell stood poised on the threshold of a greatly promising future. To quote a contemporary of his at Oxford: "He was, in fact, one of those rarely gifted individuals who natural ability and enthusiasm would have brought him distinction in any field of human activity he chose to enter. If he had not been sucked into the vortex of the Great War, I think his chosen field would have been the most adventurous kind of travel and exploration."
"There is some evidence that he gained air experience in 1913, but he eventually undertook private tuition at the Vickers Flying School at Brooklands, and gained his Royal Aero Club Certificate, No 781, on 14 May 1914.” However, it appears that when war broke out he was initially an Army officer, serving with distinction in France, and, “…decided to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps…in May 1915.” Then, “A period of Service flying instruction followed at Shoreham, Dover, and Farnborough, until on the 20 July he was officially transferred to the RFC. Three days later he returned to France and reported to 7 Squadron at St Omer.”
His last operation, for which he was awarded a VC came about on the 31st July 1915, when, after being attacked flying a RE5 (Serial No: 2457), and with massive personal injuries and very substantial damage inflicted to his aircraft, he managed to land at the Belgian airfield at La Panne with his observer/gunner Second Lieutenant R H Peck almost miraculously unharmed. This seems to be the very nature of war over the years with so many accounts of some individuals being killed whilst ‘standing alongside’ another who escaped unscathed. In the case of Liddell he survived in hospital for another four weeks enduring ‘surgery’ before, “…the end came almost suddenly on 31 August 1915.”
GILBERT STUART MARTIN INSALL
Insall was the fifth British pilot to receive the Victoria Cross for aerial operations. Typically when war broke out he had enlisted in the Army initially and then requested a transfer to the RFC, and in his case this occurred on the 14th March 1915. Again from Chas Bowyer: “A period of pilot training at Brooklands early in March resulted in Gilbert obtaining Royal Aero Club Certificate No 1110 on 14 March 1915 – the date of his acceptance by the RFC for further Service training.”
I think it rather interesting that then, just as today, ab initio flying training for military service has been returned to civilian providers. Nothing new here then. And of course a similar situation occurred before WW2 and to some extent just after. Indeed, with the longest exemption period being during the ‘Cold War’, for roughly half of the century since 1913 ab initio training for the British military flying services has been conducted, at least in part, by civilian organisations. Learning this certainly surprised me.
In those days of course pilot training was a rudimentary affair at best. “Gaining his pilot’s ‘wings’, Gilbert Insall was posted to France on 16 July 1915, and later in the month joined 11 Squadron RFC at Vert Galand aerodrome, alongside the Amiens-Doullens road. 11 Squadronwas equipped throughout with Vickers FB.5 two seat ‘pusher’ aircraft, and had originally been formed as the first homogeneously equipped RFC unit a and intended for ‘fighting duties’ - a somewhat vague term at that period of the war, but one which virtually established the unit as the first-ever ‘fighter’ squadron in Britain flying services.”
It is well worth reading the remarkable account by Chas Bowyer concerning the day, and the conflicts, which resulted in Insall being awarded a VC and his gunner/observer Air Mechanic T H Donald the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal). Indeed, Gilbert Insall had a wide and varied Service career, including WW2, and he died at Bawtry in 1972. One of the few holders of the Victoria Cross to survive into retirement.
In June 2017 I was kindly contacted by Andy Lambert who offers this information: "Lots of useful and well researched information here. If the reader wants to put images to the text then you may like to visit https://www.youtube.com/user/andysvideo where there are some 200 plus Videos divided into different playgroups concerning Brooklands." Having had a look myself it is definitely well worth a look.
NOTE ON THE COMMENT BELOW
Dear Mr Donahue, I am sorry if my pace of work disappoints you - but I would ask you to be patient as you can be assured that the career of Mr Cody will be amply covered in this 'Guide' - including many sites where Cody conducted his 'man-carrying' kite demonstrations. With some five thousand flying sites already listed in my files, it is largely a random affair as to which site I select next for inclusion.
This said, I do much appreciate feedback, so for you Mr Donahue I will now add ALEXANDRA PALACE (LONDON), LAFFAN'S PLAIN (HAMPSHIRE) and HOUGHTON HOUSE (CUMBERLAND).
As a general note, please be aware that this 'Guide' has not been officially launched - it is still very much a work in progress. The fact that is 'live' is simply because there were so many requests to have a look at the work so far. And, I am delighted to say, the response to date has been mostly hugely positive and encouraging.
Bill DonahueThis comment was written on: 2016-03-31 19:41:03
Spent a lot of text between Wrights and Roe and totally skipped Cody who was a US citizen but made the first true British flight. Became a British citizen so he could qualify for the race prizes.
Terry ClarkThis comment was written on: 2018-01-06 06:23:33
A grass strip is occasionally used. It is between the Mercedes Benz World complex and the museum car park, is very narrow and between 300m and 500m long. The replica Vimy now on display in the museum was landed on this strip in about 2010?
Reply from Dick Flute:
Hi Terry, Many thanks. I wonder if anybody can kindly provide more information about this strip? Best regards, Dick
Roger BirdThis comment was written on: 2019-09-10 14:36:20
I am a Brooklands historian mainly interested in motorcycles at the track and this includes the Sopwith ABC, I am puzzled by the 1910 Aeroplane Trials in which Chateris and Sopwith bith used ABC engines. Charteris changed the name of the WL Aero Engine Company to All British Engine Company in February 1911 so I am surprised that they produced an ABC engine in 1910. I can find no reference to the 1910 handicap in Flight although I have found the 1912 one. The first reference to ABC engines in Flight I can find was at the 1911 show. The first attempt to fly at Brooklands was in December 1906 when Monsieur Bellamy built an aeroplane during the construction of the track. He used the levelled route of what was to become the Railway Straight. He was not successful! Thank you for a wonderful site which is a fantastic source of information as I discovered the Acton airfield where I lived many years ago. The details on the East Boldre/Beaulieu, Calshot and Hythe sites were fascinating as I now live within a few miles of all three.
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