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THE JET AGE RESERVE MODEL COLLECTION

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EASTER PARADE 2010

 
 

   
  Although not the oldest model in the Jet Age Reserve Collection, this 1/48 ( we think ) scale representation of an A.V. Roe Triplane IV is of the oldest type - and one that can lay claim to the ancestry of some of Britain's most iconic aircraft.
 
 

   
 

The announcement of Open Days at the Brockworth Tithe Barn Arts and Crafts Centre over Easter 2010 gave the Jet Age Reserve Model Collection an opportunity to display many items rarely or never seen in public in the 21st Century.  These were arranged in national themes and are described below.
 
 

   
 
THE PIONEERS  
 

   
A.V. ROE TRIPLANE IV


Although not the oldest model in the Jet Age Reserve Collection, this 1/48 ( we think ) scale representation of an A.V. Roe Triplane IV is of the oldest type - and one that can lay claim to the ancestry of some of Britain's most iconic aircraft.

Born in 1877, Edwin Alliot Verdon Roe was interested in aviation from childhood despite living in an age when the only man made flying machines were balloons.  

However, the first flight by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes in a Montgolfier Brothers hot air balloon over Paris on 21 November 1783 was to fire the imagination of Sir George Cayley, Baronet, who lived from 1773 to 1857.  Although many men - from Icarus and Daedalus to Eilmer of Malmesbury and Leonardo Da Vinci - had experimented with flight, Sir George Cayley was arguably the first to grasp the fundamental principles of aerodynamics. 

A drawing of his from 1799 shows a fixed wing aeroplane with a cruciform tale and paddle propulsion - revealing that Sir George had separated the concepts of lift and thrust, as he was to further explain in his 1809 paper "On Aerial Navigation".  Indeed, two of his manned gliders flew in 1849 and 1853 while in 1843 William S. Henson and John Stringfellow rather optimistically set up the Aerial Transit Company despite none of their steam powered models having flown for more than 30 feet.

More successful were hang-glider pioneers Otto Lilienthal and Percy Pilcher who, at the time of their respective fatal crashes in 1896 and 1899, were well on the way to making powered flights - a step finally taken by Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA on 17 December 1903.

 Alliot Verdon Roe, by his thirties a former railway works apprentice and ship's engineer, patented the first aircraft control column in 1906 and spent his life designing, building and flying aircraft. He was also the first Briton to become airbourne in a British designed and built aeroplane - his own - at Brooklands, Surrey on 8 June 1908.  However, despite the short hops achieved by the Roe I biplane, the Brooklands track authorities took a dim view of his activities and felt that it would bring motor racing into disrepute!

On 23 July 1909 at Walthamstow, Essex, Roe flew his first triplane which was constructed mainly of deal and covered in oiled paper. It weighed 250lbs, had both triplane wings and tailplane and was grossly underpowered by a 9hp JAP engine driving a 9ft diameter, 4 blade propeller via a belt reduction. Its longest flight was 899 feet at an average height of 10ft and can nowadays be seen in the London Science Museum.

A.V. Roe designed and built several other versions of the triplane, the final version of which  - Triplane 4, as depicted in the model above, was completed in September 1910 powered by a 35hp, 4 cylinder, water cooled, Green engine.

This was used almost exclusively for instructional work at the Avro Flying School at Brooklands but had a poor climb rate, lacked stability and was prone to side slipping. It crashed many times with pilot Howard Pixton twice landing it in the sewage farm lake at the rear of the banked racing car circuit.

By 1913 however A.V. Roe's Avro company had produced the 504 biplane which famously bombed the Zeppelin hangars at Friedrichshaven on 21 November 1914 and went on to become a standard trainer for the RAF between the two World Wars.  

Indeed, in 1920 A.V. Roes became the first company ever to be officially registered as an aeroplane manufacturer and Roe himself was knighted in 1928 for his contribution to the early advancement of flight.  By the time of his death on 4 January 1958 the company that A.V. Roe had founded had been responsible for the RAF's first monoplane bomber - the Anson - as well as the four engined Lancaster and its children the York, Lincoln and Shackleton, the Avro Tudor airliner and the Vulcan nuclear bomber.

Despite these decades of progress however, the Avro Triplane IV was to find a whole new fame in 1966 as one of the stars of the film "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines".  

A replica of the 1910 vintage machine was built and flown by Peter Hillwood of Hampshire Aero Club using drawings provided by A.V. Roe's son Geoffrey Verdon Roe.  As such, the replica Triplane IV ( bearing the British Aircraft Preservation Council  number 1 and the civil registration G-ARSG ) was the only aircraft in the film to successfully use wing warping rather than ailerons for control.  A more powerful 90 bhp Cirrus II engine also replaced the 35 bhp original.

In the film - which Sir Alf Ramsay took the England soccer team to see before the 1966 World Cup - the replica Avro was the mount of Sir Percival Ware-Armitage ( played by Terry-Thomas ) who together with his servant Courtney (Eric Sykes) conspired to sabotage the other aeroplanes and pilots.

 
 Although a fictionalised comedy, there were some nuggets of truth about the early days of British aviation in "Those Magnificent Men..", many of which had Gloucestershire connections.  


Having heard a sceptic in the watching crowd - which included Charles Rolls - say that "pigs might fly", Brabazon took off again six days later with a piglet in a basket tied to one of the wing struts.  The piglet, named Icarus II, even had a sign on the basket ( pictured above ) declaring "I am the first pig to fly" and Brabazon had achieved the World's first live cargo flight - a tradition carried on by the Bristol Type 170 Freighter.

On Sunday 2 May 1909, 25 year old J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon flew his 50hp Voisin biplane "Bird of Passage" 500 yards at a height of 50 feet at Shellbeach on the Isle of Sheppey, not far from the later oil depot of Berry Wiggins.  Unfortunately the box kite like Voisin was then tipped sideways by a gust of wind and crashed.

As John Moore-Brabazon later recalled, "The engine left its moorings and came hurtling through the air from behind me - missing me by inches - and buried itself in the ground.  A bit bumped and bruised and dazed, and pinned down by wires, but without a scratch, I recovered to find myself being licked by my two dogs, who had chased after me during the flight."

Despite the mishap, Moore-Brabazon had become the first Briton to make a sustained controlled flight, just months after the American born Samuel F. Cody had made the first heavier than air flight in Britain - a distance of 463 yards - at Farnborough on 16 October 1908.  Louis Bleriot would not become the first man to fly an aeroplane across the English Channel until 25 July 1909.

Moore-Brabazon was already a champion racing car driver and skilled hot-air balloonist: passions which he shared with his close friend the Monmouth-born Honourable Charles S. Rolls of Rolls Royce fame.  Moore-Brabazon and Rolls had met when Moore-Brabazon, a Cambridge student, had taken a holiday job as Roll's mechanic.  The pair were soon making model gliders, which they tested by launching them from one of the boxes at the Albert Hall, having been let in by an obliging attendant.

In the autumn of 1908 Moore-Brabazon went to Paris and bought "Bird of Passage" from the Voisin brothers, which he later had shipped to England for display at the first Aero show at Olympia in March 1909 where it was the only exhibit to have actually left the ground.

On experiencing heavier than air flight for the first time, Moore-Brabazon described the sensation as being "like sitting on a jelly in a strong draught" but resolved to win the newly announced Daily Mail prize of 1 000 for the first British made aeroplane able to fly a circular mile.  To do this, he based himself at Shellbeach - the new home of the world's first aeroplane factory owned by Oswald, Horace and Eustace - the Short Brothers.  Formerly balloon manufacturers of Battersea in London, Messrs Short had leased 400 acres of flat, windy ground on the Isle of Sheppey for their workshops, hangars and "aerodrome".  

The Short Brothers had gained an order from the Wright Brothers to build six of their flying machines and on 4 May 1909 Orville and Wilbur Wright, newly arrived in England from their home in Dayton, Ohio, were driven from London to Shelbeach by Charles Rolls in his Silver Ghost car.  The Wrights were impressed with what they saw and Wilbur Wright described the Shelbeach aerodrome as "superior in every way to those which we have used elsewhere."

Next door to Shelbeach was Mussel Manor, home of the Aero Club, founded for balloonists in 1901 and venue for lunch on that memorable day.  As well as JTC Moore-Brabazon and the brothers Short and Wright, sitting down to break bread were Frank ( later Sir Francis) McClean who would go on to train the first Royal Navy pilots and fly a biplane through Tower Bridge and Griffith Brewer, the Wright's UK Patent Agent and the first Englishman to fly - as a passenger when he ascended with Wilbur Wright in France in 1908.

JTC Moore-Brabazon's Short's Biplane Number 2 - with a price tag of 1 500 - was ready by the autumn of 1909.  Unlike the Voisin with its wheeled undercarriage, the Shorts aeroplane had skids and was launched into the wind from a rail.  Brabazon noted:

When you get into the air there is nobody to tell you what to do, how to balance fore and aft or how to make a turn.. it was in essence an adventure into the unknown."

Despite these misgivings however, on 30 October 1909 Brabazon flew a circular mile and three quarters in two minutes and 36 seconds at a height of 20 feet, winning the Daily Mail prize of 1 000 after an expenditure of 2 500.  

Having heard a sceptic in the watching crowd - which included Charles Rolls - say that "pigs might fly", Brabazon took off again six days later with a piglet in a basket tied to one of the wing struts.  The piglet, named Icarus II, even had a sign on the basket ( pictured above ) declaring "I am the first pig to fly" and Brabazon had achieved the World's first live cargo flight - a tradition carried on by the Bristol Type 170 Freighter.

In March 1910 Brabazon was awarded the first British pilot's licence by the renamed Royal Aero Club and Charles Rolls received the second.  

In June 1910 Rolls made the first non-stop two way crossing of the English Channel in his Wright Flyer, returning to an heroic welcome at Dover after 90 minutes in the air.  Then tragedy struck as in July at an air show near Bournemouth the tail fell off Roll's aeroplane. Rolls fell from the diving wreckage and died on impact from a broken neck.  At the age of 33 he was the first British casualty of a flying accident.

Sickened by what he called a "disaster to aviation and loss of so dear a friend" Brabazon did not fly again until the First World War, when he joined the Royal Flying Corps and pioneered aerial photography, for which he received the Military Cross.

In the 1920s he became a Government junior minister and was Winston Churchill's Minister of Aircraft production in the Second World War, during which time he masterminded the supply of Short Stirling bombers from Rochester and Hucclecote as well as that of Short Sunderland flying boats for the Battle of the Atlantic.

After being ennobled as Lord Brabazon of Tara in 1942 his eponymous committee looking into the future of post-War British civil aviation spawned the Vickers Viscount and Bristol Brabazon airliners and he also became known as an accomplished yachtsman and golfer before his death aged 80 in 1964.
 

 

   
 

On 22 August 1959 Peter Hillwood flew English Electric P1B XG313 - similar to XG337 pictured above - from the Paris Air Show to Warton with a number of philatelic First Day Covers.  He eventually became Deputy Chief Test Pilot for the firm

 
 

   
 

As well as building Avro triplane IV replica G-ARSG for "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines", Peter Hillwood had a distinguished aviation career including flying the English Electric Lightning, four of which appeared at the end of the 1966 film comedy.

Born in 1920, Peter Hillwood began flying with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1938 and after training with Fighter Command went to Canada as an instructor.  A pilot during the Battle of Britain, he shot down a Junkers Ju87 Stuka before being himself shot down while flying a Hawker Hurricane in 1940.

Peter Hillwood returned to Fighter Command in 1943 and served in France, Belgium and the Netherlands and later won the DFC in 1944, by the end of which he was flying Mark IXe Supermarine Spitfires with 127 Squadron as part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force.

He became an experimental Test Pilot with English Electric in 1949 and was co-pilot to Wing Commander Roland Beamont aboard VX185, the prototype Canberra B5 target marker, which made its record breaking double crossing of the Atlantic from RAF Aldergrove  to Gander on 26 August 1952.  With Dennis Watson as its third crew member, VX185 returned to Northern Ireland from Canada in 10 hours, 3 minutes and 29.28 seconds at an average speed of 411.99 mph.

On 22 August 1959 Peter Hillwood flew English Electric P1B XG313 - similar to XG337 pictured above - from the Paris Air Show to Warton with a number of philatelic First Day Covers.  He eventually became Deputy Chief Test Pilot for the firm

Apart from "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines" Peter Hillwood  flew in the film "The Blue Max" - also released in 1966 - and appeared as a dead German pilot.

Sadly however he was killed on 9 November 1966 when the Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander prototype G-ATCT crashed at Sneek in Holland after a demonstration tour of Germany.  He had flown more than 50 types of aircraft.