Author Topic: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands  (Read 3944 times)

avion ancien

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Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« on: December 04, 2010, 04:58:01 PM »
Having an interest in the more obscure aspects of the history of light aircraft and flying and having submitted a few posts on this topic on the Cotteridge thread, it has been suggested to me that there may be sufficient 'anoraks' - like me - to justify a separate thread on amateur flying and light aircraft in the midlands between the wars and in the years after the last war. So here's the chance for me to see if the reasoning behind that suggestion is correct!

Just to set the ball rolling, I am particularly interested in those unsung heroes of midlands aviation who designed, built and flew their own aeroplanes - but who, in true brummie style, were independent enough not to bother about the niceties of getting certificates of airworthiness for or registering their aeroplanes with the aviation authorities. They seemed to view their aeroplanes as 1:1 scale flying models that were easier to operate by getting into them rather than using radio control or control lines!

Perhaps the most prolific was Fred Taylor of Erdington. Starting off as a keen model aircraft builder, he went on to design, build and fly no less than four of his own aeroplanes at Dunton Hall Farm aerodrome at Sutton Coldfield. His first was the A101 Bedstead (!), a motor glider of 1934. In 1937 he rebuilt this into the B102. However his third was, perhaps, his best known and most successful, namely the C103 Wagtail, a parasol wing monoplane of 1938. His final effort, before the war, was the D104, a non flying ground trainer. The last three all survived the war but it seems that only the Wagtail flew again, continuing to operate unlicensed and unregistered from an unlicensed aerodrome at Dunton and latterly at Lea Marston. This continued until 1950, when Fred Taylor emigrated to Australia. His Wagtail was last seen being offered for sale at a used car lot in Digbeth in 1951. Rumour has it that Fred built another Wagtail at his home in Mount Gambier, South Australia.

One of Fred Taylor's post-war flying chums was Len Bracey. In about 1947 he built a powered glider and is said to have flown in formation with Fred Taylor and his Wagtail from Dunton. Again, his aeroplane was unlicensed and unregistered. Metaphorically it flew under the radar! As far as I'm aware, no photographs or information exists concerning this aeroplane. I'd be delighted to hear from anyone who knows otherwise!

Also connected with both Fred Taylor and Len Bracey was Don Burgoyne. His name was well known in midlands aviation circles before and after the last war. Despite having only one hand, he was a master at building and reconstructing gliders and light aeroplanes at the aerodrome at Knowle. But perhaps his pièce de résistance was the Burgoyne-Stirling Dicer. This single seat, low wing monoplane of 1939 was constructed mainly from pieces of other crashed aeroplanes. Whilst it was finished before the last war, it did not fly until afterwards. Like Fred Taylor and Len Bracey, Don Burgoyne didn't bother about the formalities before the Dicer took to the air - or for that matter at any time afterwards! However the Dicer looked to be legitimate as it bore the registration mark - G-AECN - that had belonged to a Pou de Ciel (or Flying Flea) previously owned by Don. The Dicer operated from various fields and aerodromes around the midlands until the mid 1950s, when it was last heard of stored in a barn near Burton-in-the-Wolds. At that point it disappeared off the radar.

Well that's a little bit of information about some of the midlands' largely unknown and unsung heroes of amateur aviation and the aeroplanes that they designed, built and flew. What else do others know on this subject? It would be interesting to see these memories, recollections, tales - and better still - photographs - posted to this thread. So now I wait................!         

wagtail

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2013, 06:43:35 PM »
To all interested in the wagtail,
 
Fred Taylor did die in Australia 1984, this is where is made the D104 not in England. My Aunts & Uncle still live in Australia. His wife Violet died during 1993.
 
My son has researched my family tree and we stumble on this side of the family as what information we find is what we already know. We did find 2 cousins Gordon and Audrey. Would like to hear from Phil as we may be able to provide him with information he has not got and visa versa. 
The latter engine of the C103 The Bristol Cherub is now at Rolls Royce Bristol at the Filton factory and still in working condition. My son, Gordon and I have all seen this engine and the curator at the time was quite informative about Fred as he himself had done a lot of research and was extremely please to met all of us as decendants and relatives of Fred.
 
Janet

avion ancien

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2013, 09:38:02 PM »
Hi Janet - welcome and thank you for your post. If you can add more about Fred Taylor's series of homebuilt aeroplanes, I'm sure that they'll be many who will read that with interest.

wagtail

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2013, 02:23:44 PM »
I can add lots as my grandmother (Fred's wife) wrote it all down and I have since made it in to a book for the family to keep with pictures. Some of it was in the magazine (mentioned in previous correspondence as a book) the magazine was in 3 issues and the author ran it as a serial over all three editions. The author interviewed my mother when he first came up with the idea of writing about Fred. Obviously I cannot write everything here as it would be too long but if you have a specific question I will try and answer it.

avion ancien

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2013, 03:59:43 PM »
Obviously I cannot write everything here as it would be too long but if you have a specific question I will try and answer it.

Just two questions, Janet. Did the Bristol Cherub pass into the hands of Rolls Royce via Barrington Hanes? Apparently when Fred decided to emigrate to Australia, the first Wagtail was sold to Arthur Harrison, who sold it on to a Mr Hatty (a Birmingham secondhand car dealer), after which the engine passed to Barrington Hanes (but the Wagtail was not heard of again after being offered for sale on Mr Hatty's forecourt). Secondly, what happened to Fred's second Wagtail, built in Australia, after its collision with a tree stump during taxiing trials?

wagtail

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2013, 07:39:48 PM »
Hi,
According to my grandmother's notes the wagtail was sold to an insurance agent who in turn sold it to the garage owner from Digbeth, who sold it to a councillor who taxied it off the forecourt and apparently it went too fast for him and he crashed it into a brick wall and severely damaged the wings and said "the only thing to do with it now is to burn it" and he did.
"The engine was not heard of until the 1980's when a builder acquired it and restored it to a running condition and then donated it to the 'trust'", this is a quote by a former curator at the Rolls Royce Museum at Filton.
Australia,
As far as we are aware after he crashed the 2nd wagtail and after his death it was then stored in a farmer's barn where it stayed for a number of years. Last time we discussed it with a cousin its was all rotted and of no use.
After this he built a gyroscope during 1973 when he was living in Mt. Gambier, a skybike called 'Nulli Secundus' and got told off as he kept flying it and scaring people during 1977, and his last venture was a gyrocopter which also flew.
Hope this helps
 

pieman

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2013, 05:49:49 PM »
Barry Haynes a model engine maker got the cherub engine to Rolls Royce he informed them that the engine was still in working order. it is on a test rig they have in storage the prop this was according to the curator the first time I went to see it 

avion ancien

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2013, 06:18:29 PM »
Hi Pieman. Do you know at which of the Rolls-Royce sites the ex-Wagtail Cherub is stored? Where was it when you went to see it? Did you then take any photographs of it that you could post on this forum? Yes, I know, questions, questions, questions........!

pieman

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2013, 08:59:11 PM »
yes it is at filton yes I have a few photos that I can put on but they are on my other pc so will have to upload them from there.

avion ancien

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Re: Amateur flying and aeroplanes in the midlands
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2013, 09:24:42 PM »
Thanks, pieman. I'll look forward to seeing them.

27OTU

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LEN BRACY
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2016, 01:27:44 PM »
Len Bracy was the commanding officer of no 48 Gliding School at Castle Bromwich in the 50s and also on detachment to RAF Lichfield(see my post on RAF Lichfield).

Both Len and his son flew at Birmingham Aviation at Elmdon during the 70s. In fact I think his son completed his PPL at Birmingham Aviation with either Bob Bradley Or Don Swan both ex RAF. Don I belived flew Bothas at Halfpenny Green (previously called RAF Bobbington)