Fifty Years of Pi­lot

Pilot - - CONTENTS - By: James Al­lan

James Al­lan looks back

In Pi­lot fifty years ago

This is­sue of Pi­lot hit the news­stands in the same week as Stan­ley Kubrick’s epic film 2001: A Space Odyssey was re­leased. The film has earned for it­self the name of be­ing the great­est in­com­pre­hen­si­ble movie ever pro­duced. The mag­a­zine con­tains just one thing that still re­mains to me an un­solved mys­tery. Why on earth did Pi­lot get in­volved in spon­sor­ing a com­pe­ti­tion to de­sign a home­built air­craft to be called the Pi­lot Sprite? Ed­i­tor Brian Healey was full of en­thu­si­asm for the project but scathing in his com­ments about PFA’S ap­par­ent lack of in­ter­est. Not a ven­ture I see the mag­a­zine ever re­peat­ing!

The Bea­gle Pup 100 was flown from Shore­ham and air tested by the Ed­i­tor. He loved its car-like com­fort and roomi­ness, and rated it to be the qui­etest light aero­plane he had ever flown, a real sporty tourer with none of the stodgi­ness of many Amer­i­can air­craft. He could see its ex­cel­lent aer­o­batic per­for­mance might make it com­pet­i­tive against Zlins and Yaks. ‘It’s great, it’s ter­rific, it re­ally is a win­ner and it’s Bri­tish.’ Trevor Pry­therch gave the 100 hp

Sud Avi­a­tion Ral­lye Club good marks for all round vis­i­bil­ity and ex­cel­lent han­dling although he had some reser­va­tion about its un­usual leadingedg­e slats. Ral­lyes of var­i­ous types num­ber­ing over 3,300 air­craft re­mained in pro­duc­tion in France un­til 1984 by which time a li­cence­built Pol­ish ver­sion known as the Koliber was al­ready in pro­duc­tion. All in all, the Ral­lye was head­ing for a dis­tinctly more suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial ca­reer than the poor Pup.

An­other piece in this is­sue deals rather sar­cas­ti­cally with what its writer calls ‘a grand aero­nau­ti­cal joke, nursed by the Royal Aero­nau­ti­cal So­ci­ety and funded by one Henry Kre­mer, in­dus­tri­al­ist and ap­par­ently con­nois­seur of queer ways to un­load ex­cess money - the most ex­quis­ite and tan­ta­lis­ing culde-sac in the his­tory of flight’. What was he talk­ing about? Man pow­ered flight. In 1968, when this Pi­lot ar­ti­cle ap­peared that idea was cer­tainly open to ridicule, yet just nine years later the Gos­samer

Con­dor 2 would fly a fig­ure of eight dis­tance of 2,172 me­tres and win the first £50,000 Kre­mer prize. The second Kre­mer prize of £100,000 went in 1979 to the same pi­lot/cy­clist, Bryan Allen, fly­ing Gos­samer Al­ba­tross a dis­tance of 35.82 km from Eng­land to France. So who was the joke on then?

Forty years ago

The then ed­i­tor of Pi­lot, James Gil­bert, wrote the air test ar­ti­cle for this is­sue him­self, de­scrib­ing his im­pres­sions of the newly in­tro­duced Cessna Chan­cel­lor

414A twin and it was he who also took the pho­to­graph of the Chan­cel­lor fly­ing over York­shire which fea­tures on this month’s cover. A ver­sa­tile man was our James. He found the Cessna 414A to be a ver­sa­tile ma­chine too, with its ex­tended wings, vast bag­gage area and a pres­suri­sa­tion sys­tem capable of main­tain­ing a cabin al­ti­tude of just 8,500 ft while the air­craft is fly­ing at 24,000 ft. Han­dling was im­mac­u­late, though not light be­cause the Chan­cel­lor is a three ton air­craft.

The ‘big twin’ theme was con­tin­ued in an ar­ti­cle about business fly­ing in Amer­ica to­day, where read­ers could find de­tails of not just pis­ton-en­gine twins like the new Parte­navia P68 but a whole range of biz-jets in­clud­ing the Cessna Ci­ta­tion,

HS-125 and Fal­con 50. There were even ru­mours that Boe­ing might be plan­ning to en­ter this market. A ta­ble of cor­po­rate air­craft fleets in USA showed that the most ex­pen­sive of these fleets (worth $17.2 m) was owned by the Coca-cola com­pany.

Mike Jer­ram had been given a tricky job to do this month; to re­view a book called Sky­writ­ing by Ed­i­tor James Gil­bert. It is, Mike told read­ers, an an­thol­ogy of tan­ta­lis­ing morsels of the best avi­a­tion writ­ing, from bal­loon flight to moon land­ings and, as I have a copy of that book on my own book­shelf, I can con­firm that Mike’s as­sess­ment re­mains cor­rect, even forty years later. 'Pi­lot Notes' in­cluded the story of an ex­pen­sive oil leak from

an air­craft. A Bi­man Bangladesh Air­lines Boe­ing 707 tak­ing off from Lu­ton Air­port dis­charged hy­draulic fluid from a frac­tured un­der­car­riage pipe. The oil stripped the paint off sev­eral hun­dred new cars parked out­side Vaux­hall’s Lu­ton plant re­quir­ing the com­pany to re­spray them. Notes also in­cluded a photo of a mo­tor­bike that it was claimed could be folded down to carry in a light air­craft. The Ital­ian made Ital­jet Pack-a-way was a 50 cc two-stroke mo­tor­bike that cost a mere £295 plus VAT.

Thirty years ago

Pi­lot for May 1988 was a 68-page pub­li­ca­tion but only a few of these pages (apart for a two-page ad­vert spread for the ‘sen­sa­tional’ Porsche 911 Carrera) were in colour. De­spite that, even in the black and white pages the words still held a lot of colour. Pi­lot’s chop­per ex­pert Mike Di­ble wrote up a flight test of the Sch­weizer

300C al­ter­na­tive to a Robin­son and he reck­oned that its pay­load/ range made it a bet­ter buy than the less ex­pen­sive R22.

The ' Pi­lot Pro­file' this month was of the then reign­ing world aer­o­batic cham­pion Nigel Lamb. It was writ­ten by Mike Jer­ram and in­cluded more colour, in­clud­ing pho­tos from Nigel’s time as a pi­lot with the Rhode­sian Air Force and with the Marl­boro Aer­o­batic team.

Air­tour In­ter­na­tional were ad­ver­tis­ing a new book called

Go­ing Foreign VFR, writ­ten by one James Al­lan (who had also compiled the early ‘Air­brained’ Quiz that ap­peared in this is­sue).

'Pi­lot Notes' in­tro­duced read­ers to a new Airmet ser­vice be­ing in­tro­duced this month by the Met Of­fice. This en­abled pi­lots to ac­cess weather fore­casts by ex­pen­sive premium charge phone

num­bers for ei­ther south­ern or north­ern Eng­land or for Scot­land. The CAA com­mented that if pi­lots thought Airmet was too ex­pen­sive (which we cer­tainly did) they should blame BT and not the CAA.

In this month’s air tour­ing ar­ti­cle Mau­rice Brett de­scribed a real marathon cross-coun­try. Fly­ing a forty-year-old Aeronca Champ as part of a team of six pi­lots he crossed the United States from coast to coast and back again fol­low­ing the route known as the

Oregon Trail that was used by the pi­o­neers in their covered wag­ons 150 years ear­lier. The trip in­volved 126 hours fly­ing, burn­ing 526 US gal­lons of fuel, covered 7,500 miles and in­cluded land­ing at eighty air­fields (only one of which charged any land­ing fee) and the whole ven­ture was fi­nanced by the Cana­dian Club whiskey com­pany. Asked if he would do it again, Mau­rice gave a two-word an­swer: “Yes, please!”

Twenty years ago

The cover of this is­sue of Pi­lot shows the im­pres­sive Rus­sian MIG25

Fox­bat and the rea­son that ma­chine is there is that in­trepid Pi­lot jour­nal­ist Maxi Gainza had writ­ten a grip­ping ar­ti­cle de­scrib­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences in

fly­ing to the edge of space (ac­tu­ally to 27 km, just shy of 90,000 ft) in this in­cred­i­ble Soviet cold-war air­craft. Few, if any, read­ers have ex­pe­ri­enced a flight like the one Maxi so elo­quently de­scribes here. Af­ter the eye­ball squash­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion of the take-off came the climb and then the sky turned into a mes­meris­ing ocean while Maxi strained to catch sight of the first star to shine at him in broad day­light. The hori­zon be­came a fuzzy band of baby-blue with just a hint of a curve. ‘Ela­tion was not the word: I was too calm. Per­haps a moun­taineer feels this way atop Ever­est, only I was three times higher and hadn’t strained my lungs and limbs for it. A Promethean fire had car­ried me this far.’ Af­ter land­ing and a cel­e­bra­tion party some­one asked Maxi “Do you re­alise that to­day you were the fastest and high­est hu­man be­ing on earth?” and, if you for­get his pi­lot Vladimir Logi­novski, the ques­tioner was prob­a­bly right.

There was an ed­uca­tive ar­ti­cle about Paramo­tor­ing in this is­sue, em­pha­sis­ing that a pow­ered paraglider may sim­ply be de­scribed as a plane you can get into the boot of your car but you re­quire some se­ri­ous train­ing be­fore you at­tempt to fly one be­cause their op­er­a­tion is rather more of an art than a science. Fol­low­ing that, Bob Grim­stead de­scribes in some de­tail an­other pi­lot­ing skill that is more of an art than a science; prop-swing­ing.

To round things off this month with a hol­i­day you can keep au­thor John Stainer com­pany on his flight through France and Spain to Por­tu­gal in a vin­tage Cessna 140. An in­ter­est­ing trip, with the usual weather prob­lems and seem­ingly great sur­prise by the pi­lots that re­fu­ellers in Por­tu­gal can­not un­der­stand English, even when shouted at them. How un­co­op­er­a­tive! They also post a warn­ing about women cus­toms of­fi­cers at Biar­ritz who sub­jected them to the most thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion ex­pe­ri­enced in twenty years of con­ti­nen­tal tour­ing in­clud­ing vis­its to East Euro­pean states that were still un­der Com­mu­nist con­trol.

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