Oxford Aerial View

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Flight May 1959

Seventy-odd aircraft at Kidlington on Sunday.
Seventy-odd aircraft at Kidlington on Sunday.

SHACKLETON'S SALES WEEKEND at Kidlington, Oxford, last Friday, Saturday and Sunday was a breezy business affair with a light-hearted sporting atmosphere demonstrations and impromptu aerobatic displays adding to the fairground feeling conferred by sideshow sales caravans, marquees and bunting.

To pilots accustomed to flying Austers, Geminis, Moths or Messengers, some of the Continental and American aircraft on show were an eye-opener. So far has the design of foreign executive aircraft progressed that for many the show was akin to a glimpse of ten years into the future. Autopilots, V.P. propellers, adjustable seats, big doors, radio compasses, overhead loudspeakers are taken for granted, and the standard of finish and soundproofing in the more expensive types is years in advance of British light aircraft practice.

In contrast to the Apaches, Comanches, Tripacers, Meta-Sokols, Safir 91Ds, Piaggio 136 and 166s and other foreign types that were on display, British aircraft in the used aircraft park looked rather forlorn. Only the Rollason-built Turbulents, the Archbishop Tiger Moth (which suffered an unfortunate inversion on the final day) and the Garland-Bianchi Linnet displayed British manufacturers' interest in the light-aircraft market; and the Linnet, as the two-seater among these three, is the only new British type currently on sale for business use. The prototype and a skeleton airframe displayed under cover consequently attracted a great deal of interest.

Present in force among the manufacturers' representatives were Irish Air Charter (they will shortly be opening a sales office in Great Britain, probably at Kidlington), who were demonstrating the complete Piper range including the exciting new Comanche, the Apache twin and the Tri-Pacer.
These three aircraft provide a good cross-section of what the United States has to offer the sporting or business pilot, and trial flights in each type left us with some very distinct impressions. Strongest recollection of all is that these aircraft are not flown in the sense that we have come to accept with British light aircraft they are driven. Invariably a pilot sits behind a control half-wheel beautifully finished, small, light and comfortable to hold and this in itself adds to the impression of driving rather than flying.

Take-off and landing techniques have been enormously simplified by the introduction of steerable-nosewheel undercarriages. Take-off is now a matter of "point and push" and these aeroplanes can be landed by driving them on to the ground, even at a good margin of knots above the stall. Perhaps the refinement of handling is no longer there the Comanche particularly seemed a little deficient in directional stability, and the Tri-Pacer has a sharp nose-up trim change when the flaps are lowered but in cruising condition any of them could be flown on the first-rate Piper auto-pilot and navigated by the lightweight Lear A.D.F. or Narco V.O.R. that is standard American equipment.

Maps and computers have become of secondary importance. The modern American private aeroplane is intended for fast, comfortable and reasonably quiet travel; and, because the amateur pilot cannot safely be overburdened with things to do, the business of flying is deliberately simplified so that time and attention is available for setting up simple radio aids. The single-axis directional autopilot is invaluable in this respect. As Irish Air Charter point out, anyone getting into difficulties after entering cloud has an easy remedy in the autopilot and heading selector; set on a reciprocal, it will steer the aircraft safely into the clear again.


Reliability of a high order, easy starting, efficient systems and good single-engined performance of the twins are attributes that can be expected of any of the new business aeroplanes. But detail finish also has developed enormously in recent years, and in this respect we found the Piper range to be singularly impressive. Small, neat control levers, easy-to-fathom fuel systems, legible and stylish instruments are only part of the big changes that have been taking place in recent years; every detail from cowling fasteners to stall-warning indicators, from seat belts to automatic cigarette lighters, from self-damping throttles to check lists engraved on the sun-blinds has been the subject of development to meet an increasingly critical and expanding market. Yet there is nothing in these new American and Continental aircraft that could not be reproduced, or even improved upon, in new British designs.

It was shown at Kidlington that there is a small but insistent U.K. demand for modern business aircraft, even at the price of a Comanche (9,030), Apache (16,580) or Piaggio 166 (34,075). The Board of Trade are now a little more understanding towards potential buyers of American business aircraft; and this is fortunate, for it is imperative that experience be gained on them so that our standards of criticism may be brought up-to date. Only then can a British executive light aircraft (in which some of the larger manufacturers are showing signs of reawakened interest) be developed with a fairchance of success.

Among those present (small pictures, reading downwards): Saab Safir

Among those present (small pictures, reading downwards): Saab Safir
91D, Piper Apache and Mr. Norman Jones's Jodel D.117

The Tipsy Nipper demonstrated by M. Bernard Neefs

The Tipsy Nipper demonstrated by M. Bernard Neefs.