Tinker, Taylor, monoplane
Do you like airplanes, my reading friend? Yes, you do, and so do I. Let us therefore peer into the deep well of time, all the way to the 19 June 1959 issue of Flight, in order to tell the story of a most interesting airplane. And no, I’m not getting paid to pay homage to this British weekly magazine, one of the greatest aeronautical / aerospace periodicals of the 20th and 21st centuries. Sadly.
The main character of this week’s story was / is John F. Taylor, a gentleman born in the United Kingdom in 1922. Like you and I, Taylor liked airplanes. Unlike you and I, perhaps, he caught the flying bug from his mother. You see, this fine lady worked for Sopwith Aviation Company Limited, one of the great airplane manufacturing companies of its day, during the First World War. And yes, my wing nutty reading friend, the stupendous collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario, includes Sopwith fighter planes like the Pup, the Triplane, the 2F.1 Ship Camel and the 7F.1 Snipe. This last machine was mentioned in November 2018 and February 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee. It should be noted that the Pup and Triplane are replicas made in the 1960s, but back to our story.
During his youth and teenage years, Taylor made and tested free flight models of famous First World War fighter planes like the Sopwith F.1 Camel and the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5, another type found in the collection of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. And yes, the S.E.5 was mentioned in November 2018 and April 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.
Taylor joined the personnel of J.A. Prestwich & Company Limited in 1939, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War. While primarily known at the time for its small industrial gasoline engines, this firm made history in other areas as well. One only needed to mention its JAP motorcycle engines, which were used on famous British and foreign machines from the early 20th century onward. Production may, I repeat may, have continued until the 1950s or early 1960s. A number of racing enthusiasts used these reliable engines until the 1970s.
It is worth noting that the first British subject to make a controlled and sustained flight in a British-made powered airplane in the British Empire, in July 1909, used a JAP motorcycle engine to power his Roe I Triplane. This individual was, you guessed it, Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe. The founder of A.V. Roe & Company Limited, one of the great aircraft manufacturing companies of the 20th century, was mentioned in an October 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee. A brief digression if I may. Our world is positively awash with interconnections and coincidences, isn’t it?
Before I forget, J.A. Prestwich & Company made cinematographic equipment during the early years of the 20th century. One of its customers was Charles Urban Trading Company Limited, and here lies a tale. Yours truly will be brief. Wingnut’s honour.
The emerging film industry’s interest in aviation, which was emerging as well, began to emerge especially from 1908-09, as the first truly successful aircraft made their first public flights in Europe and North America. Most of these films have now disappeared, which is a shame. Produced in 1909 by Charles Urban Trading, The Airship Destroyer / The Battle in the Clouds was / is one of the few survivors. This short British film featured an inventor who had developed an unmanned aircraft capable of destroying an airship in midair. It took advantage of the craze aroused by a novel then very popular, The War in the Air. The author of this 1908 world science fiction classic, the United Kingdom’s Herbert George Wells, was / is one of the fathers of science fiction worldwide. Would you believe that he was mentioned in November and December 2018 issues of our blog / newsletter / thingee?
The Airship Destroyer was sufficiently popular to return to theatres a few times between 1909 and 1916. Like several successful films of the time, this short film was plagiarised on both sides of the Atlantic. The very famous American director and producer David Wark “D.W.” Griffith was one of the authors of the script of one of these copies, The Flying Torpedo, produced in 1916 by his own studio, Fine Arts Films.
Charles Urban Trading also produced The Flying Dispatch, the first film that showed a woman flying an aircraft, if only through special effects. This short film arrived in theatres in 1912.
One more thing, if I may permitted to quote police lieutenant Columbo, played on television by the irreplaceable Peter Michael Falk. J.A. Prestwich & Company’s founder, John Alfred Prestwich, began his career as an industrialist in 1895 by making scientific instruments in a small workshop located behind his father’s house, on Lansdowne Road, in London. Lansdowne Park, in Ottawa, happens to be the place where one can find a good beer restaurant yours truly is quite fond of. Small world, isn’t it? But back to our story.
By the way, are you Columbophile?
Taylor and his brother tried to enlist in the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1940. While the latter got his wish, Taylor himself was told his job at J.A. Prestwich & Company was sufficiently important for him to stay there, which he did – for the duration. He was not amused.
As the 1940s came to a close, the newly married Taylor had all but given up on his dream of flight. The cost of flying lessons was just too high, or so he thought. A friend suggested to him that a solution to his problem could be found in a most interesting organisation. The London Transport Flying Club (LTFC) was founded in 1931 by a group of London bus drivers who, like Taylor, very much wanted to fly but had little money to pay for flying lessons. Backed by the sports association of General Omnibus Company / London Passenger Transport Board, the public transit organisation of the British capital, it provided training at low cost to company staff as well as, perhaps, family members and friends. Given a shortage in bus drivers and the added bonus that the bus driving license was provided at no extra cost, Taylor applied for a job. He got one. Taylor began to take flying lessons in 1950 in the club’s de Havilland Tiger Moths, a type represented in the collection of the aforementioned Canada Aviation and Space Museum. He got his private pilot license that same year. Incidentally, the LTFC was still active in 2019.
Well aware that he could not afford to buy an airplane, Taylor set out, in 1954, to design one he could build himself. A well-known aeronautical engineer and lecturer in aircraft design by the name of Cecil Hugh “Chookie” Latimer-Needham readily agreed to help the budding airplane designer. The 2-seat monoplane Taylor came up with proved somewhat big for the engines available at the time. It was also somewhat big for the workshop where is was to be built, a 4.9 x 3.35 metre (16 x 11 feet) parlour / dining room on the second floor of the Taylor residence, with a bay window, the only way out for every element of the airplane, whose diagonal dimension was little more than 1.35 metre (4 feet 6 inches).
Taylor reluctantly went back to the drawing board in 1956. His second design was smaller, lighter and cheaper. If truth be told, Taylor’s goal was to design a single-seat airplane that could be made and flown by people with average construction skills and the minimum amount of tools. Latimer-Needham’s help once again proved invaluable. As well, the design office at Hunting Percival Aircraft Limited / Hunting Aircraft Limited, a division of the Hunting Group, checked Taylor’s calculations and preliminary drawings. And yes, this small aircraft manufacturing firm was mentioned in a June 2019 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee.
A brief digression if I may. Did you know that Latimer-Needham immigrated to Canada in 1967, to be near his married daughters? Now you do.
By the time the aforementioned calculations and preliminary drawings were done and checked, Taylor worked, possibly as a draughtsman, for Ford Motor Company Limited, the British subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, an American car making giant mentioned in December 2018, February 2019 and March 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.
By late 1957, Taylor was ready to begin construction of his airplane. He had major hurdles to overcome, however. He did not know where to find the wood and other materials he needed, and he had no experience in airplane assembly. Salvation came in the form of a gentleman with plenty of practical experience in such matters.
Douglas Edward “Doug” Bianchi, owner of Personal Plane Services Limited, was an entrepreneur and former flight engineer. He found the wood and other materials that Taylor needed, and provided guidance in airplane assembly. Bianchi also found a JAP engine to power the new airplane. Better yet, he found a pilot willing to test it, an experienced (former?) RAF pilot, O.V. “Titch” Holmes, which was quite convenient given that Taylor’s pilot license had expired. Before I forget, please note that construction of the airplane began around April 1958.
One more thing if I may. Bianchi and Personal Plane Services became rather well known during the 1960s and 1970s for their work on historic airplanes and replicas of same, especially in conjunction with the movie industry. They were involved in the production of Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or, How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours and 11 Minutes, The Blue Max, Mosquito Squadron and Aces High, premiered in 1965, 1966, 1969 and 1976.
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines was / is one of the most popular among aviation enthusiasts. This excellent British comedy, filmed by an American studio, showed the misadventures of aviators from several countries who tried to win a fictitious London to Paris race in 1910.
Inspired by a novel, The Blue Max told the adventures of a German infantryman hungry for glory but modest in origin. The latter became a fighter ace, much to the chagrin of his unit companions who felt nothing but disdain toward him. The representation of the main character and anti-hero was / is not romantic, without being as brutal or effective as in the novel. As a result, The Blue Max was / is not particularly successful. Thus being said (typed?), it was / is the first English-language movie about a German pilot. It was / is also the first feature film that highlighted the efforts undertaken by the governments of the countries involved in the First World War to turn fighter pilots into larger than life heroes.
Mosquito Squadron was / is, let’s face it, a rather underwhelming British motion picture. The script and cast of this low budget production were / are criticized by many. It recounted / recounts the story of members of a 1944 Royal Air Force squadron equipped with, you guessed it, de Havilland Mosquito fighter bombers. And no, there will be no pontification on this machine, one of the most versatile combat aircraft of the Second World War. Why did yours truly bring up this movie, you ask, my reading friend? A good question. It occurred to us that one of the heroes of Mosquito Squadron was a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. Incidentally, this film was inspired by a 1964 British motion picture, 633 Squadron, whose script and cast were / are criticized by many. Would you believe that Mosquito Squadron included some of the spectacular flight footage of its predecessor?
Aces High, for its part, was / is inspired by a masterpiece of British theatre, Journey’s End, dating from 1929, by Robert Cedric Sherriff, as well as by a masterpiece of aeronautical literature, the autobiography Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Arthur Lewis, published in 1936. This Franco-British feature film was / is also very similar to the American films The Dawn Patrol, released in 1930 and 1938. Aces High recounted in great detail the disillusionment of a young fighter pilot. Canadian actor Arthur Christopher Orme Plummer played an aging officer.
Dawn Patrol, a board game produced by the British company TSR Incorporated, deserved / deserves some attention at this point. It originated from a homemade game designed by Michael “Mike” Carr, a young American fascinated by The Blue Max. This game, christened Fight in the Skies around 1968, drew the attention of the guiding spirit of the Wargame Inventors Guild, a forum created by the International Federation of Wargaming. This person was none other than Ernest Gary Gygax, the American co-inventor of the legendary Dungeons & Dragons board game. A group of enthusiasts known as the Fight in the Skies Society came into existence in 1969. A small company, Lowry’s Games, released the first professional version of the game in 1972, under the brand name Guidon Games. TSR, a company founded by Gygax, launched an updated version of Fight in the Skies in 1976. Another version with a new, more commercial name, Dawn Patrol, was released in 1982. Members of the Fight in the Skies Society were waiting with impatience the arrival in stores of a modernized version as 2015 came to an end. They are still waiting.
A former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot, Lynn Garrison, collaborated with the Irish air force, the Air Corps or Aerchóir, to establish a collection of modified old aircraft and fighter plane replicas used during the filming of The Blue Max. This collection was used in the shooting of other aeronautical feature films of the period: Darling Lili, Von Richthofen and Brown and Zeppelin, released in 1970, 1971 and 1971.
Over the years, Garrison was involved in a variety of projects. This co-founder of the Aero Space Museum of Calgary, in Calgary, Alberta, today’s Hangar Flight Museum, organised air shows and ran a magazine. Garrison was also a mercenary pilot in Africa and a political / military advisor in Haiti.
Darling Lili recounted / recounts the efforts of a beautiful German spy to extract information from an American fighter pilot around 1917-18. Combining beautiful musical numbers and thrilling aerial combat scenes, with little connection to each other, this American feature film was not a great commercial success.
The American feature film Von Richthofen and Brown, meanwhile, offers a contrast as interesting as it was / is inexact between the ace of aces of German fighter aviation, Baron Manfred Albrecht von Richthofen, the famous Red Baron, and a less known ace of modest origin, the Canadian Arthur Roy Brown. The director made the German pilot a valiant knight lost in the 20th century who was confronted with boors like Brown. The latter was certainly not the hero of the film. In fact, von Richthofen and Brown were air combat professionals. Undermined by the poor performance of the actors who played its main characters, Von Richthofen and Brown was / is quite boring. This feature film, which was somewhat antimilitarist, also contained several factual errors. Even worse, it was a financial failure.
Let’s not forget Zeppelin, a nostalgic feature film. It was / is, however, one of the few films dedicated to the German rigid airships used during the First World War, but let’s go back to our homebuilder.
It should be noted that Taylor’s spouse, Eva, readily assisted her spouse in his endeavour. On another note, it should also be noted that Taylor surreptitiously made certain metal parts of his airplane in Ford Motor’s machine shop, seemingly during working hours.
Both British Pathe News Limited and the British Broadcasting Corporation heard about Taylor’s unusual project, and visited his home. A brief clip produced by the former can be viewed at
One sunny day, in late June 1959, the various elements of the Taylor J.T.1 Monoplane, as the new machine was called, went through the window of the second floor parlour / dining room of the Taylor residence. They slowly and carefully slid down inclined pieces of wood. The bay window may have been removed for safety. This unusual move caused quite a stir in the neighborhood. Ford Motor graciously provided one or more trucks to carry said elements to a nearby airfield where Taylor would assemble his machine. The Monoplane flew a week or so later, in early July. Holmes was very pleased. If truth be told, the Monoplane required no major alteration. A flight permit was issued without ado.
Some people referred to the Monoplane as a mini Spitfire – high praise indeed, given that the Supermarine Spitfire was / is one of the most effective fighter planes of the Second World War – and one of the most famous fighter planes of the 20th century. And yes, the collection of the aforementioned Canada Aviation and Space Museum includes a Spitfire. Nay, it actually includes 3 such airplanes. Incidentally, the Spitfire was mentioned in November 2018, February 2019 and May 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee, but back to our story – and to the first Monoplane.
Interestingly, the airfield where Holmes first flew the Monoplane, White Waltham, was the headquarters of a most interesting civilian organisation. The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was formed in 1939 to transport mail, personnel, supplies, etc. destined to the British armed forces within the British Isles. It was soon made responsible for the ferrying of Royal Air Force aircraft between the various factories, maintenance units and bases. The ATA proved all but indispensable throughout the Second World War.
Five remarkable Canadian young women, including Helen Marielle Harrison Bristol, Violet “Vi” Milstead and Marion Alice Powell Orr, flew with the ATA during the Second World War, but back to our story.
It looks as if Taylor flew his Monoplane for the first time in September 1960. Slightly before or after that day, he began to receive letters from Canadian and American homebuilders eager to acquire sets of plans. Taylor was quite surprised by this turn of event. Eager to help, he produced a set of plans and had it duplicated for mailing. Said plans became available in March or April 1961.
The Monoplane thus became the first British homebuilt airplane designed after the Second World War for which plans were available. In turn, Taylor was / is one the pioneers of the post Second World War British homebuilt movement. And yes, my reading friend, homebuilding was mentioned on several occasions since September 2017 in our blog / bulletin / thingee.
Taylor sold his Monoplane in 1961. He needed the money for a down payment on a 3 bedroom house. You may be pleased to hear (read?), or not, that the first Monoplane was fitted, in 1964, with a modified automobile manufactured in West Germany by Volkswagen Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung. This type of power plant was one of several used over the years by homebuilders who made Monoplanes. Three or 4 owners later, in 1985, the first Monoplane ended up in Portugal. It was acquired by a British pilot in 1989. The precious prototype completed by Taylor was grounded in 2012. It can now be seen at the Newark Air Museum, in Newark, England.
As the Monoplane gained popularity in the United States, homebuilders there began to fit more powerful and heavier local engines, to improve performance. Please note that this part of our story had a tragic ending. Aware of this, and perhaps concerned by the potential risks involved, Taylor designed a high performance derivative of the Monoplane. The J.T.2 Titch won the second prize in a midget racer design competition held in 1964. Interestingly, the sponsor of this competition, Rollason Aircraft and Engines Limited, was the company responsible for the installation of a Volkswagen engine in the Monoplane prototype. Construction of a prototype of Taylor’s new machine began in February 1965. The Titch flew for the first time in early January 1967. It crashed in May of that year, killing its designer. An investigation concluded that the airplane was not to blame.
Unwilling to let her spouse’s dream perish, Eva Taylor continued to sell plans of the Monoplane and Titch. Their son, Terry Taylor, picked up the torch around 1987. This writer does not know when the sales of plans ended, or if ended at all.
As far as the Monoplane is concerned, by the late 1980s, sets of plans had been sold to homebuilders from more than 30 countries, among them Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States. By the late 2000s, no less than 150 Monoplanes had been completed in Africa, America, Europe and Oceania. The first airplane completed outside the United Kingdom seemingly belonged to an American gentleman by the name of Hugh Beckham. His monoplane, christened Fifinella, first flew in August 1964, and…
Why the puzzled look, my reading friend? Could it be that you do not know who Fifinella was / is? No? Well, this female gremlin was one of the characters in a children’s book, The Gremlins, published by well-known British author, fighter pilot, poet and screenwriter Roald Dahl in 1943. Would you believe that this book was to accompany an animated feature film by Walt Disney Production Limited that never saw the light of day? Incidentally, this gremlinian film was not the only aeronautical product this well-known studio worked on during the Second World War.
One of the most original, not to say strange, works on aerial bombardment was / is undoubtedly Victory through Air Power, released in theatres in 1943. This animated documentary directed by Walt Disney Productions described the theories regarding victory via air power elaborated in the book of the same title, published in 1942 by Alexander de Seversky, born Alexandr Nikolayevich Prokofev-Severskii, an American of Russian origin who was a pilot and the former head of an American aircraft making firm. Victory through Air Power was a commercial failure.
And yes, my faithful reading friend, Walt Disney Production was mentioned in November 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee. Have I mentioned that ours is an interconnected world? Yes? Too often? O.I.C., and… You do get this pun, don’t you? Oh, I see? The Big Bang Theory? Never mind, and back to our story.
As far as the Titch was concerned, sets of plans were soon sold to homebuilders from more than 20 countries and colonies in Africa (África Occidental Portuguesa (today’s Angola), Kenya, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe)), America (Brazil, Canada, Mexico and United States), Asia (Japan), Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand).
Yours truly cannot say how many Monoplanes were completed in Canada. From the looks of it, there were only a few. Again from the looks of it, the registration certificate of the last one expired in 1986. This Monoplane was completed in 1967, in Vancouver, British Columbia. It may well have been the third airplane completed by Morris C. Wilson.
A Monoplane flight tested in May 1965, after 2 years of work, by Yvan C. Bougie of Valleyfield / Nitro, Québec, made the cover of the November 1970 issue of Sport Aviation, the monthly magazine of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the largest light aviation / homebuilding organisation in the world, based in the United States.
A pilot since 1959, when he was around 24 years old, Bougie sold his Monoplane, known as Miss Valleyfield, before too long, to a friend. He had already decided to build a second airplane. Unable to find a design that matched his requirements, Bougie set out to design his own 2-seat machine. He could seemingly count on the help of a couple of friends, as well as that of his spouse and children. Superficially similar in appearance to the Grumman F8F Bearcat, a United States Navy carrier based fighter plane introduced too late to see combat during the Second World War, the Hauscat first flew in May 1973, and… You do get the pun, don’t you? Hauscat, house cat? Good. Let’s move on.
At the time, Bougie was a welder working for a maintenance company which worked at the Valleyfield factory of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Canada Limited, a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, a giant in the American automobile industry mentioned in a November 2017 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee. In 1977, he was a foreman with Du Pont of Canada Limited of Côteau-du-Lac, Québec, a subsidiary of American industrial giant E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company. Why do I say (type?) this? Well, read on and find out.
A 1977, yes, 1977, newspaper article claimed that Bougie won a prize at the 1974 edition of the EAA Annual Convention and Fly-In, today’s EAA Airventure Oshkosh, the largest airshow in the world, organised by, you guessed, the EAA. It also claimed that Bougie’s success led to a flurry of letters, up to 3 000 it was said, coming from countries as far apart as Switzerland and Chile, requesting information and / or sets of plans. About 125 Hauscats were said to be under construction. Better yet, two groups of prison inmates, in Italy and the United Kingdom, had received permission to build their own Hauscat. Yours truly has been unable to confirm these claims, but I will keep at it.
By mid-1977, Bougie had completed the plans of his second original homebuilt airplane. From the looks of it, this 4-seat short takeoff and landing machine was not completed. One has to wonder if construction of this airplane even started. Indeed, the registration certificate of Bougie’s Hauscat expired in May 1982. That of a Cessna Model 120 light / private plane he owned expired in August of that year, which could indicate one or more serious changes in this gentleman’s life.
If you don’t mind, yours truly think this is as good a place as any to end this article. What say ye? Good. Ciao. And yes, the EAA was mentioned in September and October 2017 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.