Birmingham Aero Club

Birmingham Aero Club


The Birmingham Aero Club, initially the Birmingham Aero Model Club, was formed on 17 September 1909 with R. Cobham as Honorary Secretary pro temp. While for all its existence modeling remained the core club activity, members produced several full sized manned gliders and even powered aircraft.

The first machine built by a club member was a small monoplane glider, built by Mr. J. H. Elee (a carpenter), during November 1909. It was tried down a hill at Sutton Park, but was not a success. In the early part of 1910, A Mr. Maynard built a Chanute-type glider, which was unfortunately smashed when it collided with a tree while being towed, luckily unmanned. This author can find no definite details about either Elee or Maynard, but oddly Goodall and Tagg [10] combine them as Mr. J.H. Else-Mynard!

Next was a half-sized monoplane glider built by Ernest Alfred Noble, a newspaper artist (b. 24 April 1881 in London) in about May 1910. Nothing else is known of the machine and little more is known of Noble. He did have several illustrations published in Flight during the war and he gained his pilots certificate on 5 September 1917.

A very successful glider was built by Edwin T. Prosser and Arthur Masefield Bonehill in August, 1910. Bonehill, born 29 Jun 1884 in Kings Heath, Worcestershire, was a gun maker; his grandfather was Christopher George Bonehill, a well-known manufacturer of firearms, and A.M. Bonehill worked in his business at the Belmont Firearms and Gun Barrel Works in Belmont Row, Birmingham. Their glider was the Chanute type, and some good towed passenger flights were made before it was wrecked on 26 August 1911.

A canard monoplane glider was built by Ralph Platts (born 1881 in Aston, Warwickshire, died 6 January 1950 in Coventry), a pattern maker from Birmingham in March 1911. The total weight was only 70 lbs. with a wing area of 222 sq. ft. No passenger flights were made with this glider owing to its small surface, but some very good free and towed flights were obtained without passengers. Haddon Wood [9] states it was destroyed in a gale in October 1911, but Flight [6] has it still flying in mid-November, having been converted into a biplane that October, so possibly this gale was November rather than October. A report in the next edition of Flight does refer to a club glider being blown into another field, so this could possibly be Platts’ machine. In November Platts was also reported as constructing a power-driven monoplane, which he hoped to have completed before Christmas, but nothing more seems to have come of this.

In November 1910 a gliding ground with a suitable hill had been found at Edgbaston, so both F. Hill and G. H. Wood began work on their respective gliders. F. Hill's monoplane glider was completed in 1911 by the Belmont Aeroplane Co. In July of that year it was fitted with a low-powered engine and turned into a hydroplane. Although models of this glider flew exceptionally well it did not meet with any great success either as a glider or aeroplane.

George Haddon Wood (born in 1869 in Grandborough, Warwickshire) completed his first glider, the ‘Haddon 1’, in the beginning of 1911. Some good free glides were made at Handsworth. In January 1911, the Club looked to obtain a ground and erect a shed capable of housing the two aeroplanes and three gliders then in course of construction at the clubs workrooms. This was found at Billesley Farm, Yardley Wood Road, King's Heath, and in August 1911 the headquarters of the club was transferred there. Haddon’s machine was taken to the new club ground, but after about three weeks there was destroyed whilst being towed with a passenger. Luckily no one was hurt.

Frank Warren built a half-sized monoplane glider in October 1911, but unfortunately, when erected in his garden it was destroyed by the same gale as affected Platts glider, before any trial flights had been made.

Adolph Edward Trykle was the next to begin work a glider, designed in conjunction with Bertie Walter Beeby, built entirely of bamboo. Various model tests were conducted in late 1911 and construction began in February 1912. Towed flights began in August of that year, but later crashed (probably in October). A tailor from Edgebaston, Trykle was born1874 in the United States of America. Naturalised on 21 June 1927, he died on 21 June 1935 in Birmingham. Beeby was also born in America in 1874, but his British parents returned to England when Bertie was still very young. By 1911, he was a Beer Retailer living in Birmingham. Beeby died on 21 January 1947.

In January 1912 G.H. Wood completed his second glider, the 'Haddon 2’. This was also constructed of bamboo, and some very good towed flights were obtained. This glider was eventually destroyed in a gale in November 1912. At the beginning of 1913 the Club Glider was built from the remains of this and Trykle's glider.

A half-sized Bleriot type glider was built in 1912 by two of the junior members of the club and in May of that year the chassis of a pedal-driven aeroplane was completed by three club members. The finishing touches intended to begin later that month, with a low-powered engine to be fitted in place of the pedal-driving mechanism originally intended. It is possible that this was the machine built by A.E. Löwy and Swingler. This was reported as likely to be ready for tests by the end of April 1914, but nothing more seems to have been heard.

In 1913, a monoplane glider of the Bleriot type was under construction by Mr. N. Stamps (possibly Geoffrey N. Stamps, born in Llain Llauelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales, in 1880). It was reported complete by February 1914, but no reports of it having flown. He was reported as shortly starting on the construction of a powered monoplane of original design expected to be ready in about May, but nothing more is known.

W.R.L. Beaumont (possibly W.R. Lestrange Beaumont, born in India in 1894) and C. Pritchard Davis built a Wright type biplane glider in 1914. On 8 February, on taking it out for its initial trials without any assistance, the machine was blown across the airfield and destroyed. An aeroplane was reported as shortly to be built by the same two members, a 25 h.p. engine being proposed to be fitted, but nothing more is known of this.

Unfortunately the outbreak of war spelled the end of the Club. In 1919 the City Council bought Billesley Farm and its surrounding fields and by 1931 some 3500 council houses had been built.

Company References
  1. Flight 25 Sep 1909
  2. Flight 21 Jan 1911
  3. Flight 19 Aug 1911
  4. Flight 26 Aug 1911
  5. Flight 9 Sep 1911
  6. Flight 4 Nov 1911
  7. Flight 11 Nov 1911
  8. Flight 13 Dec 1913
  9. Flight 28 Feb 1914
  10. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  11. British Aircraft 1809-1914, Peter Lewis (Putnam, 1962)
  12. http://www.ancestry.co.uk/

Project Data top

Project No
Type No
Alternative Name(s)
     Elee Glider    1909    Proto  1  1S Monoplane glider  1,2
     Maynard Glider    1910    Proto  1  1S Biplane glider  2
     Noble Glider    1910    Proto  1  1S Monoplane glider  (2)
     Prosser Bonehill Glider    1910    Proto  1  1S Biplane glider  2
     Platts Monoplane Glider    1911    Proto  1  1S Monoplane glider  2
     Platts Biplane Glider  (See Note 1)  1911    Proto  (1)  1S Biplane glider  3
     Platts Monoplane    1911    Proj  0  1S, 1E monoplane  (3)
     Hill Glider    1911    Proto  1  1S Monoplane glider  1,2
     Hill Hydroplane  (See Note 2)  1911    Proto  (1)  1S, 1E monoplane hydroplane  (1)
     Wood Haddon 1    1911    Proto  1  1S Biplane glider  1,2
     Warren Glider    1911    Proto  1  1S Monoplane glider  2
     Trykle    1912    Proto  1  1S Biplane glider  1,2
     Wood Haddon 2    1912    Proto  1  1S Biplane glider  1,2
     Club Bleriot Glider    1912    Proto  1  1S Biplane glider  (2)
     Club Biplane Glider  (See Note 3)  1913    Proto  (1)  1S Biplane glider  1
     Stamps Glider    1913    Proto  1  1S Monoplane glider  2
     Stamps Monoplane    1914    Proj  0  1S, 1E monoplane  (5)
     Löwy & Swingler monoplane    1914    Proto  1  1S, 1E monoplane  1,5
     Beaumont Glider    1914    Proto  1  1S Biplane glider  1,4
     Beaumont Monoplane    1914    Proj  0  1S, 1E monoplane  4

Project References
  1. British Aircraft Before The Great War, Michael H. Goodall and Albert E. Tagg (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001)
  2. Flight 13 Dec 1913
  3. Flight 4 Nov 1911
  4. Flight 1 Nov 1913
  5. Flight 28 Feb 1914

  1. Converted from the Platts Monoplane Glider.
  2. Converted from the Hill Glider.
  3. Built from the remains of the Trykle and Haddon 1 Gliders.

Production Data

   Total Birmingham Aero Club Production     14  

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