Percival Proctor I: Proctuka’s failed Angriff.

The fiftieth anniversary of “The Battle of Britain” is approaching; the movie, I mean. For the Stuka scenes the great Hamish Mahaddie tried at first to restore to flight the only genuine Stuka in UK. When that proved to be belong the economic reach of the production a smart alternative “flying actor” was produced. None other than Percival Proctors heavily modified by Vivian Bellamy to look convincingly as the real thing, cranked wings included. Sadly, the prototype proved to be an awful flier so in the end they were not used in the film; very realistic radio-controlled models were employed instead.

Astonishingly German-looking, the only minus that two-blade prop.

Photo: Jean-Michel Goyat Collection.


Arrow Active 2: ….very, very Active.

The Arrow was the only product of the eponymous Arrow Aircraft (Leeds) Limited, and just two of them were produced. This gorgeous small aerobatic/sport biplane was originally conceived in the very early 1930s with the military in mind. It was not to be. The Active 2 was the more powerful of the two and the one still alive today.

With its compact size and muscled Gipsy Major IC engine this cute biplane is quite lively. Taking-off full elan here.

Photo: Stephen Blee.

Airspeed AS.5 Courier: The Retractor.

The pretty-looking Courier was six-seat light taxi/airliner designed by one of the founders of the humble Airspeed company, Hessell Tiltman, in the early 1930s. The first prototype which flew for the first time on the Spring of 1933, was especially built for Alan Cobham. He employed it in a unsuccessful non-stop flight to India using Cobham’s air-to-air refuelling expertise.
All in all, only sixteen of these cute little things were produced. They endured quite chequered lives, gun-running fiasco to Spain and being seconded into the RAF during WW2 included.

Gorgeous drawing in this ad published at the Aeroplane magazine (Jan 10th, 1934 issue). The “retractor” undercarriage was a first in British aviation.

McDonnell Phantom FGR2: Dirtiness is next to godliness.

With the numerous, complex and leaky piping in its low placed wing and the relatively short undercarriage to keep the Phantom clean was just a lost battle.

Taken in the late 1980s, this Dr Stefan Petersen photo of a F-4M (FGR2) of the 19(F)Sqn RAFG Wildenrath is one of those you always remember. In my case it was the cover photo of a collective fascicle of a military aviation encyclopedia I bought religiously every week.

Rocheville (EMSCO) Arctic Tern: Aeroplanum inexploratus.

In the decades before WW2 Arctic exploration took a new impulse thanks to aviation. This chumsy-looking aircraft was one of the rarest airplanes designed specially for that purpose. This one-off “Frankenstein’s Monster” was designed by Charles Rocheville in answer to a Shell Oil Co. request for their Alaskan survey explorations. Built in 1932, this three-seat mid-wing monoplane amphibian had a certain Lockheed’s touch; it was created using a Sirius’ wing and a Vega’s tail. The pilot enjoyed the pleasure of a open cockpit atop the small nacelle while the crew was cosily placed in the ugly cabins above each float/pontoon. It was powered either by a 300 hp Wasp Junior or a 450hp Wasp. During tests the Arctic Tern displayed wholly satisfactory performances, but, sadly, the aircraft was lost in 1933 in an accident caused by fuel starvation and Rocheville suffered serious injuries.

Such a peculiar shape, a pity it couldn’t enjoy its metier. Photo: Smithsonian Institution.