Handley Page W10 Airliner flight

The 1926 Handley Page W10 Airliner G-EBMR “City of Pretoria”

Having already finished my Airspeed AS5 Courier as part of the Airspeed Flight (includes an Oxford, Queen Wasp and Envoy), it seemed at the time to be a natural progression to think about refuelling the Courier from the Handley Page tanker, as used by Sir Alan Cobham in 1934. From little beginnings…!

Two V twin, 60cc engines were installed each with one cylinder vertical (down) and one horizontal with two fuel tanks for each engine, mounted one above the other. Each receiver has two large six volt batteries and these were mounted right in the front to keep the centre of gravity forward. Radios operate on the new 2.4GHz frequency and there are a total of seven satellite aerials dispersed throughout the fuselage to maintain integrity of reception. After the two separate radio receivers and servos had been fitted the aeroplane was covered with silver Solartex.

Controls on this era of aeroplane were external cables from the open cockpit and scale details closely follow the original, all derived from photographs. In the cockpit the control column and rudder bar are faithfully reproduced and in the passenger saloon, luggage racks and other details are included, with glazed windows but not a full set of wicker replica chairs just yet; they take too long to weave!

A cracking pace had to be maintained to have the aeroplane on display at LMA Cosford in July 2009 but although not ready to fly, it was on static display for the two days of the show, getting a great reception. Over the following two months, exploratory telephone calls were made to locate a suitable aerodrome for the test flights. Meanwhile, the engines were run with no problems of vibration or resonance but the scale exhaust system shook loose and new brackets were fitted.

September had several high pressure cyclones passing over the country but in the south we had very strong winds, day after day. With time fast running out, at the end of September I appealed to Steve Holland, UK’s top pilot, for help with the test flights.

26th September was the great day and after a three hours drive into Gloucestershire, rigging the W10 took about 90 minutes even with help from three other modellers. Fuelled up and pre-flight inspected and with Large Model Association inspectors watching, the engines were run up and all functions checked out.

Steve, happy to perform the first flight and having taxied out to the strip, asked “shall we go for it” and we did. With almost no wind, the W10 was airborne in 30 metres and quickly gained sufficient height for Steve to trim out the elevator which needed all of the down trim to fly level. He then handed over the transmitter to me and I had the thrill of piloting my own air liner!

And that was it, no more adjustments needed for all of the seven witnessed flights made during the day, and the six more on the following day in the strong blustery wind. One observer commented about the difference between high speed and low speed flight: “they’re the same, but the engines make more noise on full power!” That sums it all up pretty well and obviously the two day’s flights were not only a great success but created a lot of pleasure to those lucky enough to witness them.

I achieved my target. The flights of my Handley Page W10 scale replica took place within a week of the 75th anniversary of the attempt by Sir Alan Cobham to break a world endurance record with the Airspeed Courier and in the month preceding the 75th Anniversary of the formation of Flight Refuelling.

Scale: 20% (1:5)

Wingspan: 15 feet (4.57m).

Length: 12 feet (3.6m).

Weight: 81 lb (37kg).

Height: 3 feet 9in (1.14m)

Engines: Two 60cc Laser 360 V twins.

Radio: 2.4GHz, JR/ Spektrum.

Authority: Large Model Association Over 20kg scheme.

Civil Aviation Authority Exemption to fly.


Don Billingham