RAFMAA 1950-1953
In The News 51-53
RAFMAA 1954-55
In The News 54-55
RAFMAA 1956-60
RAFMAA 1971-81
Round The Pole

Round - The - Pole

Letter to RAFMAA Newsletter Editor Dated 22/05/06


Dear Editor,


I've recently been browsing the RAFMAA Web site and found it most interesting. I was in the RAF from 1946-60 having trained at RAF Halton. For most of that time I was a very active aero-modeller and a member of the RAFMAA. In 1953 I flew in the RAF Championships held at RAF St Athan and was the winner of the Victor Ludorum trophy, I am standing in the centre of the prize winning photo, behind the Aeromodeller Trophy.


You have asked for any further information on the photos shown in the history of 1950-53. I have a lot of photos from that period if you would be interested, including many of the Hawker Hunter display built by my friend Cpl Dan Barker and I for the RAF recruiting stands at major London Exhibitions such as the School Boys Own during 1953-54.


With regard to the photos at present on the 1950-53 RAFMAA Archive photo page, I have attached a combination photo giving some further details, plus a correction. The "Wattisham Witch" was built by SAC Williams of 32 MU RAF St Athan and not by Flt Lt Robertson. It flew in the unorthodox event at the 1953 Championships and also as a 'slope soarer' somewhere in Wales. I can't remember how successful the Autogyro was that Ken Gardener built, but the Tipsy Junior flown By Dan Barker, took part in the Scale Stunt event at the 1953 Championships. The final photo is of the 1953 winning Class 'B' Team racer, it was built during the midnight hours over three nights!! and was powered by an ETA 29.


Photo: 1953 winning Class 'B' Team racer, it was built during the midnight hours over three nights!! and was powered by an ETA 29.


I am on the left of the photo, my nickname dating from Halton was and still is 'Nobby', Dan (Cpl) Barker is in the middle and Andy Andrews on the right. In the final of the Class 'B' team race in 1953, we beat our friend and arch rival Sqn Ldr Verney, to our huge delight, hence the broad grins.

Yours sincerely

 Arthur.E.Burch (Cpl in 1953)


Further to Arthur Burch’s initial letter, Arthur has kindly provided the information and pictures for the Hawker Hunter Round-the-Pole Display. These picture and text will be included in the RAFMAA History pages on the Website. (Ed)


 In early 1953 my friend Dan Barker and I were stationed at 32 MU RAF St. Athan. We were given the task of producing a model flying display to be used on RAF recruiting stands at big exhibitions and shows around the country. The first of these was to be the Earls Court Radio Show in late 1953. This was to be followed by a stand at the Schoolboys Own Exhibition in early 1954 and many other shows in 1954 and 1955. I have attached a photocopy of an article that appeared in the Model Aircraft Magazine for Feb.1954 which describes our stand at the Schoolboys Own Exhibition in 1954.



 Our Station Commander at the time, was Group Captain A.R.Saw and he gave us the full backing of all the facilities on 32 MU. We were given our own workshop and taken off  all normal duties, to work full time on the project. Departments that were mainly involved in the making of this display included Station workshops, the Machine shop, the Chrome Plating section, the Carpenters shop, the Instrument, Electrical and Radio sections, plus the MT section who provided two 'Queen Mary' transports to convey all our equipment.      


Our first attempt at an RTP model, was an Electric Ducted Fan powered Boulton Paul BP 111, an Experimental Delta. Although it did fly, our fan was very inefficient and despite putting 48 volts through the 24 volt motor, there was not much power. One of us came up with the idea of using a compressed air jet, with the air supply being fed to the plane down a plastic tube, from a rotating banjo union on the centre pole. This proved to be the answer and performance was good, providing we had an ample supply of air.


About this time, the Hawker Hunters were soon to enter service and there was a 'Jetex' Kit for this aircraft on the market. It had a span of around 18 ins. and a length of 20 ins. this seemed to be an ideal choice provided we could adapt it to our needs. To help make them more representative of the Hunters coming into service we were given the serial numbers of the first batch of aircraft. WT 555 to WT 560.


These models were intended to be powered by the solid fuel 'Jetex' rocket motors and they had an aluminium 'augmenter tube' running the length of the fuselage. With the Jetex motor blasting down the tube, air was drawn into the tube by the jet's exhaust, which increased the thrust available over what the motor alone would produce. We made use of this feature in conjunction with our air jet, as you can see from the drawing. In order to supply sufficient air for two aircraft to perform together, we had to use three substantial electric compressors, of the size a garage/workshop would need.


To make our Hunters more realistic I designed a retracting undercarriage, powered by a 24 volt electric motor. This worked on the screw-jack principle, where the nut cannot be pushed along the thread. This gave effective locking in both up and down positions, see my drawing, which shows how it operates. The double worm drive reduction gearbox was designed and built by a skilled instrument maker, Vic Quelch, who also made all the brass end fittings for the push rods.


The centre pole had as its base, a supercharger impellor from a Rolls Royce Merlin with the blades machined off. We used to fly two aircraft in formation and each plane had its own swivelling head on the pole. This banjo type connection fed the air to the model via a 1/4 ins. neoprene tube and three slip rings fed the electric supply down fine wires to the undercarriage motor.

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The Airfield was 30 ft. diameter, with a flat outer runway, this was built in 8 sections for ease of transport. Incorporated in the outer runway, were retractable guide rails which were used to steer the nose wheel of the model, on leaving the runway, to follow a fixed rail on the taxi-way up and over the centre part of the airfield. At a point near the centre, there were two solenoid operated chocks. You can see both the rails and the chocks on the photo showing WT557 up against them. In the centre of the airfield, was the chequered runway control van with red & green lights and a hangar with a spare aircraft parked in it.


The control panel was about 8 ft. long with 3 operator positions, two pilots and an ancillary operator, who controlled the retractable guide rails, the runway controller's lights (red & green), the chocks and the sound system. Each pilot had two control levers, the throttle and the undercarriage selector, he also had a voltage control, a warning light and an air pressure gauge.


The outer plane would fly at up to 60 mph and it was very tricky to fly two in formation. Due to the different radiuses of the flight path, they flew at quite different speeds. With around 10 ozs thrust they accelerated quickly to flying speed and landing took some care to avoid heavy arrivals.


The show attracted a great deal of interest and hopefully fulfilled its  

purpose by helping the recruiting policy of the RAF.  I hope this story and the photos will be of interest to the RAFMAA's history, and I hope also that it stirs some memories for other members.  



Your sincerely,  

Arthur Burch (ex. Cpl. in 1953)



Many thanks to Arthur for his help with providing some more detail for our existing archived RAFMAA photos and especially for his efforts to bring us this fascinating story of his endeavours to create a truly brilliant working model display.

 If anyone has information of what happened to this amazing creation, especially the fully functional Hunter display undercarriage built onto a Perspex plan outline of the Hunter please get in touch with me,  top of page




RAFMAA 1950-1953 In The News 51-53 RAFMAA 1954-55 In The News 54-55 RAFMAA 1956-60 RAFMAA 1961 RAFMAA 1971-81 Round The Pole Letters