Early in 1973 I was doing an odd
job to one of our gliders in Ken Fripps workshop when the Anglia
TV unit arrived to film the construction of a replica of Sir George Cayley's
1852 man carrying glider. I was introduced to Harry Aldous, the director,
with the comment from Ken that flying such a machine was just the kind
of thing I enjoyedsomething new.
When Anglia made the proposition that I should indeed attempt to fly
in the replica, I was content to leave the design and construction in
the very competent hands of John Sproule and Ken. It wasn't until the
machine was being finally assembled in the workshop that I thought it
was time to see for myself whether it looked practical and airworthy.
We soon agreed that the obvious seating position was athwartships,
eg facing to one side looking forward as in the manner of steering
a boat, and some model tests by John indicated that the pilot should sit
as far forward as possible. As this put me out of reach of the long oar
like handle of the "influencer, I agreed that, since it would
take a day or two to make a new one, I would make the first trials with
the control lashed down. In other words, I would sit aboard and just go
for the ride with no control except the cable release.
On the first two or three taxy runs towed behind Ken Fripp's car, the
machine refused to leave the ground. The only real lesson learned was
that the aircraft was most sensitive in yaw and would weathercock violently
into the slightest crosswind. We also found that the machine was substantially
made and quite practical in many respects.
It was clear from these first tests that the ground incidence was insufficient,
for it wouldn't lift off (even at 25-30mph). A quick solution was to fit
a smaller rear wheel and this lowered the tail by about eight inches.
Next time, off she went, flying beautifully and stably in a graceful
hop. The take-off speed was still rather high and the next modification
was to increase the wing incidence still further by blocking up the central
fore and aft wingspar.
The effect was immediate. On the next flight I climbed so rapidly that
Ken lost sight of me from his Volvo driving seat and in a matter of seconds
I was up at 30-40ft, climbing at an alarming angle.