years of the Monoplane 2009
By Terry Taylor
4th 2009 it will, incredibly, be 50 years since the Taylor Monoplane
first took to the air, in the capable hands of O.V.’Titch’ Holmes
at White Waltham aerodrome, once the headquarters of the Air
not so well known is the fact that this was not my father’s
first aeroplane design, but the smaller result of one he had
started in 1954. This comprised of a tandem two seater, it being
better to fly with someone than alone, he thought, and was continued
to a near final design stage regarding weight, stressing and
size of engine. Unfortunately, it was the non availability of
anything like the right engine that brought this would-be aeroplane
to a standstill, plus the fact that it would need to be built
in a room measuring 11 by 16 feet, the dimensions of the front
lounge, at first floor level. After a re-think he decided that
with a 26 foot wingspan, albeit in three pieces, it would probably
be too big to build, too expensive and difficult to power properly.
Back to the drawing board, literally, and a much smaller, lighter
and cheaper design was produced, in the form of the Mono we
all know today. It was to cost no more than a family saloon
car, about £200 then, and be simple to build with a minimum
of metal fittings, with no part longer than 11 feet. Unlike
most men who are probably influenced by their fathers, it was
my dad’s mother who gave him the aeroplane interest from an
early age. She had been employed at Kingston by The Sopwith
Aviation Company and helped produce fuselages for the Salamander
amongst other types. He learned to build free flight models
of Camels, SE5’s and other biplane types sparking the desire
to build a full size ‘model’ some time in the future.
At the outbreak
of World War 2 he was then 17 and soon became employed by The
J.A.Prestwich Engine Co. involved in the manufacture of stationary
engines for generators and water pumps. This company was also
to manufacture an engine known as the J-99, a twin cylinder
opposed air cooled twin for aeroplane use and it was one of
these that my dad was to bolt to the front of his Mono some
nineteen years later, so he was well acquainted with this particular
unit, and also it’s peculiar characteristics. Eager to join
the RAF in 1940 he set off with his brother expecting to be
snapped up and sent for immediate training. Ironically, his
brother Fred was indeed snapped up and spent the next six years
working on various maintenance units servicing Rolls Royce Merlin
and Bristol radial engines in the UK and the Middle East, near
Aboukir. My dad was told that his work at JAP’s was ‘far too
important for him to be released’ and he just had to stick with
it, much to his frustration.
the opportunity to learn to fly privately was investigated,
but found to be still too expensive as Britain hauled itself
slowly out of rationing and so forth and he was in any case
busy finding steady work that enabled him to marry my mother
in 1948. A little later he reluctantly accepted that he could
not go down the private flying route and probably thought it
was not to be. Or was it? A friend alerted him to the fact that
The London Bus Co, of all people, had started a flying club
at Fairoaks with a small fleet of Tiger Moths and their flying
rates were about half the normal. Understandably, the requirement
to becoming a club member entailed becoming a staff member,
a bus driver in his case as this was where the shortage lay.
Still interested? You bet he was, especially as the training
for the bus license (PSV), was provided at no extra cost. 1950
saw my dad strapped into the rear of one of the Tigers under
the guidance of H.E.Baker and he was to gain his PPL in 1950.
At last things were moving in the right direction! This of course
brings us to the point of introduction above concerning the
two seater, that led to the Mono.
with the help of the LAA, a multitude of STRUT’s, an unending
list of material suppliers, a library of design books and a
good empty garage it is possible for any determined person to
design and build their own aeroplane. It wasn’t like that in
the early ‘50’s though, the PFA and EAA were only an idea, materials
were almost impossible to get and design information was held
mainly by the many, (at that time), aeroplane companies dotted
around the country. Had my dad worked for say, Miles or Percival
then his goal would have been much easier to achieve. Fortunately
for him, he made contact initially with Cecil Latimer Needham,
designer of the Luton Major and Minor aeroplanes and also a
lecturer in aircraft design. Even better, Mr Needham found time
to write two books on the subject that brought it within reach
of those with a good knowledge of materials and fairly advanced
mathematics. My dad obtained both, found many areas that he
didn’t understand and went to see the author who gave him considerable
help and time in unravelling the stumbling points. The design
of the two seater and hence the Mono was then started in earnest,
my dad had now moved onto the drawing board at Ford’s in the
jig and tooling office. Preliminary drawings were prepared by
him and both these and the calculations checked by the Hunting
Percival Design Office, with of course some minor alterations
being necessary. Late 1957 saw him in a position to start building,
but where were the materials to be found?
Bianchi, the owner of Personal Plane Services at White Waltham,
a man of vast experience and practical knowledge regarding aeroplanes
of all sizes and the person, as far as my dad was concerned,
who was to change everything. This is no over statement as it
was Doug who gathered materials, guided my dad through general
construction techniques and was always ready with encouragement
and practical advice. As the project neared completion in early
1959 it was also Doug who had obtained that very JAP J-99 engine
that went on the front and lined up Titch Holmes to carry out
most of the test flying, assisted by Bert Goodchild. The only
other limitations on building the Mono were those imposed by
the fact that the lounge it took shape in was also on the first
floor and the diagonal dimension of the front window was 4’
6”, so no component could be larger than that. If any Mono owner
wondered why the wing chord is 48”, now you know! There are
some fantastic advantages to building any aeroplane in the front
lounge which are worth mentioning here as future builders may
not have thought of them and they are certainly not readily
apparent in the photographs. Firstly, your wife can never complain
that she doesn’t know where you are. You’ll be about six feet
away at any given time. Secondly, and this is the real winner,
your ‘workshop’ will be at 200 C all year round, so no problems
with trudging out to the chilly garage or worrying about glue
and paint temperatures, it’s all at the twist of the thermostat.
Other minor advantages are having someone to ‘hold the other
end’ and also help clear up all the sawdust from the circular
saw in the early stages of building as you reduce that tree
you bought to more useful sizes. I just can’t understand why
it’s not standard homebuilding practice?
ideal conditions the basic wooden airframe took just fourteen
months to complete, with the entire project taking about 2000
hours, and Pathe News visited along with the BBC to investigate
this strange lounge creation. The removal aroused even more
interest and is shown in the accompanying photos. Fords came
to the rescue with providing transport to take it to White Waltham
for final assembly. Curiously, Fords had previously, but unwittingly,
come to the rescue by helping my dad have certain parts made
for the Mono in the machine shop, components like the spar plates
for example that appeared on Ford drawing sheets with ‘Experimental
Fitting’ written in the title box and then subsequently returned
to the drawing office for ‘approval’. This is initiative of
the highest order and is what made Britain great in those pioneering
days. I have often been quizzed about the build time, but if
you work from tea time to bed time plus most of the weekend
it can soon be achieved, and this is exactly what happened.
At White Waltham the assembly of the Mono took just under one
week, with engine runs, and this is where that peculiar characteristic
of the J-99 came to light, which fortunately my dad was aware
of. Advancing the throttle from idle to cruise power was generally
followed by, nothing, then a strange ‘ping’ followed by the
proper burst of power, about three seconds delay in all. He
found from his days at JAP’s that it was the bridging jet that
provided fuel in between idle and higher power settings that
was at fault and he was able to rectify this quite quickly,
so that there was no delay in response. Titch Holmes, to his
credit had to contend with this for the first few hours of flying
though and compensated for it comfortably. During the excitement
of the previous six years my dad’s license had lapsed and therefore
he was unable to carry out the test flying, but in any case
employing the services of Titch Holmes was a much wiser choice
flying proceeded smoothly up to the issue of the Permit to Fly
with no major alterations of any nature being required. At the
request of Hunting Percival, the airframe was inverted and tested
structurally to a limit of 3G to check for wing deformation
under these loads, and to ensure there was inadvertent fouling
of the aileron cables. This lack of alterations has been a consistent
feature of the Mono over all it’s life, but one minor modification
crept in during it’s early life and took over 40 years to correct.
The tailplane was initially set at zero incidence and flown
in this configuration with flaps. Somewhere along the line it
was deemed to be ‘longitudinally unstable’ and successive negative
incidence applied to the tailplane, up to -50, in order to correct
this, with the elimination of flaps. Monos flew like this for
decades, but mainly in this country only, until one John Gibson
noticed this on an example he came across at his local flying
club. John, an accomplished gliding instructor has also spent
his life as a leading aerodynamicist and expert in aircraft
handling, on the Lightning, TSR2 and Eurofighter for instance.
When he discovered that pilots were flying Monos with pronounced
forward stick he set about investigating how this had come about.
He was able to produce evidence denouncing the very term ‘longitudinal
stability’, as stability is related to mainly CG position, and
proved by calculation and test flying that the original zero
degrees was the right setting. I was very impressed that someone
should go to such lengths to investigate all of this and have
been forever grateful to him.
1960 saw my dad at the controls of his own design, a marvellous
feeling I am sure, the culmination of what had been a ten year
adventure. Surprisingly to him, letters started arriving from
the USA and Canada expressing an interest in ‘a set of plans’
for this masterpiece. What plans? The letters still came and
he set about producing drawings enabling others to do likewise,
the all wooden aeroplane being slightly different to the States
builders with their steel tube fuselage models. Only one example
has ever undercut the prototype’s weight of 430 lbs empty, that
being Hugh Beckam from Kansas who squeezed in at 404lbs, so
it can be done! English builders also took up the challenge,
the Mono’s imperial dimensioned drawings and robust nature appealing
to some more than the Druine Turbulent, a true contemporary
in many respects. The VW 1500 has become the most fitted engine
over the years, but Geoff Stanley fitted his one with a Walter
Mikron, and it stands out totally for it’s streamlined looks.
After my dad had flown it for just 29 hours, the Mono was sold
to Mike Slazenger in 1961 for it’s construction cost of £150
in order to put a deposit on a three bedroom house here in Leigh
on Sea. It had moved to Redhill by this time and stayed there,
quickly being re-engined with the universal VW 1500. The Mono
continued to gather popularity, the American solution to suitable
engines being to fit one of the many A-65 Lycomings, regardless
of the weight increase. Concerned by this, my dad set about
a design for engines in the 100 hp class, having been totally
bowled over by the arrival of the magnificent Cosmic Wind, which
joined the Tiger Club at Redhill in the early 60’s. His timely
design, the Titch, came second to the Beta in a design competition
the Club ran in 1964, both aeroplanes flying in 1967.
dad still alive, (he would have been 87 this year) I am sure
he would be astonished that his prototype still flies today,
and that about 150 examples have been built in Europe, the USA,
Australia and New Zealand. I am pleased that his design is still
attracting younger pilots and builders, and can still be built
for the price of a family saloon car, in fact £6500 will
more than get you there. Advice and help with homebuilding has
never been better, nor has the availability of materials as
the adverts in the LAA magazine testify. So if some of the kits
seem to be a bit on the high side, and their build times rather
optimistic, there is always the option of ‘doing it yourself’,
as many have over the last half century, and will continue to
My dad at Fairlop in 1947 with free flight Tiger Moth.
01 Early flying days at Fairoaks in 1952, my mother enjoys a
spot of real flying.
02. Work underway with some very early stage drawings.
03. My dad tries out the cockpit, finished wing panel on wall
04/05. Teatime as usual as the Mono takes shape in the 1st.
floor lounge. Visitors eventually seemed not to even notice
06. Close up of the JAP engine my dad was to become very familiar
07. The bay window gave just enough room to assemble the tail
08. With the window removed the fuselage is taken out with lots
of helping hands. John Taylor in white shirt giving instructions
to all and sundry!
09. Not as easy as it looks, but no damage occurred to any of
the components during their unusual exit.
10. The author, aged 5, entrusted with the top cowling.
11. Finally assembled for the first time at White Waltham.
12. Early engine runs carried out by my mother revealed all
was not well, but my dad’s time at JAP’s paid off here.
13. Bert Goodchild, Titch Holmes in cockpit, and John Taylor
reflecting on the days performance.
14. The Ford Magazine gave space to their employees efforts
but made up a lot of the text! The Titch was never a secret.
15. Titch Holmes enjoying himself over White Waltham.
16. At last! One year on and my dad enjoys the results of all
17. After approval the Mono attended a fly-in at Seething in
18. Andrew Perkins example was one of the first to be built
and flown in this country.
19. First example to fly after the prototype. Hugh Beckham from
Kansas achieving the lowest empty weight ever of 404 lbs.
20. Ken Lynn and his Lycoming A-65 example. Good performance
but somewhat heavy.
21. Bob Ladd and the ultimate Mono? Bubble canopy, retractable
undercarriage, great cowlings and four blade prop. These improvements
were added annually up to 1970.
22. Just like a model. Jim Kerley of California finished this
example in under one year.
23. With over 2000 hrs on it Dallas Alldrege’s Mono probably
has the highest time of any.
24. New Zealand examples have to add 14 inches to the rear fuselage
to reduce tailplane sensitivity.
25. Ever the fighter! Yvan Bougie of Canada even fitted a’drop’
tank for extra stowage.
26. Cecil Bush has enjoyed his Mono so much he has built another
one to go with it! Flies regularly from Great Oakley in Essex.
27. One of the most recognised examples of them all. Dave Hunter
from Blackpool has advised many a Mono builder.