Site Updated September 29th. 2014
FLYING AN AIRCOUPE CHANGED MY LIFE
It was back in 1961 when I was an instructor with the Southport Aero Club. We were operating a Tiger Moth and needed to go “modern” with our equipment.
At that time a company called “Air Rent” was importing Forney Aircoupes and renting them to established clubs. They supplied a brand new Aircoupe, insured it, and paid for maintenance, all we had to do was fuel/oil and hangar it and guarantee 200 flying hours on it a year.
We thought this was such a good deal we decided to investigate. I went to Stapleford (an airfield near to London) to fly and see one. I flew with Eric Thurston and was impressed. Our committee decided to go ahead and we made the arrangements, shortly after this a brand new Forney F1A was brought to Woodvale where we were based. It was G-ARHC and it is still flying today 40 years on based at Little Gransden (north of London).
We flew that aircraft for nearly four years, it put our club in a strong financial position and trained many of our members for their PPL’s. It gave us excellent service and very little trouble.
I liked it so much I vowed one day to buy an Aircoupe and in 1971 I was able to do so, I had a choice of two at that time and one was a later model, basically the same as the Forney but improved and constructed by a new company who had taken over manufacture of the design in 1965, it was an ALON A2 AIRCOUPE and it was from the original Alon batch (in fact #5) and was registered G-AVIL. It is still flying today in the hands of a private owner in the UK.
I owned G-AVIL for twenty years and only sold it when I replaced it with a MOONEY CADET. The Cadet was in fact an AIRCOUPE but Mooney took over manufacture and deleted the twin tailplane and replaced it with a single fin and rudder of Mooney design. I bought the Cadet in Los Angeles in 1991 and flew it across the southern States to Miami where I had it placed in a container and shipped to Blackpool (in North West England) where it was rebuilt and placed on the UK register as G-BTOJ. I flew it here for four years and decided to return it to America so that I could visit the annual convention of the Aircoupe Owner’s Club in 1985. I took it to Virginia, assembled it and flew over 2,000 n.m. to Kalispell in Montana. I spent four days there meeting old friends I knew from previous convention visits and then flew on over the Rockies to an airfield south of Seattle where I left it hangared with a pal at a small field called Pierce County (Thun) at Puyallup, WA.
I returned in early 1996 and flew the Cadet 1,000 miles south to leave it with the previous owner in Los Angeles, I came home for a couple of months and then went back to L.A. and flew it, once again, over the southern States back to Virginia so that I could fly to the 1996 convention which was being held in that year at Manteo, near to Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers made their historic flights.
I had decided to sell the Cadet as I didn’t like the single fin and rudder version of the Aircoupe, it changed the characteristics of the aircraft too much for me. I sold it to a man with his own airfield in Arizona and I had to deliver it another 2,000 mile trip back across the southern States to Whetstone Air Park not far from Tombstone AZ.
Being such a fan of Aircoupes I felt “lost” for the winter of 1996/7 without an aircraft to fly and in early 1997 I managed to buy another Alon Aircoupe, this time an ALON A2A. The model had undergone further small modifications, mainly to the cabin area and was the immediate forerunner before the Mooney version. Only 52 of this model were made and it is the most sought after model of the whole range, mine is G-BKIN and the only one in Europe. I have owned it since 1997 to date.
The Aircoupe range started just before WW2 and most were manufactured just after the war, in 1945/6/7, over 5,000 were built and in America it has a cult following akin to the Tiger Moth over here. I have met many flying enthusiasts and Aircoupe owners over the last 20 years since I have been attending their annual conventions. Each year they hold it in mid-summer at a different venue.
I’ve enjoyed my forty years association with Aircoupes, Fred Weick who designed it, used to attend the conventions and I met him in 1989, a great man whose design has stood the test of time, he lived to 92 years of age and was much revered by club members.
I took my Alon A2A out of service in late 2000 to carry out an extensive overhaul which took me a year to complete. The engine went to a specialist for stripping and complete overhaul, I renewed just about everything I could during the overhaul, screws, nuts, bolts, hoses, gaskets, seals, etc. I rebuilt the undercarriage, made a new cowling side, repainted the propeller, refurbished the cabin, in fact all I could find to do I did. Then in December 2001 I placed it in a container and shipped it to Tacoma where it arrived in January 2002, I came over to meet the container, with help from friends I rebuilt it and it is now based at Pierce County airfield near Puyallup, WA.
I have decided to sell the airplane and quit flying as the European regulations get more prohibitive every year, Medicals become more difficult and costly, the cost of keeping an airplane is now beyond my budget. I have been flying since I was 17 years of age, been a Military Fighter Pilot in my 20’s, flown as a Commercial Pilot as a career and ended as a Captain with British Airways with over 12,000 hours in my seven log books, I think I have seen and flown in the best years and enjoyed myself immensely and made many friends in aviation over the years.
DAVID W VERNON