THE HISTORY OF FOSTER WIKNER WICKO GM.1, G - AFJB.
The aircraft was built by Foster Wikner Aircraft Co ltd at Southampton Municipal Airport, Eastleigh and given the serial number 5. Registered on 15th August 1938 as G - AFJB to the Midland Aero Club. Test flown on the 26th October it received C of A on 1st November 1938. The aircraft was given the name "Wilfrun."
Geoffrey Wikner's book, "The Flight of the Halifax," contains a chapter about the manufacture, testing and selling the Wicko. In it we learn that it was Wikner's wife, Trudy, who sold JB to the Midland Aero Club during a lunch meeting, though we are not told of the menu or the wine list! The aircraft was presented to the club by N B Graham of the 'Wolverhampton Express and Star' newspaper. It would seem to have been a most generous gesture.
Drawing by Pat Rooney
G-AFJB wheeled out on the grass at Eastleigh prior to delivery to, at the time, unknown customer. Note the very high gloss finish, faithfully reproduced in the restoration, and the low shadows of the sun casting the parallel lift struts along the side of the fuselage.
The stripe across the fin and rudder is the shadow of the wing. As far as can be deduced the sun was very low in the sky at the time when the photograph was taken so either early in the morning or late evening and all evidence points to an evening shot.
Of interest is the mix of hangars in the background, both bassineau and blister type. The former idea from WWI utilising a wooden frame covered with canvas easily manufactured and semi portable. Many survived far longer than was ever envisaged by builders and designers.
The blister was much the same idea but had a steel frame covered with corrugated iron and without any vertical sides and a product of WWII. All trace of these structures, believed to be on the northeast side of the airfield, have now disappeared.
Two photographs of a line up of Wicko production showing four aircraft. Taken outside the Wicko hangar and next to Cunliffe-Owen aircraft Ltd who infact used a Wicko GM1 as a 'Hack' during WWII.
Of particular interest is the very long exhaust fitted to 'ZZ' and one wonders what effect it had on noise and engine power. Not a lot on the former but considerable on the latter in all probability. Note also third in line 'KK' now with some dihedral and possibly enlarged tail plane and hidden rudder mass balance. The already benign handling would have been further enhanced.
The exact dates of these photographs are unknown but believed to be late 1938.
From Cate Wikner in Australia came this cigarett card featuring one of the Wickos from that time. Thanks to Cate we can now read a little more about the Wicko.
The CFI of the Midland Aero Club, Wilfred Sutcliffe, flew the Wicko to Huknell when he joined Rolls - Royce aircraft engine Company in 1939 as all private flying was prohibited at the commencement of hostilities in WW11. At that time the aircraft was assessed for impressment suitability at Castle Bromich, the airfield and factory that produced the majority of Spitfires in the conflict.
Although impressed by HQ 41 Group RAF, the aircraft remained under civilian C of A till July 1941, when, after camouflage had been applied, the Wicko took on the military serial DR 613 and was allocated to the Air Transport Auxiliary at White Waltham. When operating with 15-ferry pool the aircraft was damaged at Andover in weather induced taxiing accident. After repair the aircraft went to Air Ministry communications at Heston. The Wicko was then operated in 1942by Cunliffe - Owen Aircraft Co at Eastleigh. It ended the war at 5 MU at Kemble were it was placed in storage. Geoffrey Wikner repossessed the aircraft and renewed the C of A in March 1946. At this stage new logbooks were raised so the pre war and military records are a bit of a mystery. The time spent at Rolls - Royce is of interest and just what was the arrangement with the Midland Aero Club and the CFI? And why is there a gap between that date and the donning of a military serial? Did the aircraft operate as a civil aircraft during that time and in what role?
When Geoffrey Wickner purchased a surplus Halifax bomber with the intention of returning to Australia he sold the Wicko to Philippa Bennett who used the aircraft in her air taxi service again out of Eastleigh. During that time the machine was extensively damaged in a forced landing, caused by bad weather when it ran over the edge of a cliff, fortunately without injury to the occupants. After repair the aircraft was sold but again was registered to Philippa and Lettice Curtis who raced the aircraft at a number of events under the race number 39. The handicappers were unkind to the Wicko and her pilot and the aircraft was not too well placed at any event. In 1955 Michael Dible purchased the Wicko, having sold on the Aeronca 100, G - AEVS, and operated the aircraft from Denham.
Fitted with a large venturi and Sperry 1B Horizon the aircraft was extensively flown and toured achieving some 120 hours in 18 months. Because the aircraft lacked electric's and as the owner now wanted to dabble in serious avionics a Proctor was acquired and the Wicko was sold on to the Southport Aero Club were it had several owners and group operators. It fell into disuse at Bagington and was purchased by Ken Wooley at an auction with a lapsed C of A. Thus the aircraft was saved from sure destruction at the hands of the airfield fire service as the Wicko had taken on some bad debts in unpaid bills and hangerage. Ken Stored to aircraft at his premises art Berkswell Forge Coventry and repainted the machine in its WW11 colours and markings as DR 613.
Joe Dible purchased the mortal remains at the end of 1998, now minus engine and spats, and is currently restoring the aircraft to full flying condition at Ron Souch's extensive care unit for old aircraft, near Southampton. Ironically about 4miles from the original place of manufacture and were the Wicko spent much of it's working life, Southampton, Eastleigh.
These two black and white photos have come to light recently, courtesy, of 'Nigel' and show two different locations where the Wicko was seen and photographed in the late 1940's. The exact dates are not known.
The first was taken between the hangars at Eastleigh when being operated as an 'air-taxi' by Philippa Bennet and shows the aircraft without spats. Actually this was not an unusual occurence as without any mud guards in the original aluminium spats much stones, grass and mud, designed to firmly cement the whole mixture, was a devil to remove and the shortest route to clear a potential jam was to take off the spats. The brakes, Bendix cable type, needed constant adjustment and this could be better achieved without the spats being in the way. Note also the Miles magister type tail wheel fitted at this stage a mod carried out Boscombe Down and when mainly in the care of Lettice Curtis and which got rid of the tail skid a feature unpopular with runway owners and operators.
The second shows the aircraft at Hatfield and now sports the racing number 48, one of two used when the Wicko was raced by Lettice. The spats have been refitted and the exhaust manifold removed and short straight pipes replaced in an effort to extract the last horsepower out of the Gipsy. The aircraft has thus been readied for racing and is firmly chocked and tied down but the stick appears not to have been secured as the elevators are down.
The date and race are again unknown...
Those born in the fair city of Wolverhampton are very familiar with the name Wulfrun, as the town was founded over a 1,000 years ago by Lady Wulfruna, indeed the name of the town is a corruption of Wulfrunhampton, and those who were born there are Wulfrunians. Old boys of Wolverhampton Grammar School are Old Wulfrunians, and the name has found its way on to many other things, like the Wulfrun Hall, the Wulfrun Shopping Centre, Wulfrun Wools and Crafts, Wulfruna Locksmiths, and a certain Foster-Wikner Wicko.
When N B Graham, joint proprietor of Wolverhampton's Express and Star saw the Wicko demonstrated at Castle Bromwich in 1938, he bought it the following day and presented it to the Midland Aero Club, to use in the new Civil Air Guard scheme, with the proviso that the Club train four pilots nominated by the Paper, free of charge each year. The Wicko, G-AFJB, was named Wulfrun II in honour of the gift.
The Wicko was the second aircraft bought by the Express and Star/N B Graham and presented to the Midland Aero Club. In 1928 a De Havilland DH.60X Moth, G-EBXT, was bought and named Wulfrun (Presumably without the numerical suffix, unless Graham forsaw further benefaction). It served with the Club until 1936 when it was placed in store, being sold a year later.