PILOTS EXPERIENCE

Pilot Joe Dible Pilot Michael Dible Pilot John Cairns

LETTICE CURTIS

WICKO G-AEZZ is shown in British Racing and Record Breaking Aircraft as having been entered for the 1937 Kings Cup race. It is listed as having a Gipsy I engine but Wikner's diaries show that it would have had an 150hp Cirrus engine which had been loaned by Blackburn. The Wicko however did not take part in the race because shortly before it took place, the aircraft forced-land at Skegness minus its propellor. thereafter, Wicko's were fitted with the heavier Gipsy I engine.

When on September 3 1939 war came, the Foster Wicko company ceased production and G-AFJB with other Wickos and light aircraft was impressed and allotted by the National Air Communications Department to the Air transport Auxiliary for use as a taxi aircraft, remaining with them until ATA closed in November 1945.

In 1946, G-AFJB was one of those bought by Philippa Bennett, a wartime member of the ferry pool at Hamble, for her charter company P.M.Bennett Ltd. It was from Philippa that in April 1950 I bought it, taking back to Boscombe Down where I was working in the Civil Aircraft Test Section (CATS) of the A&AEE and where I had been given permission to keep it.

My air racing activities had started in 1948 when I raced a Spitfire and in the following year, a Proctor and an Ercoupe in the first post-war air races at Birmingham, Elmdon. When I bought the Wicko therefore I was not a stranger to air racing, and soon started entering it for air races. The first Air Race in which I entered it was the Goodyear Trophy at Wolverhampton in June 1950 where I was handicapped for a speed of 130mph. It seems likely that this was based on the handicap calculated for Wicko G-AEZZ in the 1937 race when it had a lighter engine. The speed I actually achieved in the first two laps of the 1950 race was 121mph and I was falling so far behind that I retired. The next race I entered it for was on 26th of August, from Thruxton to the Isle of Wight and back in which two years previously, I had entered a Spitfire. This time I took my friend 'Doc' Stuart - a CATS test pilot - with me as my navigator. The dual navigation however was not a success and no doubt the extra weight didn't help either!

In June 1951, I entered G-AFJB for the Kings Cup race from Hatfield but due to bad weather the race was cancelled. Other races I took part in the Wicko were the Daily Express races of 1950, 1951 and 1952, in none of which I was amongst the leaders. Contributing to this was the fact that I again took 'Doc' Stuart with me and also that I had no time for practice runs over the Hurn to Herne Bay course, which was unfamiliar territory. The only time the Wicko won a prize was then in July 1951, whilst I was playing in a tennis tournament in London, I lent it to 'Doc' for the Bristol air race. Although at speed of 128.5mph he only came 5th, he was delighted to come back with a prize of 10 and a tankard!

For every race entered you were liable to be given a different race number to be painted on the fin but luckily our CATS ground engineers kindly helped out with this task. In the Goodyear trophy I was No.11; in the Thruxton race No.88 and in the first Daily Express race No.39. For the three remaining Daily Express races and the Bristol race the number mercifully remained at 48.

When in April 1953 when I left Boscombe to join Faireys Flight Development Team at White Waltham, I was told that I would not be allowed to keep the WICKO in the Fairey hanger. I therefore decided that it would have to be sold. The new owner was Michael Dible brother of the current owner, Joe Dible, who is presently having it rebuilt..