Sorting your Stanguellinis from your Singers can be trying enough. But picking Cessnas from Stearmans? That’s when we call in the experts. Enter John Dodd, a pilot specialising in pre-1960s aircraft, who agreed to give us his highlights from this year’s Freddie March Spirit of Aviation exhibition.
John knows his stuff. He flies his beloved classic aircraft from Goodwood, as well as Duxford, and has hours in quite a variety of machinery: of the planes in the display he can tick off Stearman, Auster Chipmunk, Piper Club, Tiger Moth, Harvard and Spitfire. His favourite: “Sorry to have to be predictable but the Spitfire really is head and shoulders above everything else, and not just for its handling. Sitting there looking out across England over those elliptical wings with that V12 engine up front…there’s nothing like it.”
Below are John’s personal six highlights…
1936 Ryan ST-A
This is just sex with wings. It is absolutely gorgeous, all polished aluminium, exposed rivets and aerodynamic details. Ryan produced some great aircraft. This one is a sports racer and it would have taken part in air races across America. But look carefully and you can see a cowl forward of the cockpit. This came off to reveal a second seat so the pilot could take a passenger when not racing. It is powered by an inverted straight six engine – it was upside down in order to give more clearance for the propellor. This is a really beautiful example, the condition of the cockpit is amazing.
De Havilland Tiger Moth
This Tiger Moth isn’t particularly significant apart from the fact that it is so very nice. It is from the late 1930s and is just in super condition. I have flown a lot of Tiger Moths and none are as nice as this one. It flies beautifully, straight as anything hands off and no wandering. The Tiger Moth was the backbone of RAF training – most Battle of Britain pilots would have learnt to fly in one – and now this plane is used by Boultbee Flight Academy at Goodwood.
We had the DC3, Germany had the Junkers 52. And it makes quite a sight. An interesting thing about its construction is that it is corrugated to give it strength. It is a three motor aircraft, with three radial engines. It was made from 1932 to 1945 and served with both the Luftwaffe and Luft Hansa which operated it commercially. In fact Lufthansa still own this plane and it’s flown by their boys.
The 504 is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and doesn’t it look in great condition? In fact this is a newly built replica, made in Argentina but very accurate apart from one thing. Instead of the original’s rotary engine – where the engine spun around with the propeller – this has a radial engine so only the prop spins. There are a lot of physics involved with spinning a whole engine in a plane so it was changed for good reason. The 504 was a trainer for the First World War boys.
1943 Boeing Stearman
The US’s basic trainer, the Stearman was America’s answer to the Tiger Moth and was used to train their WW2 pilots before they moved on to the Harvard. The Stearman was far bigger than the Tiger Moth but no more complicated. It had a much bigger engine but it also weighed a lot more so its power to weight ratio wasn’t very different.
1952 Cessna 195 BusinessLiner
This was the corporate aircraft of its day. It took four people in comfort and would cruise at around 150 knots – not bad for 1952. After the war a lot of people embraced aviation and Cessna capitalised on that with this aircraft. It is a remarkably sleek, high-wing aeroplane with no wing struts and a very sleek undercarriage to reduce drag. Normally it would have spats on the wheels.