On 7th January 1937, would-be aircraft designer, Richard Taylor, lost his life at Hamsey Green aerodrome when the wing of his ‘Taylor Experimental’ monoplane failed during the early stages of a test flight.
Taylor’s novel design was a tandem, two-seater, high-wing monoplane. It’s metal airframe, of semi-geodetic construction, was covered in fabric. The aircraft was powered by the untried 50hp Weir Pixie – a four cylinder, inline engine. However, it seems to have been the cantilever wing which caused Taylor’s fatal crash. The wing spars comprised twin metal tubes, braced only at their extremities. Basically, despite appearances, there was nothing of consequence holding the aircraft together!
Richard Taylor, the son of a collier, was born in Derbyshire, in 1896. He seems to have started his working life as a screen boy in a colliery, but at the time of his death he was living at Sunbury-on-Thames, and working as a general engineer.
He had grand plans for his new aeronautical venture and had approached Geoffrey Wikner and Jack Foster (who were responsible for the Foster Wikner Wicko, produced at Eastleigh) with a view to commercial production of his aeroplane. Wikner recalled:
I saw photographs of the wing structure of Taylor’s design and it is obvious the wing would collapse under load as the spars did not have any diagonal bracing.
It’s not clear whether Wikner warned Taylor about the potentially disastrous consequences of this flaw, or whether Taylor simply chose to ignore his advice.
In addition to the aircraft he had already built (G-AEPX), Taylor had also reserved registrations for three further variations on the design, (G-AEPY, G-AEPZ and G-AERA). Obviously, none of these were ever built.
Hamsey Green Aerodrome was a private airfield near Warlingham, owned by Charles Gardner, which opened in 1933 and continued to operate until 1953.
Here is a newspaper report on Richard Taylor’s crash, from the Portsmouth Evening News, 14th January, 1937:
“PLANE’S FAULTY DESIGN. WING FOLDED UP IN THE AIR.”
“A verdict of “Accidental death,” due to the faulty design of the machine, was returned at the Caterham (Surrey) inquest to-day on Richard Taylor (40), a general engineer, of Riverside, Sunbury-on-Thames, who was killed when an aeroplane in which he was experimenting crashed at Warlingham.
Major J. P. C. Cooper, Air Ministry Inspector of Accidents, said that the flight appeared to be in contravention of the regulations. The pilot was not the holder of an A licence, and the flight was not authorized by the issue of a permit.
Mr. Edgar Douglas Whiting, of Farleigh Road, Selsdon, chief engineer at Mr. Charles Gardner’s private aerodrome at Kingswood Lane, Warlingham said that before Taylor crashed he had made a good take-off. He turned into the wind to land and the port wing folded up and the machine plunged to earth.
Taylor had designed the plane and supervised its construction. It was the third flight he had made in it – a total of 15 to 20 minutes flying time. Major Cooper, who examined the machine after the crash, said that the port wing had failed during the flight owing to a structural failure which could only be attributed to weakness of design.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Taylor..