Lindbergh’s aircraft on display in London (no, not that one…)

Way back in 1936 Flight carried a story titled Lindbergh buys British. Sub-titled: His new Miles Mohawk described: a high-performance “custom-built” tourer. Complete with evocative pic of Col Lindbergh running an eye over his new purchase.

He finally took delivery the next year and, as you do, flew to India with his wife in it, then back to the UK via, obviously, Belgrade. Suffice it to say that the aircraft had an eventful life before finally being written off in Spain in 1947.

In fact even after that its life was only a little less eventful and somewhat incredibly it has now just gone on display in its full glory a

t the RAF Museum at Hendon in north London. Pretty isn’t it?

Miles Mohawk.jpg

The full story of what happened and how it got there is below, courtesy of the museum.

    1936            Built by Philips & Powis Aircraft Ltd at Woodley, as an all-wood tandem two seat dual control cabin monoplane, constructor’s number 298; The American, Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, who in May 1927 had made the first solo west-east transatlantic flight, was in Britain that year as part of an extended mission to Europe. He wanted a fast, long range light touring aeroplane in which he and his wife could make business trips around Europe, and asked F.G. Miles to build one for him to his specification. This was the only Mohawk to be assembled.
                        Aircraft Logbooks held by RAFM, ref. DC71/59/1-2 covering period 22 Aug 1936 – 24 October 1949.Also engine logbooks DC71/59/3-4.
14 Jul 36        Registered to Phillips & Powis Aircraft Ltd, Woodley
22 Aug 36        First flight; pilot F.G. Miles; duration 15 minutes, with a further 15 minute flight later that day with Lindbergh at the controls. Given a distinctive orange and black colour scheme, with the fuselage and undercarriage in black, with orange fuselage cheat line, orange wings and tail, chosen by Lindbergh as a high-visibility scheme, with Class B registration U-8. Photos on ground and during test flights; Flight November 5th 1936 pp.473-475 and Aeroplane November 4th 1936 pp.576-7.Also RAFM PC71/66 and Air Britain Archive Summer 2003 pp.72-73.
 18/19 Nov 36 Lindbergh flew the Mohawk from Reading via Croydon to Baldonnel, Southern Ireland to inspect and test the site of the unfinished Shannon Airport, near Limerick. He gave a flight to the President of the Irish Free State, Eamon de Valera, who had never flown before. Photo – Charles A Lindbergh An American Life (015154) p.66. Upon his return on 24th November he landed at RAF Sealand due to fog instead of Croydon, asking the RAF not to publicise his arrival and causing a temporary panic over his supposed disappearance, flying on to Lympne on 28th November. By 30 November 1936 the aircraft had completed 18.10 hours flying. It did not fly again until 12th January 1937, with F.G. Miles at the controls.
13 Jan 37         Flown by F/L J.F.Moir, an instructor with No.8 E&RFTS, Woodley on undercarriage test.
28 Jan 37         Certificate of Airworthiness issued. Though flown as G-AEKW, one ‘Flight’ photo shows it on the ground newly built as G-AEKN, a registration actually allocated to a BAC. Drone, possibly applied in error.
                        The delay between first flight and issue of the C of A may have been due to difficulties in producing the sub-contracted downwards-sliding cockpit hood sections, which had to be re-manufactured, together with possible undercarriage modifications.
 1 Feb 37         Officially handed over to Lindbergh in a ceremony at Woodley, who then departed via Rome to India.
Lindbergh said it was precisely what he wanted. During February, March and early April that year Lindbergh flew the Mohawk and his expectant wife in easy stages to India and back, flying across France and landing at Pisa on February 2nd, arriving in Rome on the 3rd. In India he flew via Jodphur and returned to the UK via Belgrade on 12th April 1937, visiting Baldonnel, near Dublin on 7 July 1937. By 7 August 1937 the aircraft had flown 211 hours 26 minutes.
The original American 200hp supercharged Menasco Buccaneer B6-S engine, s/n 6046 gave considerable trouble through overheating and the Mohawk could not be flown for more than half an hour without the cylinders and oil temperatures rising dangerously, and ground running led to similar problems. The only other Buccaneer engine in the UK, s/n 6062 was later installed in 1937 after the return from India, followed by re-installation of s/n 6046 later that year, but the overheating continued and in June 1938 a Hamilton Variable Pitch airscrew was fitted in place of the original Fairey Reed type, reducing the overheating on ground runs but was too heavy and the aircraft never flew with it fitted. The engine was again swapped over at the same time, with another swap of the two engines in August 1938.
16 Aug 38        Lindbergh flew the aircraft from Lympne to Hanover, en route to Russia, via Warsaw, Moscow, Kharkov, Rostov, Kiev, Odessa, returning via Cracow on 1st September, Prague, Stuttgart, Paris, Rotterdam, back to Berlin, where he stayed between 23 October 1938 and 18 Jan 1939, Paris again and finally back to Lympne on 22nd January 1939.
                        After renewal of the Certificate of Airworthiness, the aircraft flew again on 28th February 1939 for a 40 minute flight.This was its last pre-war flight. Total flying hours 346.40.
The aircraft remained in the UK after the Lindberghs returned to the USA in April 1939, and was gifted to the British Government by Lindbergh soon after the outbreak of war.
12 Sep 39        Stored dismantled with Phillips & Powis Aircraft Ltd at Woodley.
                        Donated to Britain by Lindbergh circa 1940.
29 Oct 41        1 hour 10 minute test flight by W.G. Capley following removal from storage. Aircraft had been re-sprayed into RAF camouflage. Three further flights over the next two days.
 8 Nov 41       Impressed into RAF service as HM503; Flying hours 348.20. Civil registration cancelled as sold on this date.
25 Nov 41       5 ½ hour delivery flight to RAF Turnhouse, Edinburgh. Used on communications duties.
11 Apr 42        To No. 5 Maintenance Unit at RAF Kemble, Glos; roundels and fin flash altered 1 June 1942.
   6 Jul 42         Air test at No. 5 MU
   7 Jul 42         By Air to RAF Ternhill, Salop. Flying hours 353.00; last wartime entry on logbook.
21 May 43       Officially recorded as returned to Miles (Phillips & Powis) at Woodley for coarsened pitch Fairey Reed propeller to be fitted to reduce overheating problems, although F/L H.V Kennedy recorded a 15 minute ‘handling flight’ in it at Woodley on 17th May 1943.
   3 Jul 43         Work complete – awaiting collection.
14 Sep 43        To RAF Andover, Hants for use by the Maintenance Command Communications Squadron. For excellent and informative letter on this period, see file letter from John Painter, dated 8 May 2006. Following unsuccessful fitting of a new Menasco engine, which needed the piston rings from the original engine, and a new Hamilton Standard constant-speed prop was fitted and the aircraft given a new coat of camouflage paint by then technician Mr. Painter. Taken for unsuccessful 5-minute test flight, due to propeller vibration problems, by the Station Commander, a Group Captain Lowe, with Mr. Painter in the back seat.
1   Feb 44        Returned to No. 5 MU for storage.
21 Mar 46        Recorded on Home Census of aircraft.
     May 46       Reconditioned by Southern Aircraft ( Gatwick) Ltd following sale to that company that month.
28 May 46       Restored to UK civil register as G-AEKW by Southern Aircraft.
     Feb 47        Menasco s/n 6047 fitted and ground run for 30 minutes.
20 Feb 47        20 minute flight recorded in engine logbook.
 31 Jul 47         First post-war logbook entry; 20 -minute local flight at Redhill. Seen at this time painted in high-gloss maroon overall with white trim.
 7 Aug 47         Certificate of Airworthiness renewed at Gatwick.
30 Aug 47        Flown in the Folkestone Trophy Race by Wing Commander M.J. Earle, race number 3 being carried on the tail. Photo at this time – British Civil Aircraft 1919-59 Vol. 2 (014668) p. 384; Air Britain Archive Summer 2003 p.75. Advertised for sale that year at £2,500 and bought by Mr. Ernest Garth Fidler Lyder of Bexley, Kent, being re-registered to him on 20th February 1948. Based at Redhill/Broxbourne.
28 May 48       Sold to Mr. Bruno Peter Pini of London N.W.1, a member of the Broxbourne Aero Club. Most flights were local in the Broxbourne/Southend area.
1949        Converted to open cockpit form- sliding hoods removed. Photo – Air Britain Archive Summer 2003 p.76.
Having left Lympne the previous day, on 14th October 1949 a trip to France included a precautionary landing at Le Havre due to carburetor trouble. The aircraft then proceeded southwards via Limoges, Barcelona and Alicante en route to North Africa.
24 Oct 49        Crashed at Adra in Spain whilst being flown by Mr. Pini when returning from the Oran International Rally. Last flight; the aircraft had hit an obstacle whilst taking off.
1 Jan 50           Ministry of Aviation Cancellation of Aircraft Registration form held by RAFM, ref. DC71/59/5 with effect from that date ‘by virtue of destruction of aircraft’
   Feb 50          Sold locally in Spain; though badly damaged it was taken over by the Granada Aero Club and in 1958 was ‘awaiting registration’.
Dec 73            Remains found by Wilson ‘Connie’ Edwards in a scrapyard near Tablada Air Force Base, Seville, missing its elevators, wheel spats and instruments ; photo – Flypast May 2001 p.86-87, with the propeller moving to a nearby air base bar shortly afterwards.
Nov 75            Airframe and propeller acquired by Mr. Louis (Lew) Casey of Charlottesville, VA USA (Curator of the National Air & Space Museum) and shipped to the ‘States, with the intention of restoring it for static museum display. Photo of complete fuselage and centre section, in poor condition with rotted woodwork, decayed fabric, stripped cockpit, but engine in situ, as delivered to the USA; Aeroplane Monthly July 1976 p.371. Initially stored as part of the Aeroflex Museum Foundation Collection at Santee, North Carolina, Fred Hussey, owner of the Aeroflex Collection sponsoring the move from Andres Air Force Base.
                        Some restoration duly undertaken by Louis Casey, and Peter Schare; the aircraft later moved to Lew Casey’s home in Fork Union, Virginia where a basement was dug under the house to make room for the aircraft! Photo- Air Britain Archive Summer 2003 p.76.
                        New drawings were produced, missing parts were acquired and many smaller components conserved, and much structural work completed. The engine, estimated to have flown some 100-150 hours, was overhauled at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
       Jul 2000    Donated to RAF Museum by Mr. Casey and shipped to UK shortly afterwards.
16 Oct 00        Arrived at Felixstowe Docks, Suffolk.
19 Oct 00        Delivered to RAFM Reserve Collection facility at RAF Wyton, Cambs. Photo of partly restored airframe laid out at Wyton for press day, 15th November 2000; Flypast January 2001 p.3.
 30 Mar 01       Airframe to Skysport Engineering, Hatch, Beds for restoration. Photos – Flypast May 2001 p.87; Flypast November 2001 p.9, with undercarriage fitted and cockpit being fitted out.
 3 May 02       To new Michael Beetham Conservation Centre, Cosford, Shropshire for continued restoration. Photos – Flypast July 2002 p.24; Aircraft Illustrated February 2003 p.85; Wrecks and Relics 19th and 21st editions.
 26 Sep 04       To Skysport Engineering, Hatch, Beds for restoration of outer wing panels and recovering of the ailerons. Photos at Skysport – Flypast December 2004 p.16; Aeroplane April 2005 p.10.
16 Feb 06        Returned to MBCC, RAF Museum Cosford for further work and painting.
18 Aug 08        By road to RAFM for display in Milestones building.


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