THE HALTON AERO CLUB MAYFLY
By Francis Hanford, Curator, Trenchard Museum
The Halton Aero Club was formed in December 1925 with the objective of building a light aircraft which could compete in the 1926 Lympne Trials. Under the leadership of two senior Instructors, A C Commode and C H Latimer-Needham, a membership of some 1100 staff and apprentices, RAF Halton, toiled to complete the latter’s sesquiplane design in time for the competition. In spite of working round the clock during the last fortnight, they failed. However, undaunted, they continued at a more leisurely pace and HAC 1, newly christened as the Mayfly, made its first flight on 1 February 1927, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Le Poer-Trench. After modifications to the aileron controls, a Certificate of Airworthiness was granted on 11 May.
The Mayfly’s first entry in competition brought success. At the Hampshire Air Pageant, with 500 Apprentices in attendance, it took first place in 2 out of the 3 events, winning The President’s Cup and £50. This was followed by meetings at Bournemouth, Bristol, Halton, Nottingham, Liverpool and Leeds in which a further £150 and the Selfridge and Leeming cups were won. This achievement came in spite of successive event organisers imposing increasing handicaps, which were overcome by the series of improvements made after each meeting that increased
its top speed from 75 to 83V2 mph. In the quest for better performance for the 1928 season, the winter was spent converting HAC 1 into HAC 2. This involved the removal of the lower wings to reduce weight and drag and caused her to be rechristened as Minus. In this guise she remained competitive and her speed eventually increased to over 90 mph. However, 1929 proved less successful and for a variety of reasons the Halton Aero Club stopped building its own aircraft. Minus disappeared and her fate is not recorded.
The Trenchard Museum’s replica is the result of 4 years hard work by Brian Ellis, who was an engines and corrosion prevention instructor at Halton as a Flight Sergeant from 1972 to 1974 and as a civilian from 1978 to 1994. With the assistance of Rob Cooper and Tony Merry (75th), work continues in the James McCudden Flight Heritage Centre’s workshop. As the only drawings of the original come from a contemporary article in “Flight” magazine, the details have had to be designed by the building team, working from contemporary photographs and drawings. To give an idea of the effort involved, each wing rib is made of 52 pieces, each cut by hand. There is much still to be done. Although we would like to fly her when complete, the limited finances of the Trenchard Museum cannot stretch to the costs involved in gaining a certificate of airworthiness. However, we are sure that you will agree that our Mayfly will make a worthy exhibit and tribute, both to the Apprentices of the 1920s and the museum voluntary staff.