Blackburn Sidecar

By George Benson

The Blackburn Sidecar was an ‘ultralight’ plane designed and built at the close of the First World War in 1918.

The original 40 h.p. air-cooled flat twin provided inadequate power for take off at the estimated weight of 850 pounds including plane, two occupants, and 14 gallons of fuel (fed by wind-driven pump augmented by a hand pump). Later, a 100 h.p. engine was installed but little is known about its performance, and it was no longer complete two years later (like many of my models).

When completed the Blackburn Sidecar was displayed in Harrods department store in London, for sale at £450…but no takers. Thus it certainly did not bask in glory as a contender to be a plane for everyman.

My peanut model – I like oddball, unusual designs – also does not bask in glory. It has been decidedly difficult to trim, even foiling the assistance of Thayer Syme and Kermit Walker, two skilled fellow flyers. Admittedly, it has lived most of the time in a box with occasional airings in the gym when it completed half a circuit, in untidy fashion, until it was returned to the box to await freedom some months later.

All this despite an enlargement of the stabilizer and fin area by about 25%, from absurd to unacceptable. However, on its last outing, I refined my approach and scientifically added a wad of clay to a wing tip. This transformed the flight pattern and it soared…or more accurately circled for one and a half laps in a very refined manner. Needless to say, I was dizzy with excitement.

Now for the big question, and all are invited to cast your vote:

1. Do I save it as a "hangar queen"?
2. Do I trim it further?
3. Do I save the wheels and prop , then crumple it?


planecrazy said...

George - As you say, I've seen it "fly" and I've even tried to help you fly it, mostly to no avail. It seems to stubbornly resist all the usual trim techniques and only when you stuck a rather large wad of clay on one wingtip did it do anything like a "normal" flight.

I guess at this point, my vote would be to just hang it up somewhere, maybe at a local hobby shop, as a "curiosity". After all, total frustration is really not what we are in this hobby for!


flyin_brian said...

It is such a cute little craft, I'd hate to see it smashed, George.

Maybe it just needs a bit more tweaking (remember when you were about to crush the Battle?).

Perhaps you could have everyone in the group take a look, and each person write down their suggested trim change on a peice of paper...then try each one and see what happens?!

dave W. said...

Crunching or crumpling...I get it, I've done it in the privacy of my workshop. But really, the proper way to destroy model airplanes is with firecrackers.

I agree with the other comments, this model is too nice to crumple. Not to mention the subject is unusual and the model makes a good conversation piece.