Isle of Thanet

By George Benson

The Isle of Thanet "Duration Model" was a 24 inch outdoor model of unusual body shape in the August 1939 issue of the British Aero Modeller magazine. The plan was on one page, half scale, only one half of the body drawn in plan view, no prop size shown, but at the tender age of 11, I drew the plan to full size, and tackled the building. This proceeded slowly, I suffered many longeron breakages from the odd shape, but eventually built it, ready for the flying season at Chobham Common in Surrey, England.

By then, my father and I were members of the Walton and District Model Flying Club. Despite the war breaking out in September, we flew outdoors regularly on Summer Sundays. Oddly, I do not remember it raining or being cold, however I do remember cycling with both parents for 10 miles each way, armed with sandwiches, thermos of tea and my father's plane and my Isle of Thanet in a strong cardboard box strapped on my back with heavy cord which dug into me. I guess I did not have enough sense to pad the cord. As the military also learned to drive army tanks at the Common, a chase ensued to retrieve our planes before the driver crushed it, although I think now they would have veered away after causing us anxiety.

So much for my reminiscences, I had always remembered this model and a few years ago, when I returned to aeromodelling, I advertised in the Aeromodeller for a copy of the plan. Lo and behold, I received photocopies from a New Zealander and a gentleman from Southern California so I set to building. This time, I avoided redrawing by photocopying the plan, enlarging it, inverting the drawing of half the fuselage, oiling it with olive oil to make the paper translucent, taping it together so I had a full plan view of the body and building was underway.

Being far older and wiser,....I thought....I would have no problem with the longerons breaking, but "pride goeth before a fall" and I did indeed break longerons, and also had a warped body as well. This time too, I had another humbling time when adding a DT. The fuselage tail has a very narrow taper, and I had considerable anguish fitting the stabilizer securely and yet having it pop up as the DT activated.

Eventually, I had it flying satisfactorily, though never reliably, due to aforementioned unstable stabilizer plus rubber bunching in the narrow fuselage at the rear. However, I am pleased to say, I do NOT have to cycle 10 miles each way, nor do I have cords cutting into my shoulder from the box containing the planes.

I also scaled down the plan and built an indoor model, about 14 or 15 inch which flew adequately, though would tend to stall for no apparent reason when circling in the gymnasium.


planecrazy said...

Ah, Chobham Common - I know it well. Right near Woking, and not far from Shearwater and Byfleet. Just kidding, I looked it up on Google maps!
Nice model, if a bit "weird-looking" in the fuselage department.
It's remembrances like these that help keep us "old guys" like George and I going - building and flying. I guess that's why Old Timer and Nostalgia designs have gotten as popular as they have recently.

flyin_brian said...

Wonderful story, George...
thanks for sharing that.

It sure is a neat little model,
any idea how it got its name?

Jim M said...

>Ah, Chobham Common - I know it well.

Me, too - and I didn't hve to look it up... lol

lew there regualrly in 50's, last drove down from Yorkshire about 64/65 for a contest for 'old times sake'. In the earlier days the few trees on the hill - 'the clump ' had 12" nails up the trunks to help in retrieving models from the upper branches; tree are gone now, I hear. Used to be lots of adders basking in the sun on the hillside, too.

Nice to see a 'Thanet' built, have often wondered about it

Jim M - Ontario, Canada