THE LEEMING - PRINCE - WOOD GLIDER

Drawings and pictures

In 1922 John Leeming started to design his fifth glider, as the cheapest possible way to get airborne, but even the cost of materials worried him. He knew that Avro had made 8,340 Avro 504K trainers, and many were then stored but unwanted. So he approached Avro to seek scrap materials, and met Clement Wood of the Sales staff, who turned out to be a kindred spirit. They raided the "scrap pile" and probably got major components needing minor repairs. The most costly items were two bicycle wheels that cost full price.

Pictures of the finished glider show clear resemblances with the Avro 504K, fuselage curves, wing tip shape, ailerons, tailplane, elevator & rudder, plus a fixed fin from a seaplane version. Control cable runs to the tail unit, and wing bracing points are also consistent. One of the Avro workshop foremen, Tom Prince, joined them to supervise the work, hence LPW stood for Leeming Prince & Wood. The group grew to be ten strong, the nucleus of the Lancashire Aero Club at Barton.

The Daily Mail gliding contest at Itford came and went in October 1922. The LPW had been started, but they didn't join the scramble to make an instant glider. The Brokker (Fokker D.7 wing panels on a Bristol Fighter body) soared the hill for an hour, which must have been very encouraging.

Leeming cut off the nose and front cockpit, and faired it in. Wing panels were fixed to the top fuselage longerons and braced from upper pylons and the bottom of the fuselage. The thin wings had two spars, so the lift bracing wires also added torsional stiffness; a picture shows that the outer wings twisted nose-up, so the front bracings should have been shortened. The result was a pleasing glider for 1924, with an enclosed body rather than the later open framework. But gliding performance wouldn't be too good, with a large fuselage and so many bracing wires. Based on simple assumptions, it probably stalled at 25 knots, had minimum sink of 3 knots at 30 knots, and maximum glide 12 to 1.

Flying took place on Alexandra Park aerodrome, in the middle of Manchester, starting 24 May 1924. Car towing, having trouble with long grass. Rope length quoted as 200 feet, so straight hops were all that was possible. Several pilots flew on many occasions. Sadly Leeming crashed the LPW in September 1924 when flying for press photographers on a windier day than usual. Struggling to fly

level in the gusts, he didn't notice how high he had reached so quickly. The driver looked back and saw the glider above, probably feared that the rope would fall on him, stopped the car and ran away. The glider stalled, and didn't recover, probably through the wind gradient; Leeming wasn't hurt, but the glider was badly smashed. The newspaper pictures will be interesting, when found.

The wreck was rebuilt with an engine fitted, and used for taxying practice for new recruits, but never flew; Leeming says that it was too heavy, probably too nose-heavy. Then the embryo aero club got one of the first DH Cirrus Moths in 1925, and got on with serious flying, invented flour bombing and crazy flying by the fool who had never flown before but thought it looked easy. Leeming and Bert Hinkler landed a biplane on the peak of Helvellyn on 22 December 1926. The wind was strong but smooth, with regions of wild turbulence..........mountain wave ???

Leeming helped to persuade Manchester to develop the first civil aerodrome in Britain, Barton. Then he felt bound to start a taxi and cargo firm, to get some initial operations going. He wrote the first manual of pilot instruction for the PPL "A" certificate.

 

SOURCES.

Leeming's autobiography "Airdays" (Harrap 1936)
Robinson "Aviation in Manchester" (RAeS 1980)
Jackson "Avro Aircraft Since 1908" (Putnam 1990)
Owers "Avro 504K" (Radio Control Scale Aircraft, Feb.1992)