No, it’s not that Prince of Mirth, that irrepressible WW2 comedian, Tommy Handley – it’s my friend Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume. Arthur is one of those people who keep popping in and out of your life, bringing constant surprises. Many people know of his work as a designer at the aircraft manufacturers, Handley Page Ltd, some know him as the man who rescued the Luton Minor from obscurity, or laid the foundations for the post-war British ‘home-built aircraft’ movement in 1949, with the foundation of the Ultra-Light Aircraft Association, others as a superb author, especially on the subject of British light aircraft, but not too many realize that he was also responsible for the resurgence of the Gardan G120 Minicab.
A product of the fertile mind of the French designer Yves Gardan (also designer of the GY80 Horizon, and the Sipa 90), the wooden, two-seat Minicab first flew in prototype form on 1st February, 1949. Yves Gardan wanted to produce a smaller, simpler version of the Sipa 90, and the Minicab proved ideal. Powered by a relatively cheap and easily available four-cylinder Continental Motors Corporation A65-12 engine of 65 hp (as used in the Piper J3 Cub, and many other light aircraft), the G120 had a maximum speed of 125 mph, cruised at 112 mph and had a gentle stall which took effect at 47 mph, making landings a breeze. Yves formed Constructions Aéronautiques du Béarn with his friend Max Laporte at Pau, near the Pyrennes. A batch of 22 aircraft were built, before the company unfortunately closed down. It could have been the case of a promising design being lost forever, but this is where Arthur comes into the picture.
Acquiring the French drawings and the rights to produce the G120 Minicab, he set about Anglicizing the drawings (re-drawing them so as to meet U.K. Civil Aviation Authority Airworthiness Requirements), then modifying the design so that it could be produced by home-builders from a set of simplified plans. The plans were approved by the then Popular Flying Association (now the Light Aircraft Association), for construction under the supervision of their band of qualified Inspectors, and Minicabs were soon being built not just in the U.K. but as far away as Australia and the U.S.A. Well played, Arthur!
The aircraft you can see here, G-BCPD (formerly on the French Register as F-BGKN), is attending the Great Vintage Flying Weekend at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, Gloucestershire. It is fairly rare, as it one of the factory-built machines (construction number #18) which first flew in 1952, just before CAB closed. It is owned by Phillip Cozens, of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, and is a well-travelled example, being seen at many aircraft rallies and events around the country, including the PFA Regional Rally at Sherburn, Yorkshire (EGCA); GVFWE 10th Anniversary Rally, Keevil, 2006; Kemble (EGBP) 2006 and the Vintage Aircraft Club Daffodil Fly-In at Fenland (EGCL), 2006.
The Minicab story is never-ending it seems, for as well as an upgraded version built by Monsieur Jean Barritault, a Canadian company, Squaircraft, re-designed the aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage, and stronger fuselage and engine bearers to take engines up to 135 hp.
Like the Minicab, my friend Arthur goes on and on. Despite having made his mark on aeronautics and the aviation world, few will know that he is also an acknowledged expert in the field of mechanical musical instruments. There truly is no end to this man’s talents!