Seen taxying along at the Great Vintage Flying Weekend, Abingdon, is a little gem. This a Currie Wot, a genuine 1930s British design, but built from plans under the auspices of the Light Aircraft Association (formerly the Popular Flying Association). Two Wots were built by Cinque Ports Aviation Ltd, at Lympne, in 1937, to the design of J. R. 'Joe' Currie; the aircraft were powered by the reliable Aeronca JAP-99 two cylinder engine (see diary on the Dart Kitten). Unfortunately, both of these aircraft were lost in a raid by the Luftwaffe on Lympne Aerodrome, Kent on 15th August, 1940. Ju87 Stukas of II/StG 1 (escorted by Me109s) smashed the hangar containing the remaining aircraft of the Cinque Ports Flying Club – those that had not already been pulled back further inland – and the two Wots were destroyed by fire.
Post-war, Viv Bellamy, the Chief Flying Instructor of the Hampshire Aero Club (see diary on the Gladiator) acquired a set of drawings so that John Isaacs (see diary on the Isaacs Fury) could build two more Wots for their club. A whole new batch of Wots were home-built following WW2 – this example being built by Ralph Hart between 1970 and 1973, in an apartment! It is powered by a Continental A65-8F of 65hp, and is a delight to fly. However, it can be tricky on the ground, and G-AYNA suffered a landing accident at Enstone, Oxfordshire, in 2002. Perhaps that is why this aircraft has changed hands no less than eight times. This aircraft has also been flown in a Shuttleworth Air Display, in 2007, by the then-Shuttleworth Collection’s Chief Pilot, Andy Sephton. At various times, the Wot has been fitted with a selection of engines. For example, when H.J. Penrose - the test pilot of Westland Aircraft - acquired G-APNT, he removed the JAP-99 engine and fitted a 4 cylinder Czech-built Walter Mikron II engine of 60 hp. Even MORE radical, however, were the trials undertaken with G-APWT, which was fitted with a small industrial gas turbine, the Rover TP 60/1 of 70 hp, and called the HotWot, as that rarest of animals, a turbo-prop biplane! This aircraft is currently in the USA (MINUS the gas turbine, sadly) and will fly again. There is a certain ‘sit’ to the aircraft which makes it resemble various WWI types, and many Wots have been either initially built, or later modified, to look like an SE5a. Indeed, Slingsby Aviation built a series of six, 7/8th scale, SE5a replicas for film work in 1967 (amongst the films they were used on was 'Darling Lili'), and others are being modified.
The Wot has proved to be relatively easy to build, requiring no special tools or skills, and despite of (or because of) the age of the design it is still popular. A typical post-war Wot, when fitted with the Continental A65-8F, has a maximum speed of 95 mph, and a range of 240 miles, and I am sure that this elegant little 1930s design will be with us for a long time to come.