Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

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Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:12 pm

Postby 266 » 02 Aug 2015, 23:20

This has probably been raised before, but I'm seeking some logic or pattern to WEJ's invention of hypothetical aircraft, when real life would have provided him with suitable candidates for his story. The category of topic is simply because I've had a VV-like attack of "why not make a model of ....as it appears in ...."

Overall, it seems that the wartime stories, and most of the Air Police stories use real aircraft (the latter notable exceptions being the Merlin and Gadfly, plus the odd mysterious prototype). It's the "ripping yarn" phase of the 1930's that most intrigues me, as much as anything for the inconsistency. B & Co, for example has real Bulldog, Heracles, Falcon; but fantasy Cormorant, plus of course the un-named German types which could be anything. Flies North is so blatant in its naming that you'd have to believe WEJ was poking the borax at someone, which makes me think it was an editorial decision to not use commercial brands in the book. But why some and not others?? Any ideas??
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:12 pm

by Kismet » 02 Aug 2015, 23:28

If I was an author, I would get really fed up with people writing in to tell me that a plane couldn't do what I wanted it to for plot purposes, so I would invent one which would have exactly the range, the airspeed, the cockpit arrangement etc that I wished it to have for the story.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:12 pm

Postby kylie_koyote » 02 Aug 2015, 23:45

WEJ says he got letters from hundreds of children when he had a plane fly outside its endurance range. I bet that would be extremely annoying.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:12 pm

Postby Kismet » 02 Aug 2015, 23:54

I don't know why sometimes he used real aircraft and sometimes invented ones, though.

Maybe it was just fashion. Maybe his editors wanted total realism some days and the opposite on other days.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:13 pm

by tiffinata » 03 Aug 2015, 00:59

Is there a particular time frame? Ie are most of the make ups written during a time when there would have been a war on/preparing for one and possibly the information on real aircraft kept more secret?
Post war production- perhaps there was nothing that came close to what was wanted? I'd guess that aircraft production numbers fell fairly severely after the war.

Speaking of aircraft, I read last night that there were 11,461 Wellington's built from 1938-1945 and there are now only two left in the world :(
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:13 pm

by VickersVandal » 03 Aug 2015, 02:08

266 wrote:
I've had a VV-like attack of "why not make a model of ....as it appears in ...."


:D :lol:

Be thankful it was only an attack and not the lifelong chronic condition that I have to live with :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Overall, it seems that the wartime stories, and most of the Air Police stories use real aircraft (the latter notable exceptions being the Merlin and Gadfly, plus the odd mysterious prototype). It's the "ripping yarn" phase of the 1930's that most intrigues me, as much as anything for the inconsistency. B & Co, for example has real Bulldog, Heracles, Falcon; but fantasy Cormorant, plus of course the un-named German types which could be anything. Flies North is so blatant in its naming that you'd have to believe WEJ was poking the borax at someone, which makes me think it was an editorial decision to not use commercial brands in the book. But why some and not others?? Any ideas??


So obviously, this topic is speaking my language and then some. :geek:
It's always puzzled me. Since it is only usually civil (or prototype) aircraft he did this for and not regular military aircraft in service, perhaps it was that he didn't want to be seen to be favouring certain manufacturers by featuring their aircraft. Or that he didn't want to risk their ire if he portrayed their aircraft in a way they didn't like.
But there is no real pattern or logic to it. In Africa, the aircraft are specifically mentioned ("Dragon Moth" - i.e. DH.84 Dragon and the well known Puss Moth) while most other interwar stories have purely fictitious types. In B&Co the team use a fictional "Cormorant" while Stella uses a real aircraft (Miles Falcon). I really can't figure out what WEJ was doing.
I've kind of given up trying to and instead just concern myself on working out which real aircraft would have formed the inspiration for his fictitious types. I have plenty of ideas (and research) there if you have another of these attackes and are trying to work out which kit to use.

Kismet wrote:
If I was an author, I would get really fed up with people writing in to tell me that a plane couldn't do what I wanted it to for plot purposes, so I would invent one which would have exactly the range, the airspeed, the cockpit arrangement etc that I wished it to have for the story.


I think you're on the money there.


On a related note, I've just finished building the Bolivian Junkers Trimotor mentioned in Condor - one of those slightly odd moments where a definitely real aircraft takes part in a completely fictitious event in a Biggles story. I'll post up pics once I have some decent ones.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:26 pm

Postby 266 » 03 Aug 2015, 04:35

Kismet wrote:
If I was an author, I would get really fed up with people writing in to tell me that a plane couldn't do what I wanted it to for plot purposes, so I would invent one which would have exactly the range, the airspeed, the cockpit arrangement etc that I wished it to have for the story.


Second attempt at writing this - the first one vanished into cyberspace. Kismet, YES. It makes sense, and he did comment on exactly that issue. It still leaves the question of inconsistency, why some real and some not. A conundrum...

Anyway, I've looked at some of the possible sources and come up with a start on "Goes to War," where I'll be looking for a Gloster Gauntlet in lieu of the Lance, and Arado 65, Heinkel 45 and Junkers 52 for the German-supplied Lovitzna Air Force. In other books, the "Scud" amphibian I pick as a Saro Cloud, partly for its description and partly for the coincident lettering of S-aro C-lo-UD. The Condor, well, two ways of looking at it depending on which edition you read...in the too hard basket for now. The Vandal I would look at as a Viking IV or possibly Vanellus, but it gets a bit murkier when trying to pick a prototype for the Explorer, Wanderer and Nemesis. In "B & Co" there seems to be a consensus of the Cormorant being a Dragon or Rapide, with the German types having several possibilities, though they could all be Me 108s.

The Tourer of "Flies South" could be a Monospar, but that would shed its wings at 300+mph (as required by the story), so my pick is an Airspeed Envoy, which only MIGHT shed its wings at 300+mph. "Flies North" leads to all sorts of possibilities, but the names of Rockheed, Weinkel and Bluewing give fairly broad hints as to what was intended. In the end, I might just start out with some straightforward uncoded real DeHavillands as per "B in Africa!"
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:26 pm

Postby VickersVandal » 03 Aug 2015, 07:06

Personally, I disregard anything but the original editions for descriptions and illustrations, given that most (if not all) later changes were made to "update" the stories for post-WW2 setting.

We had a number of discussions in the past about this but I imagine they've vanished with previous iterations of the forum. If you like, I could post up an extract from my model database that has my picks for the best matches to story descriptions and illustrations. Often these were wildly different - e.g. the Wanderer having turnbuckles in the story (that were sabotaged) but being a monoplane in illustrations with not a rigging wire to be seen.

Also, some discussion from the group build we had last year, particularly concerning the Launcester Lance (Launcestershire <-> Gloucestershire...."Lonster" <-> Gloster)
http://uamf.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=282& ... er#p204894
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:27 pm

by 266 » 03 Aug 2015, 09:50

Please do post your database.It should be illuminating to say the least. And if nothing else, the books' randomness of description allows free range to our own imaginations.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:27 pm

Postby VickersVandal » 05 Aug 2015, 00:39

Here it is:
39B7CEFD-696D-4283-9A6E-8C2AA5F3F9B6.png
Anything sufficiently divorced from reality (a ??? entry) is something I would scratchbuild from illustrations - e.g. the Scud. For the rest, I try to work from a kit of the nearest match.
When the book and illustrations are very different, I am inclined to build two separate models based on each.

Any Biggles models I have completed to date are in the gallery:
gallery/album.php?album_id=18
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:30 pm

Postby VickersVandal » 05 Aug 2015, 01:25

I also find YABS quite helpful - not so much for the aircraft ID but that it has a fairly exhaustive list of what appears in the books, including descriptions for the fictionals.

http://yabs.isambard.com.au/prop-list.php
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:30 pm

Postby 266 » 05 Aug 2015, 02:21

Thanks for both of these sources...very useful. Between them and an overactive imagination I should be able to find something that looks the part. Biggest gap at present is the Explorer Wanderer Nemesis trio; Wanderer seems to be single engined in Charter Pilot but twin engined in Jungle. The others could be any of several British flying boat types...except that they are amphibians, and the available real life machines are not. Maybe I'll just leave those till last...
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:30 pm

Postby VickersVandal » 05 Aug 2015, 03:00

Yeah, I've kind of given up on the Wanderer from the book description and will rely on the illustration.
Remind me which book has the Explorer? I can't recall it off the top of my head.

There weren't too many British amphibians in the interwar period. I suspect that in WEJ's mind he may have reimagined the various experimental or military aircraft of the period (Vickers, Supermarine, Short, SARO) in amphibian form.

As I've mentioned previously, I would love to know how closely he worked with Howard Leigh to come up with the original illustrations.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:30 pm

by kylie_koyote » 05 Aug 2015, 10:17

Wasn't Howard his brother-in-law? And I think they lived in the same house for awhile too.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:30 pm

Postby tiffinata » 05 Aug 2015, 21:02

Great list. I shall delve into it further.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:30 pm

by 266 » 10 Aug 2015, 01:30

VickersVandal wrote:
Yeah, I've kind of given up on the Wanderer from the book description and will rely on the illustration.
Remind me which book has the Explorer? I can't recall it off the top of my head.

There weren't too many British amphibians in the interwar period. I suspect that in WEJ's mind he may have reimagined the various experimental or military aircraft of the period (Vickers, Supermarine, Short, SARO) in amphibian form.

As I've mentioned previously, I would love to know how closely he worked with Howard Leigh to come up with the original illustrations.


Sorry VV, I missed your query. Explorer was the aircraft used in "Hits the Trail"
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:30 pm

Postby VickersVandal » 10 Aug 2015, 11:40

Ah yes, of course. Thanks. I only recall it as the "Gannet", but that was its type, not its name.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:31 pm

Postby 266 » 12 Aug 2015, 04:39

Well, lots of study of available kits...."Africa" not as easy as I thought...am now keen to read early versions of Condor, Flies again, Black peril so as to be surer about what was intended there. The early cover illustrations are helpful in that regard. I'm fascinated by the early cover of Flies North, it illustrates the Jupiter exactly as described - but it resembles no real aircraft I can think of. So how to model it? I'll probably go with an alternative illustration (Armada) which shows a Boeing 247 - or similar. That's the only real machine I could think of that would have worked, even though it's a low wing. Other early edition illustrations show the Explorer/Gannet as a Scapa with wheels, and Nemesis/Storm as a Stranraer with wheels. Doable, if tricky.

All sorts of kits have presented themselves as candidates for other "imaginary" aircraft, but I still have a big question mark over Wanderer. Two engined in Jungle, single in Charter Pilot. Hmm. My old Jungle cover shows an early monoplane amphibian, but the text states a biplane. Double Hmm. Any ideas of what it might be? Or shall I just take it that the lads had two aircraft and a sentimental attachment to the name Wanderer?? All contributions gratefully received.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:31 pm

by VickersVandal » 12 Aug 2015, 06:51

266 wrote:
Other early edition illustrations show the Explorer/Gannet as a Scapa with wheels, and Nemesis/Storm as a Stranraer with wheels. Doable, if tricky.


Which early editions are these? Could you possibly post up a picture?

Looking at 1st eds, compare the Gannet:
http://www.biggles.info/Details/08/
with this Short Singapore:
http://aviadejavu.ru/Images6/FT/FT1927/12/932-1.jpg
(very different to a Scapa)

But the Scapa is a near exact match for the Storm if you add landing gear:
http://www.biggles.info/Details/12/
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:31 pm

Postby 266 » 12 Aug 2015, 07:45

Yeeha....thanks for those pictures. I had only small scale images of those books' covers; the frontispieces tell a much more interesting story. Yes, I'll go for a Singapore I in "Hits the Trail." The single fin in the frontispiece makes up for my imagined twin fins on the cover. As for the "Commodore" aircraft, the frontispiece shows a single fin there as well, which eliminates both Scapa and Stranraer. Of the two, Scapa is closest with the Kestrel engines illustrated. Thanks again, it changes my target models completely.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:31 pm

Postby 266 » 12 Aug 2015, 09:11

And after a spot of quick research it seems there is no Singapore 1 kit, just the 111 which was substantially different! Bother, or words to that effect. The good news is that by the time I work through the kits that are available, enough years will have passed for a suitable Singapore 1 kit to be on the market...if I can still hold a tube of glue and a paintbrush at age 103.

And so, Flies North it is. Weinkel 12 coming up.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:31 pm

Postby VickersVandal » 12 Aug 2015, 09:17

Hey yeah, I hadn't picked up on the single tail :oops:

You won't find a Singapore 1 kit, I can tell you that much. I have a Short Rangoon kit for my gannet and I was fortunate to be very generously given that by forum member Scion...after years of fruitless ebay watching.

I have a Stranny to kitbash for the Storm - a Scapa kit is quite rare and thus pretty costly if one does come up.


So does this mean you hadn't discovered Dr Biggles biggles.info website? If that's the case, you have truly been missing out and an exceptional world of Biggles reference awaits you!
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:31 pm

Postby VickersVandal » 12 Aug 2015, 09:22

266 wrote:
And after a spot of quick research it seems there is no Singapore 1 kit, just the 111 which was substantially different! Bother, or words to that effect. The good news is that by the time I work through the kits that are available, enough years will have passed for a suitable Singapore 1 kit to be on the market...if I can still hold a tube of glue and a paintbrush at age 103.

And so, Flies North it is. Weinkel 12 coming up.


Maybe one of the Eastern euro resin brands will kit it out....but I doubt it. It's fringe even for them.

Have you checked out my Weinkel build?
19
It was built in a rush so I'm not particularly happy with it to be honest (it gets pushed to the back of the cabinet and hidden behind the Rockheed) but you can't fuss over them all, I guess...


I assume you'll be using the same Revell HE70 kit?
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:32 pm

by 266 » 12 Aug 2015, 21:42

Yes, have just purchased same. Thinking however of doing the 170 version with radial engine. Will look at the kit when it gets here. Like your metal finish...functional and mean-looking with it. Aiming for a Vega DL1 as the Rockheed and Boeing (Bluewing) 247 as the Jupiter. Will look further for a model that resembles the Jupiter cover illustration before buying the 247. Yes, have now found the DrB site, albeit a bit late in the day. Well worth it.
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Re: Imaginary Aircraft of WEJ

Post by Fairblue » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:32 pm

by VickersVandal » 16 Aug 2015, 09:29

If you want a Scapa:
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Vintage-Cont ... 58ca125cac

I can't justify that price tag myself. Not high enough on the priorities list....

Also, good thinking with the Vega. Another very likely contender for Wilks' transport. I just bought the MPM kit the other day for my daughter to build Amelia Earhart's famous red version.

Orions were used for a number of Alaskan routes, hence I picked that over the Vega or Electra as a likely arctic gold transport.
The Decision to Survive - A good pilot is both born and made. The best would look upon his work as a combination of adventure and a serious mission. – Major General Sir Frederick Sykes

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