NEAM

North East Aircraft Museum      

The Luton Major on display at the North East Aircraft Museum was donated by Peter Jobes, the museum's solicitor. The aircraft registration G-ARAD was started in 1959; however this came to an end due to difficulties with stress calculations.

Commentary from the 1950s

     

Readers may be interested in details of a little-known ultra-light two-seat aircraft which was built just before the war. The machine, the Luton L.A.5 Major, was designed by Mr. G. H. Latimer-Needham of the Luton Aircraft Company and built at the Luton works, Gerrards Cross, in 1939.

The Major, based on the earlier single-seat Minor, was of all-wood construction, the fuselage centre-section consisting of five steel tubular cross members (three at the bottom, two at the top) with tubular plan bracing. The undercarriage was similar to that of the Piper Cub and was sprung by means of rubber blocks in compression housed in neat fairings on the tension struts.

The cabin door consisted of two halves, one folding down and the other upwards to a latch on the underside of the wing.

Designed as a tandem two-seat touring and training machine, full dual control was fitted. A great feature of the Major was its folding wings. Folding was accomplished by the withdrawal of two pins from the front spar fittings at the root end. The wings then folded back until their trailing edges met along the center-line of the fuselage. To permit the relatively large chord wings to fold thus, the trailing edge tapered inversely towards the root from the inboard aileron rib.

The Major used a number of Luton Minor components, and wing ribs were built in the same jigs as those for the Minor with slight modifications. Tailplane and elevators were the same save for the addition of a trim-tab to the port elevator.

The wing consisted of two built-up plywood-and-spruce spars, and each was divided into three wire-braced drag bays. "Vee" struts braced the wings to the fuselage.

Powered by a 62-h.p. Walter Mikron II, the one and only Major, registered G-AFMU, made its first flight at Denham on 12th March 1939. The pilot was Squadron-Leader (now Group Captain) E. L. Mole, who was to do a considerable amount of the subsequent test-flying of the machine. He reported that the machine flew remarkably well and was very stable.

In the summer of 1939, with the price fixed at 525 ex-works, the manufacturers had orders for five machines. The fuselages were built and wings started. When war was declared, the factory was converted for the manufacture of war supplies, and G-AFMU , the unfinished Majors, several Luton Minors and the one and only Buzzard were stored in a corner. In 1943, during the machining of magnesium castings, fire broke out and gutted the works with the loss of several lives.

Of the aircraft, nothing remained. However, from the remains of the office were salvaged the badly burned and wate-.soaked drawings for the Major. Mr. Latimer- Needham preserved these fragile documents until, at the suggestion of the writer, they were unearthed a few months ago.

The task of deciphering and redrawing the plans began. Some drawings were totally destroyed which necessitated a certain amount of basic design work. At last the drawings were finished and ready to start work from.

News that a new company is being formed to take over the development of a modernized Luton Minor as well as the Luton Major for amateur construction means that at last we are to have a British-designed single-seater and two-seater for the amateur constructor.

Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume, Popular Flying Association, Bembridge, Isle of Wight.

Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume


Comment received

Mac Morrison      

I am particularly interested in the Luton Major, G-ARAD, as I did help in the building of the G-ARAD, Luton Major, North East Aircraft Museum machine, as a friend of the builder, the late William Sproat. I have enclosed a photograph of the same William Sproat which I took myself while warming up the engine of the Piper Cub. If you look closely the fuselage and fin and rudder of G-ARAD are plain to see. I thought you might be interested in a little bit of back ground, just let me know.

I now live in Cape Town, near Mr Sproat's Daughter, so any news about the old aeroplane would be nice to have and would be of interest to both of us.

Yours sincerely, Mac Morrison