Before the BMAA 1909 - 1939

In the first world war, aircraft were conscripted into uniform. Then between the wars, there were dreams of aerial buses which had to be realised. All this drive forward tended to exclude those who wished to fly at low speed and purely for fun. Such indulgence was considered almost treasonable by some, and as a curiosity by most of the rest.

It hadn't always been so: Alberto Santos-Dumont, despite an income larger than the budget of a small country, nevertheless designed his 1909 'Demoiselle 20' with quantity production in mind. He wanted to bring aviation to the masses. Just three years later in the USA, the same G M Bellanca who was to give his name to so many light aircraft was sufficiently smitten with Santos-Dumont's offspring to create an exact forerunner, using contemporary technology, of the pioneering ultralight designs of the 70s, the Australian 'Scout' and the 'Kolb Flyer'.

Of course it would be wrong to say there was no pleasure in flying going on before the advent of ultralights, but is was certainly not the popular pastime it is today. In Europe between the wars, though rapid progress was being made by the gliding fraternity, biplanes like de Pischof's in 1921 45 hp 'Aerial Scooter' and Farman's 1923 60 hp 'Le Sport' were beginning a pursuit of power which eclipsed their contemporaries. Nevertheless, Henri Mignet re-discovered the joys of simple flight with his 20 hp 'Pou-du-Ciel', as did Taylor in the first of the American 'Cubs', while other notable designs included the E-2 two-seater of 1931 with 37 hp, and the 'Cycloplane' of the same year, looking like a microlight with its two-stroke 25 hp engine. There were others too, like the British 22 hp BAC 'Drone' motor glider of 1933, the 36 hp Aeronca 'C-3' two-seater of 1934, and the 36 hp Czech 'Praga Baby' of 1935.