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In today’s Sydney Flyer article we are delighted to welcome back author Anthony Coleiro and the most recent instalment of his X-Files series. This is Anthony’s 136th article under the ‘X-Files’ banner for the club magazine. What a record!

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Throughout the history of flight, innovation and aviation have gone hand-in-hand with each other. The examples are too numerous to list individually but think of the progress we have made in the last 100+ years from timber and cloth with no instrumentation to pressurised composite structures controlled by computers. The speed of innovation is enough to blow you away. Mostly, innovation progresses in increments but for its time, the Carden-Baynes Bee did a whole lot at once.

The Carden-Baynes Aircraft Ltd Company was formed in the mid-1930s by Leslie. Baynes and to honour his colleague who had been tragically killed, he put his name ahead of his own in the registered company name. Sir John Carden had been assisting him with the design of a new light aircraft.

Baynes managed to raise some capital and premises for the company was acquired in Heston Airport in 1936 and he made a start on the design work for the new light civil aircraft. The aircraft was called Bee and innovation with his design was from the get-go.

At that time in the UK, aircraft for private personal use were single engine affairs, not the Bee, it was to have two engines and these were to be buried in the wing driving pusher propellers. The normal seating configuration was in tandem for a two-seater, again not the Bee, it was to be side-by-side seating. For ease of storage and transportation, the wings could be folded and with the now necessarily wider fuselage, the wheel shock absorbers were now mounted in the fuselage.

Looking at these innovations individually, let’s start with the engines. To minimise drag, it was decided to bury the engines completely within the wing so as to have no protuberances. The wing needs to be thick enough for this and the aerofoil section used was the Göttinggen 386. This aerofoil had a flat under surface and was well suited for the other innovation of folding wings. The engines chosen for the aircraft was a pair of Ford 40 h.p. supercharged 4-cylinder water-cooled engines. These engines were heavily modified and became known as Carden-Ford S.P.1 engines.

To make these engines fit within the thickness of the wing trailing edge they had to be mounted on their side and this is where one of those ingenious innovations was employed, the engine was part of the structure of the wing. How this was done was between the crankcase and the sump of the engine was inserted a wing web that conformed to the profile of the rear part of the wing section and to not disrupt the aerofoil shape, the propeller was attached to the end of a short shaft so that they could be extended to the trailing edge of the wing. The radiators had to be specially built and this was done by the British Thermostat Company. The head of the company was a personal friend of Baynes and he came up with a design that could be buried within the wings with airflow into them facilitated by slots cut into the underside of the wing.

As mentioned, for ease of storage and transportation the wings of 9.15 metres span could be folded. This was done by the removal of two pins and the wings could then be swivelled back on their turntable mounting. The top of the fuselage aft of the wing had length wise doors that when opened up, revealed a flat surface for the flat underside of the high set wings to rest on. The wings and the rectangular section fuselage were of stressed-skin construction, an innovation that was new at the time. The tailplane however was more conventional in its construction being made of a plywood covering and the rudder was also made of wood and was fabric covered.

The side-by-side seating meant that only one control column was needed. It was in the ‘Y’ configuration mounted between the seats not unlike the modern Australian built Jabiru LSA aircraft. This also meant only one set of instruments was needed which simplified things and saved on weight. The seats were designed to accommodate the pilots wearing backup parachutes. To access the cockpit, the canopy was swung backwards and each pilot had their own door to get in, most civilised; more dignified than clambering over the sill of the cockpit.

The undercarriage was of the more conventional tail-dragger layout but the tailskid was steerable and it was fitted with a small steel roller to minimise wear. The mainwheels were fitted with low pressure tyres and they protruded out from under the fuselage just aft of the seats.

Leslie Baynes was lucky enough to receive support from The Scottish Aeroplane Company so when it was time to flight test the aircraft; he was able to secure the services of Hubert Broad the chief test pilot of de Havilland to test his machine. The aircraft was issued the registration of G-AEWC for the tests but it is unclear if it was actually applied to the aircraft before it flew.

Even before the first flight test, problems occurred, the engines were giving grief with starting difficulties and if they ran, it was not at the same time. A lot of work was put into resolving these problems. The aircraft did finally take to the air on April 3 1937 and while its handling was considered a success, the engines were still a problem and one of them overheated on this first flight. More modifications were needed to improve airflow through the buried radiators.

More flights were made and a maximum speed of 225 k/ph was achieved, its normal cruise speed was 161 k/ph and it had an endurance of 3 hours but again problems with the cooling system surfaced that necessitated a forced landing with one of the wings hissing away like a boiling kettle.

It is said that thrust and lift does not cause an aircraft to fly, it is money that does that. Without it, no aircraft can stay in the air. Baynes had been successful in attracting funding; he even got a promise of funds from the man who designed his radiators, Captain Payne. Unfortunately before funds could be transferred, Payne died as a result surgical complications. The British Thermostat Company then was passed on to Payne’s brother who also planned to back the venture and become a board member but again before that happened; he also died. Baynes was beginning to think he was jinxed. Money was drying up, the debts were beginning to mount up and he pinned his hopes on the Scottish Aeroplane Company supporting him, instead he had the rug pulled from under him by them and as soon as he got the Bee back to Heston after retrieving it from the field that it had forced landed in as mentioned earlier. The Bee was impounded and locked away in a hanger. With no money and no prospect of getting any as it was now 1939 and the political skies were darkening with events unfolding in Europe, the only Bee ever constructed was broken up and scrapped.

Baynes did have plans to design another aircraft using the Bee as its basis and he did receive backing and this looked like a goer but then those darkening clouds developed into the storm that was World War II. Baynes was still of military service age and so he applied to join the fight but he was turned down as he was considered far too valuable as an innovative designer and was instead put to work with the aircraft section of Alan Muntz & Co at Heston Airfield as its chief technician to work on war projects.


Aeroplane Monthly
July 1992
IPC Media Ltd

British Civil Aircraft
1919-59 Volume 1
A. J. Jackson

Anthony Coleiro

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