The Devon Strut started in September 1979 with a group of eight local Popular Flying Association members and enthusiastic homebuilders getting together for a meeting in Plymouth, south west England. Many of those early homebuilders went on to win prizes for their creations, including Ron Martin and Clive Repik who both built beautiful Isaac's Furies. Dave Silsbury, who built a VP2, also won Best Homebuilt for his Pietenpol Air Camper in 1988 and then went on to win many prizes over the years for his workmanship. Indeed the Strut as a whole won the David Faulkner-Bryant Shield for best Strut back in 1988. Heady days indeed!
In those early days Strut meetings tended mainly to involve visits to various workshops to see how other people's projects were getting on. Visits to one particular member's projects were always eagerly anticipated. Not only was he putting together a beautiful biplane in the garage but he was also the owner of one of the first video players and had a collection of early video tapes - Electric Blue 3 was particularly memorable!
Six of the original eight are still members of the Strut despite being well stricken in years and their hazy memories recall Dunkeswell as the "home" airfield and the scene of the strut's one annual Fly-In. Since that time there has been a great deal of change. Instead of being comprised of mainly enthusiast builders, we are now mainly enthusiast flyers. Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot of homebuilding and restoration going on in Devon, but it is no longer the focus of the Strut's activities. The Strut currently (2009) numbers over two hundred and twenty, and between them those members own over 200 aircraft. One year, there were actually more aircraft than members! I am pleased to say that the vast majority are permit, classic or vintage aircraft or similar; Austers and Jodels for instance. In this respect we have a major centre of activity at Eggesford, which is the base for far more Austers than any sensible person would want to see at one time! Watchford Farm also has over twenty, generally vintage and homebuilt, aircraft based there.
Being a rural area, we are blessed with a large number of farm strips, although not all have as many aircraft based as the two previously mentioned. This has been the means whereby one of the greatest changes has come about, namely the explosion in the numbers of fly-ins. Gone are the days of us just holding one annual fly-in at Dunkeswell. Thanks to the untiring work of our committee, we have an Annual Regional Rally at Dunkeswell and local fly-ins at over a dozen farm strips and airfields throughout the southwest, including one on Lundy Island, which has a Devon postcode and thus qualifies as one of our local strips! During the winter months, if the weather permits, we organise impromptu "scrambles" that are promulgated by email, to various aerodromes in the area. This makes for some very interesting flying for Strut members and anyone else who cares to make the journey to our far-flung outpost, just off the left hand end of what most people think as the flying world.
Some of the notable homebuilts are worthy of mention. Dave Silsbury's Isaacs Fury was subsequently converted into a Hawker Nimrod replica by the late Robin Bowes who also owned the famous ex-Harold Penrose Currie Wot Airymouse and also the Fokker Triplane replica G-BEFR which won Best Replica at a PFA Cranfield rally. Besides his trusty Cub G-BJEI, Howard Cox built one of the few UK examples of the Bede BD5 but after several test flights, the type was grounded by the CAA. Happily, Howard continues to fly the Bede in Eire.
Fly-ins keep us occupied during the summer months, including bbq's and Young Eagles / Air Scouts educational flying experience events but during the winter, when even the glorious Devon weather becomes slightly damp and cold and flying is more limited, we have evening meetings with guest speakers. These usually take place on the second Thursday of each month at the Ley Arms in Kenn, south west of Exeter but it is advisable to check our homepage for details. Oh yes, that's another change that has taken place. This website is intended to provide a comprehensive focus for our activities with all our contact details shown along with our monthly newsletter, an archive of past articles, fly-in updates, airfield details, weather, aircraft and project photo galleries, adverts and links to everything else you could wish to know. Have a peruse, its well worth it. Just like Devon, when you come to think about it!
The PFA made the transition to the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) in January 2008 and we aspire to provide a showcase for the LAA in the southwest and support its vision & objectives as one of the leading voices for UK light aviation. Our success in pursuing these objectives was reflected in the Strut being awarded the David Faulkner-Bryant Shield for the third time in our history at the LAA AGM on 13th February 2010.
Jim Gale accepted the David Faulkner-Bryant Shield on behalf of the Strut from LAA President, Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Sir John Allison KCB, CBE, FRAeS, RAF. (photo by Brian Hope)
(Updated from an original Popular Flying article by Ernie Hoblyn.)
Clive's Fury after its F/F went on to win 'Best Homebuilt' at Cranfield in 1985
Dave Silsbury's Pietenpol Air Camper - Best Homebuilt 1988
John Prowse's Taylor Mono
Dave Silsbury's Isaacs Fury