The Journal of the Friends of Sywell Aerodrome
No. 3 Autumn 1999
Miles Messenger G-AKIN
The start of a series on interesting aircraft resident at Sywell by Chris Parker
We'll start with an aeroplane that I'm lucky enough to know well, having flown it regularly since 1983, and this is Miles Messenger G-AKIN. 'IN started life in the Miles factory in Newtonards, Northern Ireland, in November 1947, being delivered to first owner Lindsay Everard (of the Leicester brewing family) in March of 1948. Less than a year later the Messenger was purchased by the Spiller family of Keyston, and quite remarkably remains in the same ownership to this day.
Miles Messenger G-AKIN on owner Norman Spiller's airstrip at Keyston.
The Miles company (led by 'FG' Miles together with his wife 'Blossom', and brother George), produced an amazing variety of aircraft during their short existence - from the single seat Martlet biplane of 1928 to the supersonic concept M52 of 1947. The most successful and best known series however, were the all-wood single-engined types which started with the sporting two seat Miles Hawk of 1933. Alow wing cantilever monoplane powered by a 95 hp Cirrus engine, the Flawk was a great step forward in comparison with the biplane Moths of the era. The Hawk spawned a whole family of sporting and racing aircraft including the Falcon tourer, and the wartime Magister which, together with the Tiger Moth, trained countless thousands of RAF and Commonwealth pilots.
A Miles tradition was innovation, and the Messenger evolved from the M28 communications and training prototypes produced between 1941 and 1943. The M28 featured a retractable undercarriage, and retractable high lift flaps - these features gave a good cruising speed and excellent low speed control. Although the M28 was evaluated favourably both in the communications role and as a side-by-side trainer, only six were built. The M28 did, however, catch the eye of some army officers who saw its possibilities for short-field operations in the specialist Air Observation Post (AOP) role. George Miles responded to this opportunity with a developed M28 - the M38 Messenger first flown in 1942. The Messenger Mk 1 was fitted with a 130 hp de Havilland Gipsy Major 1 engine and also featured the same large high lift flaps as the M28, this time non- retractable, and an increased span tail plane with three fins and rudders to give improved control at very low airspeeds, and a fixed single strut, stalky undercarriage allowing the aeroplane to take off and land at high angles of wing incidence (and hence at low speeds).
The slow-speed performance of the Messenger is the type's forte. Full control can be maintained down to as low as 30 mph - and the indicated stalling speed with full flap is only 24 mph. Such low speeds lead to very short take-off and landing distances, less than 100 yards being achievable with practice. Although the Army didn't get to use the Messenger in the AOP role, a small batch was constructed for the REF and gave excellent services as battlefield communication aircraft - the most famous wartime Messenger 'owner' being Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
G-AKIN at Coventry (Baginton) during the 1955 National
Air Races where it was flown by 'Johnny' Spiller.
Between 1945 and 1947 several of the REF Messengers were civilianised and a further 60 aircraft built to civilian standard with the 155 hp Cirrus Major 3 engine as Messenger Mk 2s.
G-AKIN has now provided nearly 50 years of continuous, reliable service to the Spiller family. 'Johnny' Spiller raced 'IN quite regularly in the early 1950s (at which time the original drab all over blue paint finish was replaced by the much more visible red and cream scheme that she wears today),and at least one win was chalked up, in the Siddeley Challenge Trophy flown at Coventry in August 1952.
'IN also proved a dependable tourer, and in particular very useful in the role of keeping an eye on farming activities in support of the family business operating out of small and unprepared fields - exactly the job George Miles had in mind back in 1942! Over the past couple of years 'IN has benefited from an extensive refurbishment by Fordaire at Sywell and today looks as smart as she ever has over the past 51 years, a tribute to Norman Spiller's on-going desire to have his aeroplane continue in her proper place - in the air.