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Planet Satellite

Old 19th Mar 2010, 11:23
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Planet Satellite

It's a year or three since I last posted on this subject but I am still waiting for someone out there to contact me, if for no reason other than to assure me that I have not imagined it all. I'm trying again . . . .

In, about, 1946, a small group formed Planet Aircraft with a view to prospering in the anticipated revival of the pre-war British light aircraft industry. They drew a low-wing, 6 seater, butterfly tail and pusher prop powered by a Gipsy Six. The nose was glazed and looked not unlike a Heinkel. Series production was never achieved; indeed, I doubt if anything beyond a prototype was produced. Nevertheless, in the late 'forties I saw a photograph in a contemporary edition of "Flight" or "The Aeroplane" of a completed aircraft although (but I doubt it) this might have been a mock-up.

Of course, successive governments made very sure that any entrepreneurial initiative of this sort was quickly snapped in the bud so that Planet, along with the established names, sank. The Planet "Satellite" seems to have gone without trace but I'm hoping some documentation or race memory remains to prove it once existed.

Can anyone help please?

Gipsy Queen.
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Old 19th Mar 2010, 11:26
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Seem to recall reading an article (Aeroplane Monthly?) where it broke its back during taxying trials and never flew.
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Old 19th Mar 2010, 13:55
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Planet Satellite -
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Old 19th Mar 2010, 17:08
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From A J Jackson British Civil Aircraft Since 1919. Some differences from the other sources quoted here.

"Four seater of magnesium alloy construction, with retractbale undercarriage, ventral fin and rudder and one 250 h.p deHavilland Gipsy Queen 32 amindships driving a pusher airscrew in the tail. Designed by J N D Heenan and built in the Redwing factory, Croydon and erected at redhill 1948. One aircraft only c/n 1 shown at the Farnborough SBAC display Sept 1948, registered G-ALOI 4.49. Initial take off attempts at Blackbushe abandoned and never flew. Dismanted at Redhill and melted down 1958. Span 33ft 6 in Length 26ft 3 in. Tare Wt 1600 lb AUW 2905 lb. PLanned max speed 208 mph cruise 191 mph.

Various references in the Flight archives for 1948 including one of their famous cutaway drawings. See

major heenan | flight design | satellite | 1948 | 1077 | Flight Archive

and subsequent pages
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Old 19th Mar 2010, 21:28
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(Aeroplane Monthly?)
There was an article in the October 1983 issue...

...and from it, the test pilot Group Captain Wilson, had this to say...

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Old 20th Mar 2010, 10:27
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GQ: your "snapped in the bud" is inconsistent with actual Aero subsidies by all UK Govts. From Beagle to Vickers-Slingsby (I can't think of an A or a Z), money flowed more readily to Aero than to other entrepreneurial initiatives. Failures at market should not all be dumped at Ministers' doors.
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Old 20th Mar 2010, 12:26
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Yes Ken ...having an aircraft designed by some guy who has never done it before is one of the few things that cannot be blamed on the government LOL
Whoever wrote the Flightglobal article was making some odd comments - but seemed to like the a/c
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Old 21st Mar 2010, 23:25
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Well, I may have overstated a point, although at the time of writing, I was thinking principally of the various a.k.a.s adopted by the second Viscount Stansgate and the de Lorean fiasco. However, given the behaviour of the aircraft, it's hardly surprising that it disappeared but who knows what might have been created with better design, more money and development. In any event, the fact that this was the designer's first venture into aeronautics speaks highly of his understanding of the medium; the fuselage might have had it's problems but the wing was remarkable as were some of the technical solutions to various assembly connections. The good Major was not unlike that other very ingenious fellow of the period, Lawrie Bond - they shared a similar structure/behaviour ethos, although the latter had a possible advantage of being ex-Blackburne Aircraft.

Having done a lot of hours in the DH104, I would have thought this to be far too much engine for a 4-seater and must have been something of a pocket rocket in comparison with the Gipsy Major variant. Why the Queen was used in preference to the Six (logged a few in the DH114 as well) seems odd but they were both nice engines. I suspect some of the propulsion philosophy might have been adopted from the contemporary Heston A2/45. Now, who remembers that . . . .?

Given that I've neither seen nor read anything of the subject for more than 60 years, I'm surprised that I have recalled the machine so well. It's seemingly foreshadowing the Bede designs of the early '70s is uncanny.

Thank you all for the interesting responses and, particularly, for the archival references.

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Old 22nd Mar 2010, 02:31
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Actually it's even closer to the four-place pusher AGATE concept that both NASA & the FAA were advocating a couple of years back. Tried to find a link on the NASA site but it seems to be removed.
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Old 14th Feb 2014, 18:00
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Planet Satellite


The day I walked into Magnesium Elektron, as an eighteen year old, at Clifton Junction for interview for I was astounded to find the Planet Satellite suspended from the atrium ceiling. This was in the summer of 1952. I mentioned in the interview with the Chief Metallurgist, Dr EF Emely, who was astounded that I new what it was. He told me that it had been designed as an experimental aircraft to show case the use of magnesium alloys for aircraft production. Mag alloys were of course used for specific roles such as WW2 bomber undercarriages, compressor casings for DeHavilland Ghost engines etc.

Sadly the plane driven by an engine behind the cockpit via a long shaft to the rear propeller suffered from severe vibration, which could not be cured.

Best wishes,

Prof Tim (CNC) Drey
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Old 15th Feb 2014, 11:58
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Looks remarkably like this...the Molt Taylor Mini-Imp....developed from a previous four seat design, the "Imp"..Independantly Made Plane. A previous thread..... http://www.pprune.org/aviation-histo...ini-jet-2.html refers.
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Old 19th Feb 2014, 13:44
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Related to the Planet Satelite is the Firth Atlantic helicopter: Firth Helicopter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Old 20th Feb 2015, 13:10
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Planet Satellite aircraft

Sorry to be so late responding but I remember seeing the aircraft at Farnborough and thinking how elegant it looked. As others have said it never really "got off the ground" and, although structural weakness appears to have been the main problem, I sort of feel that the aft ventral fin combined with the wing incidence angle may have lengthened any required take-off distance. Mind you, the pusher prop demanded the fin as protection!

There was a 4 page article in Flight magazine about this aircraft (have a copy "somewhere" in my archives) that extolled the extensive use of lightweight Magnesium-Zirconium in its construction. No idea how that might have worked out in practice, although there were a lot of new alloys around at that time. Not all of them lived up to expectations, including zinc-rich products used in Valiant and Victor which led to a short life for the former. Like many things "it seemed a good idea at the time"
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Old 24th Feb 2015, 12:05
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Is this the article?

major heenan | flight design | satellite | 1948 | 1077 | Flight Archive
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