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John Houlder and G-AWOE

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John Houlder and G-AWOE

Old 7th Nov 2012, 16:10
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John Houlder and G-AWOE

Does anyone know what's happened to the late Elstree owner John Houlder's Aero Commander 680E, G-AWOE? It's an interesting bird that's been all over the world. Has someone taken stewardship over it or has it been sold?
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Old 7th Nov 2012, 18:03
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I saw it at Elstree 4 weeks or so ago and thought it looked in relatively good order, having observed it in a more ragged state some months earlier.
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Old 7th Nov 2012, 18:15
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Last seen parked at the back of Elstree's main hangar.

In fact, in nearly 40 years of visiting the place, I don't think i've ever seen it parked outside!
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Old 7th Nov 2012, 19:08
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I do hope it doesn't end up like the other stuff at Elstree. Be a nice traveller for the right person and can be operated rather cheaply for a twin if it's been well maintained.

The 680E was the last of the bathtub Commanders. It's a great performer: 1700ft takeoff roll fully loaded, 24K service ceiling, 225gals of fuel that will carry you 1400nm and a cruise speed of 190-200kts. The GSO-480's are plentiful and it's relative simple plane to maintain with good parts availability. Burns about 34gal/hr at knuckles to the wall, but could easily be flown at economy around 20-25gal/hr depending on altitude. A great traveling machine that can be had for not very much money.

Does his estate still own it?

Last edited by AdamFrisch; 7th Nov 2012 at 21:21.
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Old 7th Nov 2012, 22:15
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John Houlder and G-AWOE

John Holder no longer had the lease for Elstree aerodrome when he passed away earlier this year. In fact he had given up the lease for the aerodrome a couple of years ago I think it was.
With regard to the aero commander, I seem to recall that John Holder was the only person who could fly the aircraft due to something to do with the autopilot system that he had fitted/designed himself that was in the aircraft, although I can't remember what exactly it was that was so special about it, there may be someone else who could clarify this.
Also sadly his engineer that looked after the aircraft for him passed away earlier on this year.
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Old 8th Nov 2012, 05:49
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All hearsay, but an IR examiner I flew with told me something similar a few years ago - that it was single-pilot equipped (so renewing his IR involved some blind faith in his abilities) and that the aircraft C of A was specific to him alone. Once he passed away, so too would the Certificate of Airworthiness.

He also told me stories of John flying through the alps in IMC, using his weather radar to plot his position relative to the mountains.

I have no idea whether any of this is true. My guess is, probably yes.

Beech Boy - who was the engineer?
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Old 8th Nov 2012, 10:10
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John Houlder and G-AWOE

I don't think the aircraft had a p2 seat as it was removed to compensate for the autopilot equipment.
Wrong stuff- his engineer was a guy called Jeremy
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Old 8th Nov 2012, 16:09
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I too heard the story of using the radar for the approach to St Moritz from John himself (he had made some plates of the expected shape of the mountains and would compare the shapes on approach). He was once in a holding pattern with other aircraft circling above cloud at St Moritz, then commenced an approach. On seeing John descend into cloud, the other aircraft thought he had had an emergency and radio-ed distress.

He always went ski-ing at St Moritz.

Originally the P2 seat was removed to allow installation of the rather bulky Decca Nav - this long pre-dated the advent of GPS.

However, in later years John re-installed the seat as he decided the presence of a co-pilot was desirable. He was 92.

Altogether a long and remarkable flying time, a specialist on instruments.

flyme.
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 01:12
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Well worth a read, a fascinating piece for me anyhow.

Here s the URL.....

Air Squadron
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 07:59
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Fascinating for me too, thanks!
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 08:15
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An inspirational life.Would it be possible to follow an equivalent path in todays regulatory regimes.VBR Stampe
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 08:28
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Why did John originally take the lease to Elstree?

One story that often made the rounds in the Elstree clubhouse, was that John was intending to land one dirty evening when the air traffic controller refused him landing clearance on the grounds of adverse weather. John protested but was unable to get the controller to relent.

Next day John visited Elstree and became the leaseholder.

flyme273
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 16:30
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When Houlder took the lease from Lord Aldenham, there were no such things as Air Traffic Controllers at other than major airports.

Perhaps the only person who might remember is David Ogilvy, former instructor immediately pre-war and still a leading light in AOPA
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 17:04
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Houlder was clearly a remarkable man.

However, Elstree went markedly downhill during the last 10 years of of his tenure and it has only really recovered in the last two years, since the new owners have taken over and invested in the crumbling infrastructure.
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 17:28
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I once had a memorable ride in that aircraft with John. I was an instructor at Elstree in 1974/5 and he took me and the then girlfriend (are you still at LATCC Jane?) to Sunderland (I think) to see a ship of his(!)

He constructed an approach on his Decca, which worked out beautifully, and he then took us to the docks, pausing for egg and chips at a disreputable transport café - but they were delicious.

On the way back, the right engine shuddered to a halt, spewing oil (and the oil filter) all over the show. He elected to divert into Luton and carried out an absolutely immaculately flown single-engine approach and landing.

Thereafter, he wandered off and made a phone call (no mobiles then) and about an hour later a limo complete with chauffeur pitched up and transported us to Elstree.

The man was very unassuming - almost an anti-hero. He was clearly a very wealthy bloke but travelled around in a scruffy little Mini.

Happy days!
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Old 9th Nov 2012, 19:39
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John Houlder and G-AWOE

His yellow mini is still sat at the aerodrome now, behind the old mont clare shipping office
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Old 10th Nov 2012, 19:16
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He had the mini because parking was easier and cars were not his interest. He also used the train to go to the London offices of Houlder Shipping. Elstree did run down but then it was not John's interest. I don't think he would have been concerned if no one else used the field - profit was not a priority. He was extremely wealthy.

Many people wondered why he did not get a jet.

flyme.
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Old 28th Nov 2012, 14:48
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That noisy aircraft...

It wasn't all that long ago on a sunny Saturday lunchtime when I saw (and heard) the black aircraft going towards Elstree from White Waltham direction. It was very noisy - as though it did not have silencers.
Thanks for the URL to his obit.
Have flown a few times to / from Elstree when he owned it - including in the early 1990s parking a Stampe there overnight and later an AN2 operated by James Black.
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Old 28th Nov 2012, 17:23
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Adam Frisch

Somebody rang us last week to see if OE was for sale. I was told earlier in the year, after attending the Memorial Service at St. Clement Danes, that it was part of a large estate that would take years to sort out and passed that message on to the caller.

Apparently it is for sale, so if the caller sees this post please feel free to ring us again.

During daylight hours - in it's current position - it can be seen on our webcam next to the heli pad. (search: Elstree Webcam)
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Old 30th Nov 2012, 23:04
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I like your thinking Callum, but one headache is enough!
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