"And in the beginning....."

Reproduced below is the text and some pictures from a 1929 issue of Flight that described a ceremonial "christening" of the Simmonds Spartan aircraft at Simmonds' Woolston works.
December 31st 1928.

THE youngest aircraft' manufacturing company in this country, Simmonds' Aircraft, Ltd., Woolston, Southampton,celebrated the completion of their first production type of the Simmonds " Spartan " light aeroplane on December 31.

It was christened by the Mayoress of Southampton (Mrs.M. H. Pugh) with a pleasant ceremony at the Woolston works. Mr. O. E. Simmonds, M.A., chairman and chief designer of the company, and his co-director, Lieut.-Col. L. A. Strange,D.S.O., M.C., D.F.C., received the Mayor and Mayoress, and in his preliminary remarks Mr. Simmonds observed that there were now in and around Southampton no less than four aircraft companies, which was as many as in the Metropolis itself.

He said that it was a pleasure that Simmonds Aircraft,Ltd., were able to ease local unemployment in a small wayand that their present orders would necessitate taking further space in the Government Rolling Mills, when they hoped to engage more men. Their workpeople and staff had made considerable sacrifice to get the first production machine ready for that day.

The Mayoress then christened the machine ' Cirrus-Spartan.' In a subsequent tour of inspection round theworks, where 70 people are already engaged, apart from the staff, Mr. Simmonds explained briefly some of his methods of production. He believes that much money can be consumed in the erection process of aircraft, and he therefore reduces the work involved in erection to a minimum by having all sections of the machine completed as far as possible on the benches.

He has himself designed a very extensive system of jigs, and the first production machine is completely standardised. He has designed a jig for drilling the holes in the interchangeable fin and tail 'plane, for example. No steaming is done for bending. The longerons are curved to the sternpost on the bench between jigs. The three-ply sides of the fuselage are in complete lengths and are slotted into position with the stiffeners already glued on. There are a dozen " Spartans now in production, all of which are ordered, and they will be followed by another dozen immediately.

The first machine is going to the Scott Aeronautic Co. of Philadelphia, this week, and others to Australia and again, America. Two or three private owners want them in Australia, where, one believes, great expectations are anticipated by the Simmonds Aircraft, Ltd. It will be fairly well known to most of our readers now that the fundamental haracteristic of Mr. Simmonds' machine is its comprehensive interchangeability, which means simplicity by the reduction of spares. Any of the main planes can be fitted into any Wing joint, top or bottom, port or starboard. The rudder can be changed with either of the elevators, the fin with either outer section of the tail 'plane (which is designed in three sections), and finally, all the main bracing wires are of the same size and length. The main construction is of wood. The two cockpits are spacious and neatly upholstered, whilst the luggage compartment behind the rear cockpit seems particularly roomy. It has an extension beneath the fairing for lengthy objects like golf sticks. The neat, clean finish of the production machine with aluminium paint seems to have improved its lines.

The A.D.C. " Cirrus " Mark III engine is very nicely cowled. A Fairey metal airscrew is fitted.

The performance figures are not at the moment available, but the first " Spartan," which was demonstrated at Croydon on September 3, had a top speed of about 105 m.p.h. and a stalling speed of 37 m.p.h. The normal petrol capacity is 20 galls.

After the christening ceremony and works inspection last Monday, luncheon was given by the Simmonds Aircraft, Ltd., at the South-Western Hotel, Southampton, to the Mayor and Mayoress and many guests. Mr. O. E. Simmonds was in the chair and with him were the Mayor and Mayoress, Lieut.-Col. L. A. Strarige. Col. M. O. Darby, of A.D.C. Aircraft,Ltd. ; Mr. J. M. Savage, American Consul at Southampton, and Mrs, Savage. Mr. O. E. Simmonds proposed the health of the King. Col. Strange, proposing the health of tke Mayoress, said that they were very proud of the fact that she was the sponsor of the first Cirrus-Spartan and could assure her that in the future she also would be proud of being able to say when the machine was mentioned, " Yes, Sir, that's my baby." Her husband was the Mayor of the leading seaport in this country, and he, Col. Strange, earnestly hoped that Southampton in the near future would be the leading airport.

In the past our greatness was to some extent built up by our forefathers by their encouragement of the sea to protect trade and the country. He thought that this generation should see that it encouraged the spirit of the air. Only by encouraging the youth of this generation to fly, and to fly naturally, should we ensure the same great traditions in the future. In the future he believed that, just as in the past towns grew up round their market-squares, so the centres of great towns would be their airports.

The Mayor of Southampton then responded. He said that he honestly felt that in the years to come everybody present, and, in fact, the whole of Southampton, would look back upon that day as one of the landmarks in the history of the town. He did not think there was any doubt that his children would fly, and that every encouragement should be given to the younger people to acquire the art of flying. It was quite obvious that the future of the country would not depend exclusively on the navy as it had done in the past.

The Air Force manoeuvres of last year showed even the untrained mind that an attacking force could practically lay London in ruins in a few days. He agreed with Col. Strange that it was of paramount importance that every possible person should be able to fly if and when required, for the purposes of the defence of the country. Southampton, he continued, should be particularly grateful to Mr. Simmonds and Col. Strange for having come there to develop the extraordinary ingenuity of Mr. Simmonds as typified in the first Cirrus-Spartan." He saw the time when the whole of the Rolling Mills would be a hive of industry turning out those wonderful machines to go all over the world. And he hoped to be spared the day when Southampton in the flying world would be as big a name to conjure with as it was in the shipping world today. The town would not progress unless they could marry the air and sea services by providing quick transport by air to Southampton. He would do his best to see that the necessary space was made available for an airport as near the docks as it was possible to get it.

Mr. J. M. Savage then submitted the toast of " Simmonds Aircraft, Ltd." He mentioned that we lived in a wonderful age. We had lived to see the telephone, radio, motor and aeroplane, but the latter was still in its infancy. They of Southampton, he continued, speaking as one of them, were delighted that the Simmonds Company had established its works in that important port, and he was sure that the Mayor would do everything possible to make Southampton one of the principal airports in Great Britain. He wished the Company every prosperity and was glad that the first plane was going to his own country. He hoped that the orders the firm had already received from the United States would only be the forerunners of many in the future.

Mr. Simmonds then rose and made the concluding speech. He said that his Company was the first British firm to concentrate on the design and manufacture of civil aircraft, and he thought that if they gave themselves to the problem in the next ten years they would be able to do much towards putting Great Britain in the air.

Referring to Col. Strange, his co-director, he said that Col. Strange was one of the oldest airmen in this country and had been Commandant of the Central Flying School Last August, when contemplating forming a light 'plane club in the West Country, Col. Strange became interested in the Simmonds " Spartan " and asked Mr. Simmonds for the loan of it for a month. At the end of that time he had reported on it enthusiastically as a very sound machine. No other British aircraft, he continued, had ever, within the first six months of production of the experimental machine,been ordered in such large numbers abroad, and he was confident that by this time next year not only would there be Cirrus-Spartans all over the world, but they would be manufactured in two or three other countries.

He thought that within five years the majority of aircraft, of biplane types in particular, would be designed on their principles. They had been able to reduce ten main spares to four without loss of efficiency, but he did not think the industry had anything to fear from this system, for the simplicity gained would mean wider use of aircraft. He wished to say in particular what extraordinary assistance his company had been given by other aircraft companies, and in this connection he mentioned Messrs. A. V. Roe & Co. and the Fairey Aviation Co. It was a limited market for materials at present, but the established firms had been extremely generous towards them.

In conclusion, one recalls that the experimental Simmonds " Spartan " fitted with a " Cirrus " Mk. I engine and piloted by Mr. H. W. R. Banting, with Lt.-Col. L. A. Strange as passenger, flew non-stop from London to Berlin in 7 hrs. 10 mins on October 24, which is claimed to be a record for the light 'plane class with a passenger on board. A return non-stop flight was made on October 27 by the same machine in a little under 6 hrs. About 56 1b. of luggage was carried. Nearly 50 gallons of petrol were taken, and the mean average consumption was 15 gallons. There was a contrary wind on the outward flight and visibility was at times very bad. The altitude maintained was never more than 2000 ft. up to Hanover and in the circumstances the navigation of Mr. Banting was very good. The range of the " Spartan " was considerably more than that covered. With its full load it took off, both at Croydon and Tempelhof, without the slightest difficulty and it reached 1,000 ft. at Tempelhof before leaving the aerodrome on the return journey. The production type can be loaded up to 2,200 lbs. for very long range work.
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