Foster Wikner GM.1 ZK-AGN (c/n 03) circa 1939 (MDAC Archives)
Country of origin:
Two-seat cabin monoplane
One 97 kw (130 hp) de Havilland Gipsy Major four-cylinder inverted in-line air-cooled engine
Length: 7.09 m (23 ft 3 in)
Height: 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)
Wing area: 14.21 m² (153 sq ft)
Max speed: 225 km/h (140 mph)
Cruising speed: 193 km/h (120 mph)
Rate of climb: 244 m/min (800 ft/min)
Stalling speed: 72 km/h (45 mph)
Ceiling: 6,096 m (20,000 ft)
Range: 772 km (480 miles)
Empty weight: 569 kg (1,255 lb)
Load weight: 907 kg (2,000 lb)
The Foster Wikner Wicko was designed in 1936 by Geoffrey Neville Wikner (1897 – 1984) as a low-cost light aeroplane for private and club use. Wikner, an Australian born in Grafton, NSW, designed a number of aircraft before World War II, including the Wicko Sports monoplane, a single-seat high-wing cabin aircraft fitted with a 45 kw (60 hp) Anzani radial engine; the Wicko Lion, a variant of the Sports with an open cockpit; and the Wizard, a development of the Lion.
In 1935-1936 Wikner, whilst in the United Kingdom, designed and commenced construction of a cabin monoplane but this was never completed. Later, amongst other things, he became well known after World War II for flying the Handley Page Halifax G-AGXA/VH-BDT from England to Australia. He also designed and developed a helicopter in the late 1940s.
After going to the United Kingdom in May 1934, Wikner formed Foster Wikner Aircraft Company Ltd with Messrs V Foster and J F Lusty, commencing the manufacture of aircraft at Mr Lusty’s furniture facility in Bromley-by-Bow in East London.
The Wicko, of which 11 examples were built, was a two-seat aerobatic monoplane of plywood construction, with a two-spar wing also of wooden construction with fabric covering. The first variant was the FW.1, the power plant of which was a 63 kw (85 hp) converted Ford V-8, this being used to keep the cost of the aircraft low. A Gallay radiator was installed under the fuselage. However, the Ford V-8 engine was found to be too heavy, weighing 204 kg (450 lb), and the 67 kw (90 hp) Blackburn Cirrus Minor engine was fitted, it thus becoming known as the FW.2, the empty weight thus being reduced from 531 kg (1,170 lb) to 425 kg (938 lb). However, it was not popular with this engine.
The fuselage was of plywood box structure, and the aircraft had a two-spar, fabric covered wing of Clark YH section, attached directly to the top longerons, braced by parallel tubular steel struts. The prototype G-AENU (c/n 1) was first flown from the Hillman Aerodrome at Stapleford in Essex by its designer on 19 September 1936.
Subsequent aircraft, known as the GM.1, were re-designed, being fitted with a plywood covered wing and having a 97 kw (130 hp) de Havilland Gipsy Major engine. One, the second built G-AEZZ (c/n 2), was fitted with a 112 kw (150 hp) Cirrus Major engine for the 1937 King’s Cup Race, this being known as the FW.3. This aircraft, flown by Fl Lt H R A Edwards, had a plywood covered wing, split trailing-edge flaps and full dual controls. This aircraft was later impressed by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II as ES943.
Production took place at Eastleigh in Hampshire, the first aircraft being delivered in September 1938. Nine were completed before the outbreak of war. The GM.1 received a Type Certificate in Categories A to E and this included some aerobatics. Wikner stated 13 were built, of which 12 were sold, and the last was converted by him as a three-seat taxi with the hope of obtaining an Air Ministry contract. In the event the Fairchild Argus became available under Lend-Lease and was selected for Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) service. Records seem to have indicate only 11 were built. A few were impressed into RAF service during the war.
Of the 11 known to be built, eight were registered in the United Kingdom, these including G-AFAZ (c/n 4), operated by the Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club at Whitchurch, later being impressed by the RAF as ES924; G-AFJB (c/n 5) operated initially by the Midland Aero Club at Castle Bromwich and impressed by the RAF as DR613; G-AFKS (c/n 6) registered to Foster Wikner Aircraft Company Ltd, impressed later as HM574 and scrapped in 1946; G-AFKU (c/n 7) registered to Foster Wikner Aircraft Company Ltd, and F L Dean of Cardiff, later being impressed as ES947, but hitting a balloon cable and crashing into the sea off Cardiff in November 1942; G-AFKK (c/n 8) registered to Foster Wikner Aircraft Company Ltd in June 1939, which was impressed by the RAF as ES913; G-AFVK (c/n 9) registered to Foster Wikner Aircraft Company Ltd and impressed in October 1941 as HM499, later becoming instructional airframe 4962M; and G-AGPE (c/n 11) registered to G N Wikner of Eastleigh, then Ms P M Bennett of Eastleigh, later being impressed as HM497 and being scrapped in May 1949.
As noted, nearly all were impressed by the RAF during World War II. Civil operators included the Bristol and Wessex Aero Club, Midland Aero Club and Nash Aircraft Sales, the latter at one time fitting its aircraft with experimental skis. G-AFJB was used for a period by Rolls Royce Ltd as a communications aircraft. The second prototype G-AEZZ (c/n 2) was registered to Foster Wikner Aircraft Company Ltd and later went to the Cardiff Aeroplane Club in August 1938. It was impressed as ES943 and was the only one to survive RAF wartime use, becoming G-AGPE in 1945 but being scrapped in May 1949 after an accident. The first prototype was restored in 1946 but was scrapped in 1952.
At the beginning of World War II a four-seat variant was built known as the “Warferry” in an attempt to obtain military orders, but was unsuccessful due to the availability of the Fairchild Argus via Lend-Lease. The first aircraft built G-AENU, a Model FW.1, first flew on 19 September 1936 with a Ford engine, but this was not satisfactory and it was re-engined with a Cirrus. The second G-AEZZ (c/n 2), known as the FW.3, was fitted with a 112 kw (150 hp) Cirrus Major engine for the 1937 King’s Cup Race, and differed in having full dual controls and a plywood covered wing with split trailing-edge flaps, later being converted to GM.1 standard. The missing construction number, 10, it is believed, was never completed, being stored during the war and eventually being used to keep HM497, which later became G-AGPE, airworthy. The prototype G-AENU saw a little use up into the 1950s but was eventually abandoned at Plymouth in Devon and rotted away.
One aircraft has survived G-AFJB (c/n 3) and for a time it carried its wartime camouflage and RAF serial (DR613). It has been preserved at a museum in Warwickshire.
In 1939 Wikner designed a low-wing variant known as the Windsor and submitted plans to the Department of Air for its construction and use by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a trainer, engines proposed including a Menasco, a Super Scarab radial, and a Gipsy Major but nothing came of it.
In the 1950s Wikner re-designed the aircraft, giving it the name Wakooka (aboriginal for Kookaburra) with a tricycle undercarriage, a Continental or Lycoming engine up to 112 kw (150 hp), and improved “omni-vision” windows, but none was built. Some attempts were made in the 1960s to build a replica in Australia but were abandoned. Further attempts were made in the 1990s in NSW but as far as is known it has not been completed.
One example (c/n 3) was imported to New Zealand, being the only example of the type exported. It was a Model GM.1 and made its first flight in the United Kingdom on 30 June 1938. It received a Certificate of Airworthiness on 10 August 1938 and was shipped to New Zealand, arriving at Wellington on the vessel ‘Remuera’ on 30 September 1938. It was assembled at Bridge Pa aerodrome, making its first flight on 10 October 1938. It was registered ZK-AGN on 10 October to Clyde Engineering Company Ltd but in August the following year was sold to the Middle Districts Aero Club.
ZK-AGN is believed to have also seen service with the Hawkes Bay Aero Club. It was impressed into service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as NZ580 on 6 October 1939 but on a communications flight from Rongotai it struck a radio mast in low cloud, crashed into an orchard near Johnsonville, Wellington at about 6 am on 26 November 1942 and was destroyed. The occupants only suffered minor injuries and the aircraft was recovered but was written off and reduced to spares.