The first Rollason built D.31 Turbulent G-APBZ
The construction of G-APBZ was started in June 1957 at Croydon and its first flight was on the morning of 1st January 1958, at the controls was the owner of the Tiger Club, Norman Jones. In spite of a gusting wind and light rain, the smart blue machine gave an impressive show on a number of circuits and low runs across the field. It was the first of a batch of five in the initial production run. The Rollason built aircraft were different from the original French design, they included some changes to the Druine Ardem 4CO2 engine, which itself was a conversion of the four cylinder air-cooled 1192cc capacity Volkswagen car engine. Rollason’s actual conversion work involved the installation of dual ignition and a carburetor heater, this work was done at the Croydon engine shop. The major differences in the airframe were the smaller wheels, the tailskid and the top cowling "bump" which covers the carburetor air heater.
Rollason’s announcement at that time was that they were planning to market complete aircraft for about UKL1000 and also complete kits or components for amateur assembly would also be available. The engine which produced 30 b.h.p. would be available at UKL272 per unit. Rollason went on to produce 35 complete aircraft between 1958 and 1966 and sold many plans.
The first Turbulent seen in England was a French built one that toured the country in 1956 being flown by Harold Best-Devereux and over 80 sets of plans had been sold by 1958 by the Popular Flying Association. The PFA chose the Turbulent as the first imported type for amateur construction in the U.K.
A full flight test program was carried out on this aircraft between 12th January and 11th April by Lt. Cdr. J.R.S. (Jack) Overbury RN, who was the test pilot at Saunders Roe Ltd. He wrote up a full test report on this aircraft and some extracts are reproduced here to give a flavour of what it was like.
Condition of Aircraft
The aircraft was the first prototype Turbulent built in the U.K. by Rollason Aircraft and differed from the standard French model in having a non-standard instrument panel and smaller diameter wheels with tail skid. The Ardem 4CO2 modified Volkswagen engine was used in conjunction with a Merville Type 880, 4 ft 8 ins x 4 ft pitch propeller giving a reputed 30.7 b.h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m.
Loading of the Aircraft
Number of Flights
Handling at Take off
Take offs. Performance.
Approach and Landing
Due, however, to a rapid decrease of speed with increase of incidence and to line up with the final selected climbing speed (of 50 m.p.h.) an approach speed of 50 m.p.h. I.A.S. was chosen and in practice gave an adequate margin over the stall speed for manoeuvring without causing any marked float on landing.
With the aircraft lined up with the runway, and the engine throttled back (r.p.m. 1500), an approach was made at 50 m.p.h. I.A.S. the stick being held about one inch back from the neutral position with very light load. Speed stability is reasonable under normal conditions and the speed was immediately responsive to power or incidence changes. The speed was reduced to 45 m.p.h. "over the hedge" and with a movement of the stick rearwards to about two inches off of neutral position, the aircraft was rounded out. The float was not unduly prolonged and the aircraft touched down on three points at 26 m.p.h. I.A.S. No swing was evident after touch down and the aircraft came to rest in a commendably short distance on grass.
No crabbing or pitching was evident on the approach and the view was very good. Average landing run was 120yds.
G-APBZ had only a short life. It ended its days when it was destroyed in a forced landing after take off from Berck-sur-Mer, France on 15th April 1963.
The Tiger Club 1990 Ltd
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