When the Beagle Pup was first introduced by Beagle Aircraft Ltd, it was hailed as a triumph for British aviation design and engineering. The maiden flight of the 100hp version was on 8th April 1967 and that of the 150hp version on 4th October in the same year. The aircraft’s light but positive handling characteristics and excellent performance made it one of the most enjoyable and rewarding machines to fly of its day. And it was capable of performing basic aerobatic manoeuvres. These factors, combined with its inherent safety and stability, ensured a strong demand for the type from flying schools both in the UK and abroad.
Nearly two hundred aircraft were manufactured at Shoreham and Rearsby during the late 60s. These were mostly Series 1 (100hp) and Series 2 (150hp), although a small number of Series 3 (160hp) were also produced. The aircraft’s future seemed assured, and plans were laid for increasing production and expanding distribution.
Unfortunately, the cost of manufacturing the Pup greatly exceeded its selling price (£3,495 for the Series 1 and £4,250 for the Series 2), so it was inevitable that Beagle Aircraft Ltd. eventually encountered serious financial difficulties. Without Government support – which, unsurprisingly, was not forthcoming – the company was doomed. The last Pups rolled off the production lines in 1969, although a few were subsequently assembled at Elstree from parts and components rescued from the Shoreham factory.
The demise of Beagle Aircraft Ltd foreshadowed a period of decline for Pups. Technical information was hard to come by and certain spares were almost impossible to find. Many aircraft became neglected and finished up lurking sadly in corners of hangars all over the country.
The early 1980s ushered in a new dawn for Beagle Pups. As flying schools began to find the type more difficult to maintain and operate, private buyers entered the scene in increasing numbers. During this phase, the Beagle Pup Club was formed, providing a focal point for information and, most importantly, sourcing spares.
Since then, the Pup has experienced a remarkable revival to become one of the most liked and respected small singles around. Just about anyone who flies one for the first time is surprised and delighted by its handling, agility and sheer friendliness. One flight and you’re hooked.
A separate, but related thread of the Beagle Pup story concerns its military sister, the Bulldog. Designed as a military training aircraft that shared many of the Pup’s features and components, the Bulldog was manufactured at Prestwick by Scottish Aviation. With its 200hp fuel injected engine, VP prop and sliding canopy, the Bulldog was an instant success.
Purchased in large numbers by the RAF and military establishments worldwide, the Bulldog has seen continuous service in a training role for over twenty years.
Until the late 1980s, only a single Bulldog was in private hands and as such the marque was rarely seen outside RAF circles.
From the mid-nineties, a spectacular looking RAF Bulldog was a regular performer at air shows around the UK. With its distinctive black and yellow paint scheme and nicknamed “Black Dog”, this aircraft – flown by RAF pilot, Paul Margetts – took part in over 60 aerobatic public displays in the UK as well as a number in Sweden and Belgium.
Some years before the appearance of Black Dog, a Beagle Pup Club member, Brian Richardson, repatriated two Bulldogs from Hong Kong in 1989, and these were the first Bulldogs to obtain CAA certification
The arrival of these two aircraft presaged a veritable flood of Bulldogs into Britain. As the RAF and other air forces gradually began replacing their training fleets, more and more Bulldogs came on to the civil register. Naturally, many of their owners joined the Beagle Pup Club, seeking advice, technical support and companionship with fellow pilots.
Such was the impact on the Club’s membership that in 2002 the Beagle Pup Club officially changed its name to the Beagle Pup and Bulldog Club.
At the latest count, it is believed that 56 Bulldogs are in private hands in the UK. Overall, 20 are associated with the Club. There is no doubt that Bulldogs will play an increasingly important role in the Club’s future.