The Apprentice’s Tale
The Apprentice’s Tale
Czesio Paluszkiewicz is an Enthusiast member with a remarkable pedigree. He is one of the few people to have built, flown and restored Pups. Catch him in the bar, call him ‘Tish’, by the way, and listen while he entertains you with tales of Beagle’s Rearsby works. Always that most dangerous of employees – the keen one! – his tales include fires, wrecked jigs and an unfortunate incident with the de-greasing tank. We have great pleasure in bringing you ‘The Apprentice’s Tale’.
Far beneath the wheels of the yellow plane, a school bus made its way across the Leicestershire countryside. The test pilot, his work completed, returned to the thousand yards of grass and a few hangars that comprised the Auster works at Rearsby. Plane and bus, their paths converged, then the aircraft broke the bond and turned to land.
For one bus passenger the bond was not broken. Already Tish had committed himself to aviation, to be an aircraft designer and aeronautical engineer. His path would lead to Rearsby where he would see the best of Beagles and the last of Beagles.
The area had a long association with Auster. The pre-war bus passenger would have witnessed the flights of Taylorcraft transported from the Britannia works in the nearby village of Thurmaston. Those travelling that route during the war would have thrilled to the powerful sounds associated with the country’s fighting aircraft following repair and maintenance.
Post war, Auster evolved into Beagle. Welded tube and fabric gave way to the spectacular shape and all-metal design of a new breed. The Beagle Pup – a first for Britain – “A World Beater”. Orders poured in, business boomed, labour was in short supply and the services of highly skilled toolmakers were at a premium. They even needed the services of enthusiastic apprentices. So in August 1968 Tish joined them, being paid £6/19/9 a week whilst following a general engineering education at the local technical college. His first assignment at the airfield was working on the jig that matched the fore and aft fuselage sections together.
Small, quiet and local was Tish’s impression of life at Rearsby. The bus collected the employees from the surrounding villages, taking them to a works so small that a lad could briskly walk from one end to the other in two minutes. However, it had the capability to manufacture major components with its rubber press moulds and machine shops.
It also gave life to whole aircraft. Pups and 206s regularly had their first flights there.
The summer days of 1969 were halcyon days at Beagle. Tony Wedgwood-Benn visited and made a grand speech. Technical problems solved, orders were coming in. Permanent staff enjoyed their holidays and the apprentices filled in for them. Our enthusiastic apprentice was dispatched to man the materials store. His regrettable confusion between width and breadth resulted in a fair bit of a Beagle going into the scrap bin. The punishment for this was to remain with a very disgruntled store man for the rest of the summer.
The autumn winds blow chilly down the Wreake Valley. But chillier were the words of that one-armed store man. “This company will be finished by Christmas, drivers say Beagle haven’t been paying the bills”. He was right, the end came suddenly and with a brutality that left many employees profoundly disillusioned.
Tish finished his apprenticeship at Hawker Siddeley Aviation at Hatfield working on Trident, 146s and Nimrods. The size of Hatfield was not to his liking and after a further year he left to work in a variety of other engineering disciplines. He flew his beloved Pups from Castle Donington as a PPL before the rising cost, £7 per hour, became too much for him.
Now working in the Compressor Design Department of Rolls Royce, he remains proud of his association with Beagles, believing the decision to cease production was flawed. He keeps the spirit of Rearsby alive by helping with the restoration of the Series 3 Pup at Derby – hoping one day that a young lad on a school bus will see it flying past.
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From David A. Colllings CEng., M.I.Mech. E.
Recollections of details from 40 years ago can sometimes be tricky. However, on the premise that we generally remember best the events that affect our lives, let me give you a little background on myself. When I joined Beagle Aircraft in the early 60s, the aviation industry was in bad shape. I had started my career at Hawker Siddeley working on the Blue Steel missile, but my passion for gliding, as an instructor with Avro Gliding Club, led me towards the light aircraft industry.
I spent a year with Shorts in Belfast as a Senior Stress Analyst on the original Skyvan prototype before heading South and joining the newly formed British Executive and General Aviation Company, a conglomerate of the old Auster and Miles companies with the new team from Bristol. I found myself in charge of a small specialist design/engineering office that Auster had established in Farnborough. We took on various contracts for specialized equipment for the RAE and the Institute of Aviation Medicine. We also did some of the type record documentation for the Auster derivatives that were being marketed under the Beagle name.
Another interesting project was the engineering of a production version of a single seat autogiro prototype developed by Wing Commander Ken Wallace and based upon the Benson Gyrocopter. A batch of these aircraft was built at Shoreham for the Army to evaluate as a spotter plane. They were later re-acquired by Beagle and demonstrated enthusiastically by “Pee-Wee” Judge before he was killed taking off in one of them.
After being directed to close the Farnborough office, I began working at Shoreham reporting to T D R Carroll, the Chief Engineer. Beagle was beset by internal conflicts at this time. The Miles Brothers in particular did not fit well into the organization and eventually broke away. The selection of aircraft projects, in the absence of a real domestic market, was largely influenced by the need to maintain financial support from the Government. The development of the B206 was tying up much of the engineering resources at Shoreham, but I was left relatively free to work on alternative projects.
One of these was helping Alan Greenhalgh, the Chief Project Engineer, with his “Pup” project. Alan was a Cranfield graduate who I had known from two years earlier when we were both contracted for a few months to the Swiss American Aircraft Corporation in Altenrein, Switzerland, to help Bill Lear convert a Swiss fighter aircraft into the world’s first business jet – but that’s another story! As I recall, Beagle management had little interest in a two seat, single engine aircraft at first and it wasn’t until much later, when the need for a basic trainer, probably a Chipmunk replacement appeared, that Beagle got serious about its development.
People come and go in this industry. I lost touch with Alan after I moved to the States in 1966 to work for Sikorsky Aircraft. Tom Carroll, I believe, joined Scottish Aviation after they took over the Skyvan development from Shorts.
History can be clouded by our personnel recollections, but I have tried to be objective. I no longer work in aviation, but some things stick in your blood. Sailing my boat on Long Island Sound is nearest I come to flying these days.
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