Jack North

Jack North, who died early in 1998 at the age of 76, was one of the major figures in British free-flight for over half a century. He always took the direct and simplest approach to the solving of design and flying problems, but always with a firm eye on the physics involved. During wartime service in the RAF, he worked with early Bendix GCA radar and was based for a time at Cambrai airfield, where FAI World Cup contests were to be held 50 years later. While setting up one of the first two Bendix units at Melsbroek in Belgium, he heard a lost USAAF Liberator pilot asking for help in dense fog, and talked him down to a safe landing; the pilot had never heard of ground-controlled approach radar and Jack received a Christmas card for many years from his grateful wife.

After the War he worked for a time at Woolwich Arsenal, but arranged a move to work on aerodynamics at the NationalPhysical Laboratory. There he became interested in wind tunnel shock wave and airflow visualisation, and helped to develop the Schlieren photographic techniques that were vital to the development of supersonic flight. He wrote some of the standard works on the subject, and his work was
recognised by the award of the Royal Photographic Society’s Hood Medal for distinguished contributions to photographic science. For the final phase of his career he worked in the Neherlands on the design of the European Transonic wind tunnel.

After membership of TMAC and the Blackheath club, he joined Croydon & DMAC in 1947 and became the quiet but driving force behind Croydon during the club’s most successful years. He was one of only two people ever to represent Britain in all three outdoor free-flight categories on World Championship teams. He managed the British team at the Säve World Championships in 1971 and the New Zealand one at Wiener Neustadt a couple of years earlier, as well as serving on the free-flight technical committee of what was then the SMAE. His Ariel control-line aircraft helped numerous people to progress to aerobatics from basic round-and-round flying, and his published free-flight designs, all of them contest-proven, included Torpedo, Upstairs Maid, North Star, North Pole and Weatherbird. 

He pioneered 1/2A FF flying in the UK, using Cox Thermal Hopper and Holland Hornet engines, and was one of the first to use the then-sensationally large 300 sq. in. open rubber model, but still found time to develop and operate the early scoring system used at the World R/C Aerobatics Championships at RAF Kenley in 1962. One system for which Jack will be remembered was the rubber winding tube and motor cartridge. After clubmate Archie Allbone in the late 1950s broke a long series of motors Jack came up with the idea which has saved countless broken models since. Like all his systems, he published the details so others could benefit. The same applied to the bubble machine and electronic thermal detection methods, but it was perhaps Jack’s pioneering article, graphs and data on rubber testing in the magazine Model Aircraft that enabled many people with a less objective and scientific approach to their flying to at last understand how a rubber motor really worked and could best be used.

It was for these aspects of Jack’s model flying career that he was awarded the 1998 Antonov Diploma
for technical innovations.

Source :-


Issue No 9 March 1999
CIAM FLYER is the official newsletter
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