Essex

The English plane you could make at home marks 50th year

Trevor Jarvis
Image caption Trevor Jarvis flew into Southend Airport today in honour of the man who designed his trusty plane

Terry Taylor admits his childhood was a little unusual. While his friends lived in houses bedecked with furniture, he and his family lived in a first floor flat where the dinner table was the end of an aircraft. But it was a home life that 50 years ago made aviation history.

A few hours ago a diminutive yellow aircraft called 'Catch 22' landed on a runway in Southend.

There was no red carpet and no band to mark its arrival.

Flown from south Northamptonshire by Trevor Jarvis, the designer of the JT.2 Titch homebuilt aeroplane was a man called John Taylor.

Mr Taylor's inaugural flight left Southend on this day five decades ago. He died five months later when he crashed his plane, also in Southend.

Image caption Trevor Jarvis arrives at Southend Airport having used 16 litres (3.5 gallons) of 100LL aviation fuel (at a cost of £1.70 per litre) during its flight from south Northamptonshire

But his design lives on.

"It is a great little aeroplane," says Mr Jarvis. "It is an aeroplane that you just sort of wear, it becomes part of you.

"The little aeroplane had to come back here and see where John Taylor first flew from 50 years ago."

Image caption Mr Taylor's log book for that first flight 50 years ago with Mr Jarvis's own flight log (to the left)

Mr Taylor's son Terry, who lives in Leigh on Sea, was 10 when the family's first floor, two-bedroom, flat was given over to the creation of a new aircraft.

"There was nothing really post-war that was available for people to build themselves so he set about designing his own.

"Being made of nearly all wood, it is within the range of people who have some craft ability.

"The first one was built in the first floor lounge.

"I used to spend quite a few of my evenings helping, sanding and mainly pulling staples out once the glue had set," said Mr Taylor Jr, who is structural engineer.

"I pulled out thousands and then fill in the little holes."

Image caption Trevor Jarvis (l) looks over Taylor family album with Terry Taylor and his wife Louise. Catch 22 sits outside in the distance

Were his friends jealous?

"Actually, they were quite dismissive of it," he says. "Their dads were interested in football and golf. The idea of building an aeroplane seemed ridiculous.

"I used to go around to friends houses and think they had nothing really in their lounges, just furniture.

"He would be astonished at the interest still being shown all these years on."

Image caption John Taylor in his home-built aircraft with his son Terry to his left

There are thought to be 37 Titch aircraft still being flown.

Mr Taylor still has the tail plane and the rudder end piece of the aircraft in which his father died.

The Civil Aviation Authority says if the craft were to be rebuilt, it could keep its original lettering.

"I would love to build the rest of it," says Mr Taylor. "I know it is a silly thing, but I would love to finish it, just to see it out there again."

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