1920 Hucks Starter

The Collection’s Exhibit

Recognise this? Under the bizarre contraption that pokes forwards over the screen you’ll find no less than a Model T Ford! This is the Hucks Starter, an efficient way to ‘swing the prop’ on a between-wars aeroplane.

In the early days of aviation, aero engines had low power output and low compression and were relatively easy to start by swinging the propeller by hand. However, throughout the First World War rapid advances were made in the size and power of engines and compression ratios increased considerably. Man power alone was no longer sufficient.

Several devices to bring the engine into life were produced – with varying degrees of success – but one example, the Hucks Starter, was favoured for use with military aircraft.

The starter is based on the Model T Ford car chassis. A chain, driven by the car engine, drives a rotating shaft which is telescopic with vertical adjustment to accommodate the different heights of various aircraft and has a claw bar at its front end to engage with a dog fixed to the boss of the propeller. The starter is positioned in front of the aircraft and adjusted until the claw can be engaged with the propeller dog. It rotates the aircraft engine and when the pilot turns on his magneto switches and the engine fires, the telescopic shaft disengages itself from the propeller dog and retracts.

The Hucks device has, of course, to be smartly moved out of the way before the aircraft can start to move.

The Hucks Starter began its operational life with the RAF in 1920 and remained in use until the 1930’s when various other starting methods were introduced.

Bentfield Charles Hucks was an early aviator, generally credited as being the first British pilot to loop the loop (in a Bleriot monoplane) in 1913 and an early member of the Royal Flying Corps but was discharged from service on the Western Front to become a test pilot at Hendon.

Was built in 1920 by the de Havilland Aircraft Company and rebuilt by the London Aero Club in 1952 when it joined The Collection.


Manufacturer: De Havilland (Hucks design)
Model: Aero Engine Starter
Engine: 2999cc Ford 4-cylinder
Top Speed: 45 mph


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