Miles M28 Mercury returns to Shoreham for a fleeting visit after 62 years of leaving home

On Monday 2 July we had a visit from a very interesting aircraft, the M28 Miles Mercury. Prior to visiting the airport, the M28 was located in Stauning in Denmark, where before being beautifully restored to flight-worthiness, having previously been displayed in a museum for a number of years for all to admire.

We were thrilled to welcome back the aircraft but our enthusiasm could in no way match that of local historian and Miles enthusiast Peter Amos.

Peter has written numerous books on the Miles aircraft and knows everything you could possibly know about the history of the company and the thousands of aircraft they built from 1929-1957.

There were only six M28 Miles Mercuries made and this is the last one in the world. The M28 Mercury’s visit was one of nostalgia, as the owner Stu Blanchard explained: “we thought it would be nice to visit the airport and return it home to the site on which it was first built”.

The creators of the aircraft, the Miles family, has a long history with the airport. The owner was met airside by Jeremy Miles, son to Fred Miles who first created the aircraft in 1946 at Shoreham Aerodrome. The story of the M28 is fascinating and remains a piece of the airport’s heart.

Frederick George Miles, one of the sons of a laundry owner at nearby Portslade, decided that his future was to be in aviation.  So he designed and built his own aeroplane in the workshop of the laundry, which he called the Gnat. Miles then decided that he really ought to learn to fly, so he enlisted the help of Cecil Pashley to teach him in his Avro 504K. Having eventually obtained his “A” licence, Miles lost no time in persuading Pashley to help him to operate a flying school and joy riding business along the south coast.

Following the acquisition of an Avro Baby biplane, a number of Avro 504K’s and other assorted airframes, Miles then decided that the Baby could be suitably modified to make a really aerobatic, sporty, machine and this became the Southern Martlet. The aerobatic displays given by the Martlet at many major air meetings in the early 1930s created quite a sensation and the sixth and last Martlet to be built was for The Hon Mrs Inigo ‘Blossom’ Freeman-Thomas the Viscountess Ratendone. Just one Martlet survives to this day and this is owned and maintained in flying condition by The Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden in Bedfordshire.

Miles’ wife, Blossom played a great role in the designing of aircraft. Together they shared a passion for creating aircraft but also teaching and inspiring others to fly.

During the Second World War, the company, F.G. Miles were commissioned to manufacture aircraft maintenance for the war effort. Unfortunately, the company ceased trading in the 1950s which meant that there were only six M28 Miles aircraft were ever made and the design concept was not developed further.

This aircraft, in particular, has travelled somewhat and had some prestigious owners, the first being Harold Hartley, Scientist, Knight, Fellow of the Royal Society and recipient of the military cross. The owner, Stu is keen to trace down gaps in the log book to see its full ownership history, being somewhat of a Miles enthusiast himself as well as owner of a Miles Messenger and a Gemini.

It was wonderful to meet Jeremy Miles, son of Frederick Miles who spent some time discussing the heritage of the aircraft with the current owners. The M28 flew to Shoreham from Denmark via Belgium. The journey from Denmark required a few stopovers, with the heat proving a challenge. After enjoying tea and cake in the restaurant the pilot Mark Earle and Stu headed off to Goodwood for further sightseeing. Goodwood was an essential stopover for the intrepid travellers as Mark is a racing car driver of classic cars – as well as a pilot.

We were so pleased that the aircraft’s owner had taken the time to get in touch and give us advance notice of his visit. It was incredible listening to Peter and Jeremy reminisce about the early days of the airport and the original use of Easter Fields, south of the airport’s railway.

Jeremy commented on the freshly restored Municipal hangar which he remembers being originally repaired after the war. He recalled how it was used as a manufacturing plant during the war and returned back to hangar space shortly after the war.

We asked the enthusiasts why the Miles aircraft were so special, to which they unanimously responded: “because it was like nothing else…”

If you are planning a visit to our airport and want to give us notice, it would be great to feature the story of your aircraft on our website. Please email: media@flybrighton.com

 

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