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General Aircraft Ltd
(GAL)

The UK's leading manufacturers of the WW2 Glider - The Hamilcar.
General Aircraft Limited (GAL) was formed on 27th February 1931 in order to produce aircraft to the designs of The Mono-Spar Company. Both Mono-Spar and GAL were headed by Helmut J. Stieger, the Zurich-born inventor of the ‘monospar’ which, as the name suggests, was a single spar wing with the torsion loads resisted by an arrangement of compression struts with triangular bracing from thin wires.  The mono-spar design concept was revolutionary in both its strength and lightness.
 
Initially based at Croydon Airport between 1932 and 1934, GAL produced 28 aircraft in the Monospar Series of the twin-engine, light-transport aircraft and it was this initial success that led to the company being quickly overtaken by The British Pacific Trust, who formalised the organisation. 
 
BPT subsequently integrated GAL into the assets of The National Flying Services who were owners of the fast developing London Air Park at Hanworth, as well as the landlords for the premises occupied by Whitehead Aircraft Ltd.
 
GAL-Monospar ST-11 (VH-UAZ) 1934 GAL-Monospar ST-11 (VH-UAZ) 1934
 
During 1935, GAL’s Crystal Croydon facilities were closed and their production equipment moved to Hanworth in order to construct the Monospar ST-12, ST-18 and ST-25 variants.  Shortly after the move, GAL received a sub-contract order to build some 89 Hawker Fury MkII aircraft and this was soon followed by another contract for the conversion of 125 Hawker Hinds into RAF Trainers. 
 
 
By 1938, the company had financed the purchase of the design rights to the Cygnet, a light-aircraft from C.W. Aircraft and from which it developed its own GAL.42 – Cygnet II.   The Cygnet was not a resounding success however with the order book barely reaching 10 aircraft due to the building tensions that were to see the start of World War II.
 
GAL Cygnet GAL Cygnet
 
During the same year (1938) GAL also undertook an agreement to operate an RAF Flying School, based at RAF Fairoaks, near Chobham, Surrey under the name Universal Flying Services.
 
As World War II took hold, GAL attempted to produce a cheap RAF Trainer in the GAL.45 Owlet but it failed to attract a single order being although the prototype was still pressed into service. 
 
GAL even attempted a private venture design in the GAL.47 (Air Observation aircraft) but this too failed to attract any interest. 
 
They were however, more successfull with the GAL.48 (Hotspur Troop Carrying Glider) which, due to the fully anticipated losses during landing (and its intended disposability), was produced in significant numbers (1,015 aircraft). 
 
GAL saw the potential for prosperity in this area and so switched to the design and production of new gliders for the Airborne Troop Divisions. 
 
This resulted in the company being chosen to produce a heavy cargo glider capabe of transporting military vehicles such as the Tetrarch and the M22 Locust Light Tank.  They produced 344 of the GAL.49 Hamilcar Gliders which saw action in three major offensives during the conflict.
 
GAL.49 Hamilcar unloading a Tetrarch MkII ICS light tank GAL.49 Hamilcar unloading a Tetrarch MkII ICS light tank
 
In addition to aircraft production, GAL's wood-working skills were also called upon as a very efficient Civilian Repair Organisation and they began undertaking restoration work on damaged Spitfires and Beaufighters at Fairoaks.
 
In addition to repair work, GAL also became an important factor in the continuing modification of the Hawker Hurricane and it converted an number of aircraft to allow catapult launches from Convoy Escort Ships in the North Atlantic.  They also undertook the maintenance, assembly and acceptance work for the Sikorsky Helicopters arriving from the USA and they prepared them onward use by both the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm.
 
By the end of the war, and like many companies now short of aviation work, GAL were forced to diversify into other industries such as pre-fabricated housing and car body manufacture although this brought little financial success. 
 
Their work on aircraft continued and by 1950 they had designed and built the GAL-60 Universal Freighter.
  
GAL60 Universal Freighter Mk1 (WF320) GAL60 Universal Freighter Mk1 (WF320)
 
By previous standards the Heavy Lift aircraft was enormous and GAL soon realised that the had neither the space or the capacity to fully assemble the aircraft at Hanworth.  Another issue was that once assembled they could not carry out test flying in such a heavily populated area and the Hanworth Air Park's grass runway was totally unsuitable for such a heavy aircraft.  As a result they set about crating the aircraft and transferring it by road to Brough Aerodrome in the East Riding of Yorkshire , where it undertook its maiden flight on 20th June 1950.
 
The Blackburn Aircraft Company at Brough were also desperate for work after military orders dried up at the end of the war and the new aircraft was predicted to be so beneficial that the two companies merged on 1st January 1949 and became The Blackburn and General Aircraft Company.  After the completion of the prototype the aircraft was renamed Blackburn Beverley and then, with the closure of the factory at Hanworth was closed, the merger saw the name General Aircraft Limited and GAL disappear forever.

Genealogy

1931
General Aircraft Limited (GAL)                                                                                         
1934
General Aircraft Limited (GAL) Re-capitalised by British Pacific Trust
1949
Blackburn and General Aircraft Limited
1958
Blackburn Aircraft Limited
1963
Hawker Siddeley Aviation
1977
British Aerospace
1999
BAE Systems

Aircraft

1932
General Aircraft Monospar ST-4                                                                                       
1932
General Aircraft Monospar ST-6
1932
General Aircraft Monospar ST-10
1932
General Aircraft Monospar ST-11
1932
General Aircraft Monospar ST-12
1935
General Aircraft Monospar ST-18 Croydon
1935 - 39
General Aircraft Monospar ST-25 Jubilee, De Luxe, Ambulance, Universal and Freighter
1935
General Aircraft GAL.26
1937
GAL.42 Cygnet II
1939
General Aircraft GAL.33 Cagnet
1939
General Aircraft GAL.41 (Pressurised Monospar ST-25)
1940
General Aircraft GAL.48 Hotspur
1941
General Aircraft GAL.38 Fleet Shadower
1942
GAL.45 Owlet
1942
GAL.47 Air Observation
1942
General Aircraft GAL.49 Hamilcar Glider
1942
General Aircraft GAL.58 Hamilcar X
1943
General Aircraft GAL.55 Glider
1944
General Aircraft GAL.56 Flying Wing
1950
General Aircraft GAL.60 Universal Freighter