The Original Aircraft
Test-flown at Archerfield by pilot Foxcroft-Jones.
Registered as a Wikner Wicko (c/n 1) to G.N. Wikner trading as Aircraft of Australia, Brisbane, Queensland. Certificate of Registration No. 421 was issued the same day as VH-UPW.
The Nambour Chronicle of Friday, October 23, 1931 reported under the headline An Aeroplane:
'It's certainly not every day that there are aeroplanes for sale in city auction rooms - and the buying public, not being educated in the art of aircraft dealing, were not very interested in the "Wiko" (sic) offered in B. P. Caniffe's rooms at last week's sale. Bidding was slow and commenced at 20. It went up in 10 bids, as high as 50. Then the public got tired and somebody called out, "Nobody wants aeroplanes - put up the easy chairs!" So the poor little 'plane wasn't wanted. The public prefer easy chairs!
'The Wiko is locally built. Mr. Geoff. Wickner (sic), a very young and ambitious mechanic, designed, built, and flew it all himself. It is a small 'plane - very small. Even lighter, I think, than the well-known Moth machine. In spite of its (illegible word), however, the Wiko has given great service. When in Brisbane recently Air-Commodore Kingsford Smith took a joy flight in the Wiko, and pronounced it comfortable and very good, considering everything. And the sale-room crowd preferred easy chairs!'
(Note the incorrect spelling of Wicko and Wikner).
The CofR was suspended and the aircraft struck off the Register.
Geoffrey Wikner was born in 1904 in Grafton but grew up in Leura in the Blue Mountains. He was apprenticed as an electrician, but also sold Indian motorbikes and raced them as well as an extensively modified Model T Ford. This vehicle is still alive and running. He was also a cousin of Edgar Percival, another Australian who designed aircraft and set up manufacture in England. After a venture into motor vehicle body building, he became a refrigeration mechanic and moved to Queensland working in this field. He bought a used Farman Sports biplane in poor condition from Sydney for 160, and a run down garage in Doomben for space to restore it. This he did with some modifications and in 1930 it was test flown by Les Kewell, a WW1 pilot. They tried barnstorming but had a series of mishaps and wrote-off the aeroplane. One of their passengers however was Don Bennett, later to become leader of the Path Finders. Geoff built and flew a number of gliders from Eagle Farm, Nudgee, and Dayboro. Then he designed his own aircraft, a high wing monoplane which he called the Wicko Cabin Sports. It was designed for a 40h.p. Sezekley engine, but he was unable to buy this, and instead had to repair and install the 80h.p., 6 cylinder Anzani radial engine from the Farman. This aircraft was built on an upper floor of a building in the city, transported to Archerfield and test flown by pilot Foxcroft-Jones on 25 January 1931. Wikner was then trading as Aircraft of Australia and with 1hr. 40mins dual experience and 4 hr. solo in a Moth, he now flew his machine successfully. Charles Kingsford Smith asked to test fly the Wicko and spent hour in 2 flights, including loops. He was very complimentary and remarked on the fact that it would not spin, and had a high rate of climb - not surprising with 80hp in a 40hp airframe. In 1931, Wikner established an Australian altitude record for light aircraft of 17000ft., flying from Archerfield. DCA would not issue a Certificate of Airworthiness for the aircraft as it was deemed understrength for the 80hp engine. At the same time, he entered into an abortive partnership with a dishonest man, and as a result the aircraft was sold, but because of the certification problem, he redesigned the machine as the Wicko Lion. The Anzani engine however seized in flight and another redesign resulted in the Wicko Wizard, a low wing monoplane fitted with a used Cirrus engine received as part payment for an Avro Avian he rebuilt. By this time he had qualified for a Commercial licence and A,C,D,X engineering licences, but with the Depression he decided to move to England where again he had to struggle to establish himself. He met and married Trudy Williams during this time. After a series of engineering positions with various firms, he formed the Foster-Wikner Aircraft Co. Ltd. and designed the Wicko Monoplane, originally for a V8 car engine but finally with the DH Gipsy Major. The firm produced a total of 13 aircraft, largely by hand, and hence uneconomic. The factory moved into production of plastic components and then the war intervened. Difficulties with Foster caused the breakup of the association. Wikner joined the Air Transport Auxiliary during the war, flew everything with wings, and survived two crashes. By the end of the war he was keen to return to Australia. After canvassing various possibilities, he bought a Handley Page Halifax Mk III (NR169, G-AXGA, VH-BDT Waltzing Matilda), modified it and flew some 21 passengers (including his family) to Sydney. The aircraft was sold to a consortium including Clive Caldwell and made one commercial flight, but was eventually scrapped in 1948. Geoff Wikner established Australia's first caravan park at Nelsons Bay and passed away in 1990.
The significance of the machine for QAM lies in its being the first powered aircraft designed and manufactured in Queensland. The remains of the original Wicko are in storage with the Queensland Museum, having been donated by Mr George Roberts, who had helped Wikner with his aircraft in Brisbane. Copies of the original blueprints were donated to QAM by Mr Ken Wikner of New Lambton, and this provided QAM President Cliff Robinson with the impetus to have a replica constructed. The Builder of the Replica
Ed Foster has been a QAM member since 1988. He was born in Brisbane in 1929, the youngest of seven children. Educated at Rainworth State School, he became an apprentice carpenter, but joined the RAAF in 1946. His basic training was at Amberley, after which he was posted to Archerfield on Mosquito maintenance. He then went to Darwin in transit to Morotai for 15 months until the Dutch took over, then to Deniliquin and finally to Darwin where he finished service. Under rehab, he completed carpentry and was then engaged in building war service homes until 1955. He sailed for Canada for a working holiday but stayed until 1978, when he moved back to Australia and worked for Fritz Construction at Jindalee until 1994 when he retired to Caloundra. Prior to and during the war, he and his brother had built rubber powered models and gliders. While waiting to sail to Canada he was staying in Yallourn and encouraged by the sight of a Tiger Moth he went to Morwell and began to learn to fly. In Canada when rules were relaxed to allow ultralight flying, he purchased a set of plans for the GY20 Minicab and built and flew one over the next 10 years. This was sold before the move back to Australia, but here he received his unrestricted PPL from Swift Air at Evans Head. He and his wife Maxine were passengers on the last flight of our Dove VH-MAL (then with Swift Air as VH-DSM). After joining QAM he became part of the team that recovered the Gannet from Sydney, and is remembered for his impromptu surgery on a building, standing atop the Gannet, to enable its removal. Ed had only the space of the laundry/carport of his home in a retirement village in which to operate, but undaunted, set to work, and in 18 months has completed the airframe and covered it. The engine has posed much more of a problem, 6 cylinder Anzanis being a little thin on the ground. We chased a report that the original was in a museum in S.A., but this proved inaccurate. Accordingly, a replica in mixed PVC and metal was substituted. Given Geoff Wikner's earlier partnership in the Foster-Wikner Aircraft Company, it is poetically appropriate that QAM's replica of such an historically significant Wikner design should be constructed by a Foster!
The replica was unveiled at QAM Caloundra in the presence of several members of the Wikner family, George Roberts and builder Ed Foster and his wife Maxine. Also present was Doug Partington, current owner of the Rajo Ford which was built and raced by Geoff Wikner.
Ed Foster's funeral was held in Caloundra on this date. Ed Foster was the builder of the Wicko replica.