Airplanes Used To Be Started With A Modified Ford Model T

100 years ago airplanes didn't have electrical systems, no batteries and a poor guy standing out front slinging the prop around to get things going. Enter B.C. Hucks, Captain in the Royal Air Corps and aviation pioneer who decides to stick a projecting claw clutch on the PTO of a modified car.

With a Hucks Starter, the transmission of the Model T is modified to add a dog-clutch that transmits power to either the rear wheels, or the overhead mechanism via a chain-drive. The end of the overhead shaft would fit into a spiral grooved receiver on the propellor hub of the aircraft. When the engine starts, the propellor spins much faster that the pin-handled shaft on the start releasing it from the spiral groove where a hidden bungee cord retracts the shaft. Re-engage the drive gear on the truck and slowly back away dragging the chocks as you go.

Not surprisingly, Huck had an engineering background which proved too dull for daredevil ambitions. Longing for more excitement he entered the motoring business and soon was established as a skilled driver until he was cited for fast driving, fined £50 and had his license suspended for 3 years. His driving career essentially over, the door opened to aviation and he decided to take up flying as his profession.

Being under the apprenticeship of the great Claude Graham-White, he learned to fly and traveled to America, winning big prizes including the Gordon Bennet Trophy. Returning to England he went on to become a successful test pilot and airshow performer before entering the first World War. He is also known for becoming the first English airman to fly upside-down by performing a loop in a French designed Blériot monoplane.


You may remember Louis Blériot as the first to fly across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft. You may not know that Blériot financed his aviation exploits by designing and selling the first headlights for cars.

The early 1900's was a wonderful time not only for wild daredevil aviator, but truly inspiring innovators and very smart men and women taking bold risks into very unknown territory.