I built these two aircraft using "play worn" nineteen thirties Meccano Aero Constructor parts. The top model is a typical early 1930s R.A.F. single fighter seat biplane. Below is a racing sea (float) plane, note the rather nice cast lead pilot in each aircraft. A dealers box of six pilots is shown further down the page
Meccano produced the Aero Outfits between the years 1931 and 1941. The sets when introduced were a complete departure from the normal Meccano range, there were far fewer holes in the parts and they were spray painted in an aluminium finish with some red parts as were aircraft of the time. The hole spacing was as standard Meccano parts at 1/2" spacing and special nickel plated nuts and special nickel plated, dome headed bolts were supplied with the sets. They were compatible with the regular Meccano sets so the parts and nuts and bolts could be used together.
On the right is the Meccano Magazine back cover from October 1931 showing the advertisement announcing the introduction of the sets. As can be seen a whole range of of different aircraft types could be constructed.
These first sets were of a rather flimsy construction with flat wings that were very easily bent. However in 1932 the parts were vastly improved with stronger cambered wings and an increase in the range of parts, to enable much more realistic models to be constructed. In 1933 further improvements were made and the range of sets was expanded with "Special Aeroplane Outfits" these included operating flaps and rudders, pilots cabins and window panels to enable airliners to be constructed. There were two boxed sets in each range No.1 and No 2. plus a conversion set No1a. In 1938 outfits were issued with civil registration letters. Strangely some of the parts in the two ranges differed slightly.
The later sets (one is show on the left) came in red and cream, blue/white and green/cream colour schemes. It must have been a nightmare for any dealers stocking the spare parts! Further improvements were planned for 1940 including camouflage colours but these never materialized and by the summer of 1941 production of the sets had ceased. They were never to appear again but certainly would have looked completely at odds with the jets of the post war era. In fact by the late thirties the aircraft had a rather dated look but never the less they were very popular with boys at the time. The sets now just look so delightful and it is easy to see their lasting and nostalgic appeal.
On the left is a boxed 1938 No. 2 Special outfit.
A small clockwork motor could also be purchased to power the prop of your aircraft this came with a fixed key, drive shaft, small boss and control rod. The version shown is the number 1 motor. This is a very flimsy affair and whirs round very fast but with no governor and runs down after a few seconds. Shown on the left
Later a more powerful version No.2 was introduced this came with a detachable key like the later Magic Motor and with a neat nickel plated tail wheel, the idea being to to both power the prop and drive the model along. I only have the number 1 motor so cannot say how successful this was.
The Aero sets were also produced by the Meccano company in France. The later sets had tapered wings a feature advertised but not thought to have been sold in the UK. French sets also had a pressed corrugated finish in the style of Continental aircraft such as Focker and Junkers. This can be seen in the illustration on the cover of the French Special sets shown below.
On the left is an illustration from the 1932 Aeroplane Constructor manual. The same model as I built in blue and white parts. This was obviously a very popular model as it was also shown on the cover of Special Outfit manual cover above despite the fact that far more complicated models could be built with the outfit but then it is a nice looking aircraft.
April 29 2009 Revised February 13 2017