Manufacturer(s): Lang Wheels, Maxwell, imported
Debut year: 1952
First UK produced: 1952
Last UK produced: c1960
Total UK number: approx 41
Summary: An early example of a 'rider-controlled' machine, the passenger
able to pull back on a gear stick to release a pressure valve that lifts
the arm and controls the angle of elevation. Introduction of the ride
coincided with Dan Dare and the 'race into space' allowing some innovative
artwork and theming.
The Jet Planes were developed by Maxwells in 1952 for North East showman John Hoadley, making a sensational debut at Hull Fair. The ride captured both the spirit of technology with its use of compressed air, and the spirit of popular culture with its hybrid blend of Odeon style design and space travel imagery. The clinching factor of the ride, however, was the autonomy it offered the rider, with each plane rider-controlled in terms of the up and down motion. This level of direct interaction was unprecedented, perhaps only seen in slight with the Swirl.
World's Fair correspondent "Cyclist" quickly moved to this new machine in his report of the 1952 Hull fair: "Outstanding among the riding devices in Mr. John Hoadley's latest acquisition the Jet Planes. This brand new machine looks like being the favourite. In addition to the townsfolk who constantly flocked around it I noted quite a few of the riding masters keenly interested. The machine is circular and has a diameter of 54 feet. It has 12 planes each capable of seating 2 adults or 3 children. The ride operates in an anti-clockwise direction, and at first glance it suggests a mixture of the Dive Bomber and the Octopus combined. The planes are not unlike those fitted to the Dive Bomber, and perhaps the most pleasing feature is that by moving what might be termed the "joy stick" he (or she) can raise or lower the plane when the machine is set in motion."
Maxwells went on to build two more sets of Jets, both of these also having the anti-clockwise motion and distinct lattice arms. John Hoadley's set only lasted through the 1953 season, and was sold at the start of 1954 to John Codona. This was then travelled for the best part of 20 years before being sold to Whaymanns, who later loaned the Jets to Danny Hamer. The Jets were last seen with Yorkshire showman Tommy Peel, the original cars still intact and sitting on a truck at the September 1983 Woodhouse Feast.
Maxwell's second set, new in June 1954 to Joe White,
spent many years with their original owner before purchase by Walter Shaw
in the early 1970s. These Jets were then travelled by Charlie Wright until
their recent write-off in a motorway shunt. The third set, operated for
many years at New Brighton, has recently become part of the growing collection
at Folly Farm (after a brief period with Henry Shufflebottom and Tony
Codona's Jets in the 1960s.
Wright's pay box detail.
New Brighton, 1980.
Lang Wheels began production of Jets around 1954, and
established the machine as a major ride throughout the 1950s. It is estimated
that around 18 standard operation sets were built, all of them using a
clockwise motion and tubular arms. As with the Maxwell machines, original
cars were cylindrical with domed nose cone, though fibreglass versions
were eventually introduced under the inspiration of popular programs such
as Thunderbirds the "planes" morphing in to "space
ships" under the demands of popular culture. A full list of owners
is given on our accompanying machine list.
John Studt's Jets, 1987.
Charles Thurston's Jets, 1968.
Deakins' Jets, 1950s.
Not content with building standard Jets, Lang Wheels
went a step further and produced a lifting set for Botton Brothers in
1956 - this was apparently a conversion from a standard set - the machine
was then converted further in 1960 to include the famous tipping motion,
and the Vampire Jets were born. This original set spent its time in Great
Yarmouth with a few visits to Botton Brothers' Christmas presentation
in Olympia, the machine then passed to Heals at Brighton, Flamingoland
(where it was combined with Crow's set) and is now with preservationist
Alan Cauldwell. Three further Vampire sets were recorded on the mainland
as follows: a set for McDonalds in Ireland and purchased by Botton Brothers
in 1967 when they took over Skegness (this set was sold to Hayling Island
and is now packed up with preservationist Philip Knightsbridge), a set
for Pat Collins at Barry Island (this set stole the show at Goose Fair
with its sheer size and strength) sold later to J. Crow and then used
for parts with the Flamingoland set, and finally to R. Wilson (later to
Cogger, since scrapped).
Botton Brothers, Olympia, 1957.
John Collins, Goose Fair, 1959.
Other manufacturers of Jets rides were predominantly
European, though Henry Thurston (trading as Sywell Fabrications), built
a somewhat different set in 1960. This utilised an operator controlled
lift, such that all the cars were raised at once. This strange machine
was initially even more bizarre with a set of unique looking cars
it now resides in Ireland with the Cork-based Williams family, who attached
a set of Telecombat planes to the machine. The Telecombats were manufactured
by Marbiere, and the rider interactivity was further increased allowing
you to swivel and shoot down other planes. Barry Island and John Biddall
were initial owners of such machines, the former being whereabouts unknown,
the latter being up for sale and last open at Southend. Current Telecombats
operate at West Midlands Safari Park (no history on this one) and with
B.J. Butlin at Seaburn (ex Birds of Ireland). An interesting footnote
is that Safeco of Spain used the Telecombat design to create their successful
'Jumper' ride, with some Jumper sets (such as the imported machine travelled
briefly by Walter Murphy) using salvaged Telecombat arms.
Henry Thurston's Rockets, 1961.
Perez Jets were operated by Marshalls (recently scrapped
by Rodney Harrison), whilst miscellaneous continental Jets were travelled
by A. Botton (later McIndoe and Sam Dobson), Pat O'Neill (later Folkestone,
currently with a non-guild showman), Albert Evans (since scrapped), R.
Bailey (laid up in Jersey) and J.J. White ("Les Meteors", scrapped).
Chadwick's Jets, Morecambe, 1981.
Carl Wallis' Jets, 1981.